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Flood-damaged Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley won’t reopen until 2021

Concrete bricks shore up the bridge at Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park. Repairs from extreme flooding in 2015 will keep the landmark shut until 2021.
Concrete bricks shore up the bridge at Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park. Repairs from extreme flooding in 2015 will keep the landmark shut until 2021.
(National Park Service)

The 1920s-era Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park won’t reopen until October 2021, six years after a flash flood caused $47 million in damage to the landmark’s buildings and road, a recent park announcement said.

Now in its 100th year, the southern Utah park welcomes 4.3 million visitors annually. And that’s not easy.

The onetime unfinished vacation home of businessman Albert Johnson — and nicknamed for his buddy, cowboy and gold prospector Walter Scott — held custom-made furniture, tapestries, antique furniture, an elaborate pipe organ and a set of 25 carillon chimes in what’s called the Chimes Tower.

Some repairs have been completed. For example, a system of concrete blocks and other features at the castle’s bridge were installed to curb future erosion. “This work will prevent damage from future floods at this pinch-point where flood speeds were fastest,” the park’s statement said.

About a mile of historic concrete fence posts at Scotty’s Castle were reconstructed and installed.
About a mile of historic concrete fence posts at Scotty’s Castle were reconstructed and installed.
(National Park Service)

Also, re-created concrete fence posts on the property have been installed. Like the originals, some of which still stand, each post is marked with an “S” and “J” for Scott and Johnson. New posts bear the date “2019" to distinguish them from the originals.

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Other projects, such as fixing the water system, installing a new septic tank and upgrading the electrical system, are underway. Plans to flood-proof the visitor center, which was the building’s garage, are in the design and review phase.

Designs are in the works to fix the Chimes Tower and shore up infrastructure, including the heating and air-conditioning.

Also, the access road, Bonnie Clare Road, remains closed through Grapevine Canyon because of safety hazards related to ongoing construction.

How is the park paying for these piecemeal projects? Entrance fees, federal road monies, deferred maintenance accounts and donations are funding the fixes.

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While Scotty’s Castle undergoes repairs, visitors can take a ranger-led walking tour ($25, plus fees) at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. from Dec. 8 through April 12. Tours are limited to 25 participants. You can buy tickets online at Scotty’s Castle Flood Recovery Walking Tours web page.

Death Valley notches its 25th year as a national park this year. It was created by the 1994 Desert Protection Act.

Info: Death Valley National Park


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