The rescue of Scotty’s castle in Death Valley

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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 visitors. This has been the case for more than six years, since a flash flood forced the government to close the site.

However, there are a few people who can view the castle. They are the workers and volunteers who repair what nature has destroyed and damaged. Abby Wines works with the National Park Service and showed 8 News Now the structure to see how far the restoration work is progressing.

SCOTTY’S CASTLE NEARLY DESTROYED

In 2015, it rained in Death Valley for a full year in one afternoon and nearly swept Scotty’s Castle away. “We’ve lost our water system, our road, our sewage system, electricity and telecommunications,” Wines told *News Now.

The way 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 exactly then, in April 2021, the planned visitor center burned down to the ground. “Originally we thought it was going to take three or four years,” Wines said. “Now we’re at 6 years and we still have a year and a half before the lock is open.”

A DESERT DREAM BUILT ON A LIE

“It’s fair to say it was built on a lie,” Wines told 8 News Now. In the early 1920s, con artist 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.

Albert Johnson and Walter Scott. (Photo: nps.gov)

But it turns out Johnson wasn’t upset about being cheated on. Instead, the two built the majestic vacation home in the middle of nowhere now known as Scotty’s Castle. “It’s a really nice, special place with a funny story. Truly unique Western story,” Wines said.

When the restoration is complete, the government will have spent around $60 million. It’s high cost that makes some people wonder why fix it at all? “That’s really a question for people who have never been here,” commented David Blacker, chairman of the Death Valley Natural History Association. “As soon as you come here. Once you see this amazing place and this incredible place in an amazing desert stop asking that question.”

On one day a week, Blacker from the park service is only allowed to lead castle tours on a very limited basis. And the tours have been hugely popular, selling out through the end of 2022.

A journey into the depths of Death Valley is not complete without at least learning about an elaborate castle in the desert that has not been lost to time but is taking time to preserve for future generations.

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