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Scotty's Castle Flood Recovery Tours

DEATH VALLEY, CA – There will be a limited number of opportunities this spring to visit Scotty’s Castle. This is a unique opportunity to witness the damage caused by a large flash flood and to learn about the National Park Service’s ongoing work to restore the historic district.

Scotty’s Castle Flood Recovery Tours will be offered twice a day on March 5, March 12, March 19, March 26 and April 2.

The tour costs $25 per person, lasts 2 hours and will involve walking over uneven surfaces. Children younger than six are not allowed. More information is available at www.dvnha.org. Each tour is limited to 13 participants and advance reservations are required. Call 1-800-478-8564, extension 10 to make a reservation.

The National Park Service (NPS) and Death Valley Natural History Association (DVNHA) are working together to offer Scotty’s Castle Flood Recovery Tours. DVNHA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and interpreting the natural and cultural resources of the Death Valley region.

Except for these ranger-guided tours, Scotty’s Castle and Grapevine Canyon have been closed to all public entry since a devastating flash flood in October 2015. Except for these tours, the area will remain off-limits to the public until repairs are completed, likely to be late 2019 or early 2020.

Scotty’s Castle is a historic district clustered near a lush spring in the north end of Death Valley National Park. Millionaire Albert Johnson built Scotty’s Castle as his personal retreat to get away from it all in the 1920s. However, his good friend Death Valley Scotty claimed it was his Castle and claimed to have financed it with a gold mine in the basement. The two men had an unusual friendship – they met because Scotty conned Johnson out of thousands of dollars.

Before the flood, about 120,000 people per year visited Scotty’s Castle. Nearly half of them took the hour-long tour to see the inside of the Main House. Park rangers dressed in clothing from the 1930s as they recounted the fantastical tales of the history of the house and its unusual residents. 

Over three inches of rain fell on the hills surrounding Scotty’s Castle in just five hours on October 18, 2015. The resulting flash flood inundated two of the historic buildings, causing significant damage to the interior of the visitor center and Hacienda. Almost a mile of water line, over 25 electrical poles, the septic system, and huge sections of 8 miles of road washed away. Fortunately, the damage to the main house was minimal.

NPS crews and contractors moved the entire museum collection off-site to protect it from temperature and humidity changes, pests, and risk of fire, flood and vandalism. Participants on the Flood Recovery Tours will see part of the inside of the main house without furnishings.

The National Park Service has marked several milestones in the flood recovery effort. Hundreds of miles of roads across the park were cleared of debris and reopened. The heavily-damaged Jubilee Pass section of Badwater Road reopened last summer. Artists Drive and Harmony Borax will be repaired and open by mid-March.

An access route to Scotty’s Castle for construction vehicles was created. Mud and debris were removed from the historic buildings, walkways and swimming pool. A temporary water line now supplies water to the historic district’s fire suppression system. Electricity has been temporarily restored to most buildings.

Over the next couple years the NPS plans to repair the damaged water reservoir, replace the nearly mile-long water line, replace the sceptic tanks and leach field, finish repairs to the electrical distribution system, rebuild the road, repair several buildings, install interpretive exhibits, bring the museum collection back to the main house, and dozens of other projects.

The total cost of recovering from October 2015’s floods is estimated at $48 million. This funding is coming from entrance fees paid by Death Valley National Park visitors, regional and national offices of the National Park Service, Federal Highway Administration, and donations.

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