An abandoned van found on Death Valley National Park's protected salt flats has been towed away, but tracks remain – and may be there for years. The park posted photos of the van to its Facebook page and says that the vehicle went into the salt flats at Badwater Basin on Wednesday last week. It was towed out on Friday by a small track vehicle, leaving more (unavoidable) damage to the salt crust.

It's not the first time these flats have been damaged by drivers ignoring signs to stay on roadways. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the park is prosecuting three cases of vandalism. It has also applied for a grant that would fund restoration of the site. This case also calls to mind the recent vandalism of the Racetrack Playa, where someone drove a vehicle over the dry lake bed.

According to the National Park Service website, the Badwater Basin salt flats are among the largest such flats in the world. The damage isn't irreparable, but it does require some work smoothing the tracks over and spraying them with water to encourage salt to regrow.

The delicate salt flats are a photographer favorite. Photo by Rajesh Bhattacharjee

Responding to comments on its Facebook post, a park representative said that the driver of the van has not been charged yet, but could face a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 6 months in jail.