Scotty’s Castle reopens after 2015 floods
The castle was quiet. Gnats buzzed and wind rustled the trees. This is Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley today. And today you have to imagine the castle’s former the occupants and beautiful furniture.
The Scotty’s Castle was built in the 1920’s by Albert Johnson built the castle for his wife Bessie, so she could have a place to stay when she visited the desert. The Johnson’s came west from Chicago convinced there was gold in the area by con-man Walter Scott, the castle’s namesake. There was no gold. Despite this dispute, the Johnson’s became friends with Scott and decided to build a castle in Grapevine Canyon.
In 1970, the Park Service acquired the castle. In the fall of 2015, floods severly damaged the castle and it has been closed to visitors until this past December.
Traveling to Death Valley the week before Christmas, the weather is not too cold, and the triple digit heat is not baking your head.
From Lone Pine to Grapevine it’s a 1.5 hour drive. The winding two-lane grade on Highway 190 takes you to Stovepipe Wells. From Stevepipe, it is another 20-30 miles to Grapevine Ranger Station. From Lone Pine to Grapevine it’s a 1.5 hour drive.
Upon entering Grapevine Canyon, the Castle came into view and with it film “The Cowboy and the Senorita” (1944) came to mind.
The first stop on the tour was the pool, which is an unfinished portion of the Castle, Park Ranger Sarah Carter said. The tiles were designed and ordered for the pool, but they were never put in, Carter said. “During the flood, the pool held water and that was the first and only time,” she said.
Windows are cut into the walls of the pool. They look into the Seahorse Room, which is an entrance to a tunnel and is also a changing room for swimmers.
Damage is visible under a bridge on the the property.
Up a small hill, the chime tower came into view. The hands of the clock had stopped at 6:05.
Later, the tour came to Walter Scott’s room. There was a metal slot on the left side of the door. Legend has it that ‘Scotty’ would stick his shotgun through the hole and shoot those who knocked.
The floor of the Main Hall is lined with bricks and leads to a courtyard.
The castle was designed in a Spanish style. The builders burned and filed wood to make it look older, Carter said.
Even though Scotty had his own bedroom in the castle, he lived and slept in his rustic ranch, a couple of miles down the hill, Carter said.
Tourists were not able to view the underground tunnels or take a closer look at Scotty’s grave–marked by a cross on a hill behind the Castle.
Proceeds from the tours go to the renovation, the National Park Service hopes to reopen the Castle sometime 2020.
On the van ride down the hill, three tourists told The Sheet about their experience at the castle. Tamara Miller of Henderson, Nevada, said she first came to Scotty’s Castle with her husband in the late 70’s or early 80’s. She came “just to see the ambiance of the place—ironwork, woodwork.”
When Miller heard about the flood, she worried about what was damaged.
“I was hoping nothing was really damaged, not thinking of rodents,” she said.
Ranger Carter said the rodents did more damage than the flood.
Miller loved “the little hidden rooms under the bridge and clock tower, I haven’t heard that before.”
Las Vegas resident, Nikki Wells said she heard about the tour in a Las Vegas paper and “somewhere on Facebook.” She purchased her ticket on September 21. She had visited the castle two or three times prior to the flood. Her first visit was in 1968, before the Park service owned it, and her second was in 1981.
Wells also admired the ironwork and woodwork.
Walnut Creek, California residents, Jim and Debbie Sawin were also surprised to see all the trees and water near and around the castle.
The tour usually lasts two hours and there are two per day: one leaves at 9 a.m., the other at 1 p.m. Sunday is the only day that tourists could view the Castle, since the other days of the week were set for repairs.
For those interested in Scotty’s Castle Flood Recovery Walking Tours can purchase their tickets at: https:// www.eventbrite.com/e/scottys-castle-flood-recovery-walking-tours-tickets-48817553617?aff=erelexpmlt