Scotty's Castle is an interesting place to learn about life in Death Valley. It is beautiful home built by Albert Mussey Johnson as a vacation getaway for himself and his wife Bessie. Walter Scott (Scotty), was a friend of Albert. Scotty promoted the home as his and that he built it with funds from gold he mined in Death Valley, which was not true.
Scotty's Castle is open daily from 9:00am to 3:45pm and is a day use area only. There are no gas services here so be sure you have enough gas to make the trip. The nearest gas is at Stovepipe Wells which is 45 miles away!
Tours are available by park rangers daily. There is a $15 fee for the tour which I did not take. However, walking around the grounds is free and it is a nice place for a picnic lunch. They do have a small shop with packaged food if you do not take food with you.
Update: Scotty's Castle CLOSED until further notice due to flood damage!
Flooding in Grapevine Canyon from a severe thunderstorm on Oct. 18, 2015 has destroyed the road to Scotty's Castle, damaged infrastructure and some out-buildings in the Castle complex
Walter Scott also known as Scotty began living in the castle after Albert Johnson past away. Scotty died in 1954. He had become a bit of a tourist attraction himself and frequently allowed people to pay and stay at the castle. At the top of a hill overlooking the castle is a large cross and grave marker with a bronze profile of Scotty and what is claimed to be 4 things he lived by. It reads, "Never say nothing that will hurt anybody, Don't give advice nobody will take anyway, Don't complain and Don't Explain."
The photo shows the dining room inside the castle. I took a close look at the plates on the table and they all had "J & S" printed on them. J is for Albert Johnson, and S for Walter Scott.
A millionaire from Chicago, Albert Johnson was the guy who spent the money building the castle. He believed in Scott's gold mine story and made investment with Scott. He never struck gold as Scott promised. But he became attracted to the desert himself so he built the castle to stay here comfortably. When Scott and Johnson were both alive, the castle was occupied by Scott, and Johnson (and his wife Bessie) only stayed here during vacation.
Inside Scottys Castle we saw Bessie Johnson's bedroom. Bessie was the wife of Albert Johnson, the guy who really built the castle (not Walter Scott). Bessie liked to study in bed, so she designed a folding table as seen in photo. When she's done reading and writing, she can just fold the table up and turn to sleep. Pretty smart design.
Without air condition, how did Scott and Johnson survive the hot desert? Well, inside Scottys Castle we saw this indoor waterfall where cool water was brought in and circulated. This solved both the dryness and the heat problem in the summer. Pretty smart design.
In fact, if you don't feel you've been conned enough by the $8 guided tour, there's another "technology tour" you can join to see all the innovative designs of the castle.
On the second floor of Scottys Castle you'll find the Upper Music Room. It's the entertainment center of the whole castle. As shown in photo, the Music Room features a rare theater organ, with more than 1000 pipes concealed behind the screen.
When Walter Scott ran this place in the early 20th Century, it was called Death Valley Ranch. And he used to give castle tours to the visitors for $1.1 each. If he's alive today, he must be happy to know the castle is now named after him, and even happier to know the castle continues to con tourist money as in his time.
The photo shows the main living room viewed from the second floor. Everything was original: the sofa, the fireplace, the carpet, and the chandelier. As we were finishing up our tour, the next group already started.
Walked around the grounds of Scottys Castle and I saw landslide over the years push to the edge of the structure. Although the Park Service built resistance walls, one would wonder how long the castle can survive the power of nature.
When I visited in Nov, 2003, Scottys Castle was going through major construction. New towers were being raised. It was a project Scotty never finished. And now the Park Service is following through. I hope the Park Service spends the money on maintaining and paving the dirt road around the park to make it more user-friendly, instead of building something with no historic significance.
Walter Scott is buried at the top of a small hill behind Scottys Castle called Windy Point. Walk up the hill to his grave, and get a great bird's-eye view towards the castle. Enlarge the photo to see Scotty's bronze tombstone. Notice he still got a brown nose even after his death?
There is a neat looking tour with bells and chimes inside just on the other side of the powerhouse. I do not think this building is open to the public.
Here are two photos of the kitchen. Photo 1 shows the early refrigerator and photo 2 shows part of the Johnson’s extensive collection of Native American Baskets.