DEATH VALLEY (KLAS) — It was a dream, built on a lie, and devastated by a storm. Historic Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park remains off-limits to most. It’s been that way for more than six years since a flash flood forced the government to close the site.
There are a few people, however, who do get to look at the castle. They are the workers and volunteers fixing what nature destroyed and damaged. Abby Wines works with the National Park Service and showed 8 News Now around the structure to see how far along the restoration work has come.
SCOTTY’S CASTLE ALMOST DESTROYED
In 2015, Death Valley received a year’s worth of rain in one afternoon and nearly swept Scotty’s Castle away. “We lost our water system, our road, our sewer system, electric power, telecommunications,” Wines told * News Now.
The road to the castle was destroyed. Power and water lines were cut. Layers of mud filled the property. When 8 News Now visited in 2017 it was still a mess. And just then in April 2021 the planned visitor center burned to the ground. “We originally thought that it would take 3 or 4 years,” Wines said. “Now, we’re at 6 years and looking at a year and a half until the castle is open.”
A DESERT DREAM BUILT ON A LIE
“It is correct to say it was built on a lie,” Wines told 8 News Now. In the early 1920’s, con-man Walter Scott convinced Chicago businessman Albert Johnson to invest in a gold mine in Death Valley. The only problem, there was no gold mine. Gold would be mined in the valley, but not by Scott.
But it turned out that Johnson wasn’t upset about being swindled. Instead, the pair built the majestic vacation home in the middle of nowhere that is now known as Scotty’s Castle. “It’s a really beautiful, special place with a fun history. Really unique, Western history,” Wines said.
When restoration is complete, the government will have spent around $60 million. It’s a high cost that has some people asking why fix it at all? “That’s really a question for people who have never been here before,” commented Death Valley Natural History Association leader David Blacker. “Once you come here. Once you see this amazing place and this incredible location in an amazing desert, you stop asking that question.”
One day a week, Blacker is allowed by the Park Service to lead extremely limited castle tours. And the tours have been extremely popular and are booked sold through the end of 2022.
A trip into the depth of Death Valley isn’t complete without at least learning about an ornate castle in the desert that wasn’t lost to time, but is taking time to preserve it for future generations to enjoy.