Last winter (January – April 2015) Tom and I worked at Scotty’s Castle, part of Death Valley National Park. We helped clean, led tours, and enjoyed working with the rangers in a remote but beautiful place. We planned to go back this winter – it has been on our itinerary ever since we left.
Unfortunately, a week ago Sunday – October 18 – Scotty’s was hit by a flash flood. Flash floods are not uncommon in Death Valley. When you only get 2 inches of rainfall annually on average, and 1 inch comes in a day, you get flash flooding. On the evening of Sunday, October 18, 2.7 inches of rain fell in five hours in the area immediately around Scotty’s Castle. Tom and I watched the radar loop, and the storm just sat on top of the Castle the whole time.
This caused a flash flood that came through the wash north of the Castle. There were 24 electric power poles down and the road to the Castle was washed away with trenches up to six feet deep in places. Nineteen guests and three rangers reached Mesquite Springs campground before the road washed out but had to wait until the next morning to be evacuated. The compound where we lived last year was also evacuated. The flood destroyed the springs and water reservoir where Scotty’s got it’s water. The pipes were washed out of the ground and those that survived are now filled with mud and gravel.
Scotty’s Castle, itself, was not damaged but the various historical outbuildings suffered significantly. There were walls of mud and debris three to five feet high around the grounds. The lovely little creek at the edge of the lawn was completely filled in and has since rerouted itself. The parking lot is buried. Here are some pictures of the damage that we are allowed to share with the public. I took the before pictures and the park service provided the after pictures.
The first estimates of damage and the cost of repairs to the historic structures: 10 million dollars! They estimate that Scotty’s Castle will be closed for at least a year to the public.
The Volunteer Coordinator, Mark, called us a few days after the flood to give us an update and ask if we were still interested in coming. He offered us an RV spot at Cow Creek, the main employee housing area of Death Valley that has (weak) internet and cell phone service. Although they are trying to find positions at other National Parks for the seasonal rangers usually used at Scotty’s Castle, Mark said they could use us but he wasn’t sure what we would be doing. We might be helping with tours to various parts of Death Valley, walking around popular trails answering visitor questions, helping in the Visitor’s Center, or cleaning up at Scotty’s. So we have agreed to return to Death Valley for the winter.
We are grieved by the damage the flash flood did to Scotty’s Castle and sorry that we won’t get to see some of our friends this year. But we are ready to be of service in whatever way we can. We are even looking forward to being an hour closer to church, groceries, and other people this year. It will be an opportunity to learn new things, see new areas of the park, and meet new people.