Nestled in Grapevine Canyon, in the northern reaches of Death Valley, a historic, ranch-style mansion offers shelter to those exploring this vast, desolate landscape. Scotty’s Castle was constructed in the late 1920s, just after mining in the area had been deemed fruitless and the valley was largely left to ruin. But as commercialism grew across America, the winter getaway soon began to draw visitors to the park and boost the popularity of Death Valley as a tourism spot.

To this day, it remains an alluring testament to the rise and fall of the 20s and 30s and has an interesting story to tell to those who venture here. If you’re planning a visit to Scotty’s Castle, here are a few interesting facts you should know.

A fascinating history

Walter Scott was an adventurer, a storyteller and an eccentric character – and the legend goes that he built Scotty’s Castle on top of a secret gold mine. However, in truth, the lavish retreat was funded by a millionaire from Chicago, Albert Johnson, with whom Walter became unlikely friends. Inspired by Walter’s tales of gold and adventure, Albert built the retreat mainly as a vacation destination for himself and his wife, Bessie, who had fallen in love with Death Valley as much as her husband.

The trio would entertain guests in the castle, with Walter regaling them with colorful stories of supposed mining riches – whilst Albert nodded along and announced himself as merely his friend’s banker. Adorned with hand-painted ceilings, intricate woodwork and antique furnishings, the castle remains a testament to the style of the 1920s.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the ranch is its advanced hydroelectric power system, which provided electricity to the property long before the surrounding area was connected to any electrical grid.

Flooding and repairs

Today, Scotty’s Castle is managed by the National Park Service. Unfortunately, due to a flood in 2015, where the area received a year’s worth of rain within 5 hours, the castle is currently closed to the public.

The restoration efforts are underway, and will hopefully be completed in 2025 so that this historical landmark can begin to be enjoyed by visitors again. In the meantime, you can book a walking tour of the area surrounding the castle to learn more about the history and restoration of the ranch.

It’s set in a green oasis

The ominous-sounding Death Valley is well known for its unique geology and extreme temperatures. As the hottest place on earth, it’s no surprise that this national park is considered a desert – even though it’s clear that water did once run through this immense, rugged landscape. However, in the far north of the valley, Scotty’s Castle is set in a beautifully green oasis known as the Grapevine Canyon and Springs.

Despite not currently being able to visit the castle itself, it’s still well worth exploring the Grapevine region. The area consists of several waterways, some of which are permanent and others seasonal, but it remains the largest natural riparian environment in the national park. The fauna and flora around the springs are thought to have been influenced by those planted at Scotty’s Castle, and the area is a welcome contrast to the arid landscapes of the rest of Death Valley.


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