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After tons of flood debris is removed, Artist’s Drive reopens in Death Valley National Park

A car travels Artist's Drive, a scenic loop in Death Valley National Park, in 2013.

A car travels Artist’s Drive, a scenic loop in Death Valley National Park, in 2013.

(Jay Jones)

Artist’s Drive, a popular visitor attraction in Death Valley National Park, has reopened about a month after a flash flood caused heavy damage.

The nine-mile drive, which is off Badwater Road south of Furnace Creek, reopened Saturday after crews removed an estimated 8,000 tons of debris left behind by the Oct. 18 flood that struck the park. The one-way loop winds through colorful, rolling hills.

Scotty’s Castle, one of the park’s biggest draws, remains indefinitely closed. The northern reaches of the park, home to the castle, and the surrounding area received between 2.7 and 3.5 inches of rain during the storm.

A backhoe operator works to remove tons of dirt and debris from behind the visitor center at Scotty's Castle on Nov. 10.

A backhoe operator works to remove tons of dirt and debris from behind the visitor center at Scotty’s Castle on Nov. 10.

(National Park Service)
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Between 1 and 4 feet of mud and debris flowed into the historic castle and the visitor center in the adjacent garage. Crews from several national parks completed the cleanup of mud and silt in recent days, then turned their attention to the removal of furniture, officials said.

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Though the castle itself appears to be structurally sound, officials said one of the walls of the visitor center is bulging due to the force of the floodwaters.

It’s too early to say when Scotty’s Castle will reopen to visitors, said Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service. An earlier estimate suggested the attraction would probably be closed for at least a year.

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Crews work by hand to remove mud from the Long Shed at Scotty's Castle on Nov. 10.

Crews work by hand to remove mud from the Long Shed at Scotty’s Castle on Nov. 10.

(National Park Service)

“I don’t think we’ve got a good handle on that yet,” Litterst said Monday. He also said it would be premature to confirm earlier damage assessments in the tens of millions of dollars.

Besides the damage to buildings and their contents, 10 miles of paved roadway leading to Scotty’s Castle was washed away. A single-track dirt road has been created to allow access for workers.

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