Scotty's Castle Flood Recovery Tour

Scotty's Castle Flood Recovery Tour
Stitched panorama of Death Valley Ranch aka Scotty's Castle.

The Death Valley Natural History Association offer an amazing opportunity to see Scotty's Castle during the flood recovery work. Stella and I recently had to opportunity to go on one so posting some of my favorite photos from it.

Scotty's Castle, also known as Death Valley Ranch, is a fascinating historic site located in the northern part of Death Valley National Park, California, USA. Despite its name, the castle was never owned by Walter E. Scott, known as "Death Valley Scotty," but rather by Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson. The story of Scotty's Castle is a mix of truth, exaggeration, and outright fabrication, much like the tales Scotty told about his gold mine in Death Valley.

The Construction of Scotty's Castle

Construction of Scotty's Castle began in the 1920s. Albert Johnson was initially drawn to Death Valley due to health reasons and became enamored with the area, thanks in part to the tales and companionship of Walter Scott. Scott, a charismatic con man and prospector, had claimed to have discovered a rich gold mine in the area. Johnson, intrigued by Scott's stories and seeking a respite for his health, decided to invest in the region. Over time, Johnson built a luxurious vacation home in the Grapevine Canyon on the northern end of the Death Valley.

The castle is a testament to the wealth and architectural tastes of the time, featuring Spanish Revival and Mediterranean architectural elements. The construction was a massive undertaking in the remote and harsh desert environment. The property includes a main house, guest house, and other outbuildings, complete with modern amenities of the time such as an indoor swimming pool, electricity (generated by the estate's own systems), and air conditioning.

The Legend of Death Valley Scotty

Walter E. Scott, or "Scotty," claimed that he had financed the construction of the castle with his secret gold mine in Death Valley, a story that captured the imagination of the public. However, in reality, it was Johnson's wealth, derived from his investments and inheritance, that funded the project. Scotty was a master storyteller and self-promoter, and his tall tales helped to create a sense of mystery and intrigue around Scotty's Castle.

The Johnsons and Scotty's Relationship

Despite the deception regarding the gold mine, Johnson and Scotty maintained a lifelong friendship. Johnson enjoyed Scotty's company and allowed Scotty to live on the property and give tours, where Scotty would often embellish the castle's history with tales of hidden gold and bandits. The Johnsons used the castle as a winter getaway until Albert Johnson's death in 1948.

Present Day

Today, Scotty's Castle is a popular tourist attraction within Death Valley National Park, offering visitors a glimpse into the past and the story of an unusual friendship. The site is managed by the National Park Service, which offers tours of the property, providing insight into the history, architecture, and personal stories of its former inhabitants.

In recent years, Scotty's Castle has faced challenges such as damage from floods, leading to restoration efforts to preserve this unique historical landmark. The castle remains a testament to the allure of Death Valley, the dreams of its early 20th-century inhabitants, and the enduring legacy of one of the desert's most colorful characters, Death Valley Scotty. Death Valley National Park is hoping to reopen Scotty's in October 2025.

Approaching the castle.
Panorama of the pool. Interestingly, the only time it was filled with water was after the catastrophic 2015 flood.
There are some limitations on interior photos during restoration which is why the angles are a little skewed and I'll refrain from much detail. Suffice it say, look at the amazing craftsmanship and the ability of it to stand up to the harsh desert climate for more than 100 years, so far.