On the night of October 18, 2015, Scotty's Castle received 2 3/4 inches of rain— a year's worth of rain within a mere five hours. This followed a half-inch of rain the day before. The rain and hail fell on the steep slopes of Grapevine Canyon and quickly caused a flash flood of mud and rocks headed towards Scotty's Castle flowing at an estimated 3,200 cubic feet per second.
That night, park dispatch received word that visitors were stranded by flooding near Ubehebe Crater. Park rangers evacuated Mesquite Springs Campground and sheltered in place with 20 visitors at a high point on the rim of Uhehebe Crater. That night a park ranger watched power poles and metal dumpsters float out of Grapevine Canyon—an initial indicator of the flood's impacts.
Damage Done, Repairs Underway
We do not have a precise reopening date. As of this update (10/20/2023), the park is still uncertain when the final key project will be funded. If all goes well, Scotty's Castle might reopen in fall 2025.
Visitor Center (historic garage/longshed): The most severely damaged historic building was the garage, which functions as the site's Visitor Center. The flood broke through windows, doors, and even walls. The flood left four feet of mud and rocks inside the building. An architectural/engineering firm has designed repairs. In October 2019, the National Park Service and the California State Historic Preservation Officer signed an agreement on how to mitigate impacts to the historic building by a proposed widening of the breezeway door (to allow floods to pass through the breezeway instead of breaking into the L-shaped building) and a proposed flood wall.
PLANNING STAGE: Due to a structural fire on April 22, 2021 the Historic Garage was completely lost.The National Park Service conducted a business analysis to determine the course of action that most benefits the historic district and visitors. It was determined that structural reconstruction would be the most appropriate response to fulfill the future needs of Scotty's Castle Historic District. An alternate means for visitor services is being planned until the reproduction Garage is completed.
CONTRACT IN NEGOTIATION: This will do minimal work to convert another historic building, the Gas Tank House, into a small (temporary) visitor contact station.
Historic Bridge: The bridge created a pinch point for the flood, which caused the water and debris to rush under the narrow bridge span like water rushing through a hose when pinched. The ground under the bridge and around its foundation was scoured down by about 8 feet. Articulated concrete block and other erosion-control features have been installed upstream and downstream of the bridge. Soil has been backfilled over the erosion control devices, so vegetation will disguise them.
Bonnie Clare Road: The flood destroyed most of the 8-mile-long Bonnie Clare Road Road (aka North Highway or Scotty's Castle Road). Bonnie Clare Road is closed from the park boundary (where it becomes NV-267) to the junction of North Highway and Ubehebe Crater road near Grapevine Ranger Station. Federal Highway Administration redesigned the road to increase its resistance to future floods.
REPAIRS COMPLETED. However, Bonnie Clare Road will remain closed to the public until safety hazards from other construction projects are done.
REDAMAGED: Bonnie Clare Road was re-damaged by flash flooding caused by an atmospheric river in January 2023. One lane had pavement undercut and broken for about 250 feet. The resf of the road weather the storm (and remnants of Hurricane Hilary in August 2023) very well due to the armoring that was added after the 2015 flood. This road will be repaired during the Federal HIghway Administration contract to repair and armor park roads due to Hilary damage, which is likely to start in spring 2024. However, Bonnie Clare Road will remain closed to the public until safety hazards from other construction projects are done.
Historic Fence: Albert Johnson marked his property boundary with straight lines of concrete fenceposts stamped with a "J" (for Johnson) and "S" (for Scotty, perpetuating the myth of Scotty's Castle). Over a mile of concrete fence posts were washed out. The section of the fence adjacent to Bonnie Clare Road has been reproduced and installed by the same contractors who rebuilt the road. Condition assessments are underway for the damaged portions of the fence not adjacent to the road.
REPAIRS PARTIALLY COMPLETED. The portion of the fence adjacent to Bonnie Clare Road has been repaired.
Water system: The spring house, one of two reservoirs, and the 4,000-foot pipeline were destroyed.
REPAIRS COMPLETED: The water main pipe was replaced from September 2019 to summer 2020. This included two sections of directional drilling to connect to a waterline installed under the newly-armored Bonnie Clare Road.
REPAIRS COMPLETED: Replacement of the destroyed spring collection gallery and reservoir tank was done in 2022.
REPAIRS IN PROGRESS: A contract was awarded in September 2023 to repair and replace damaged water distribution pipes within the historic district.This will complete repairs to the water system.
Historic Pool: Was filled with mud and water, requiring removal by heavy equipment and hand tools.
Grounds: Mud and rocks up to four feet deep surrounded several buildings and covered the parking lot and picnic area. This has mostly been removed by trail crews and fire crews loaned from other national parks.
REPAIRS PARTIALLY COMPLETED: work is still needed on specific features like the watercourse, but hundreds of dumptruck loads of debris have been removed.
Electricity: Over 20 power poles were washed away. Lack of power and HVAC threatened the historic objects within the castle, which were removed for safe keeping. Southern California Edison replaced the power line to Scotty's Castle.
REPAIRS COMPLETED: Phase 1 (of 2) of power distribution work within the historic district was completed in summer 2020.
REPAIRS IN PROGRESS. Phase 2 of the electrical repairs was awarded to a contractor in September 2023.
Sewer: The leach field and septic tank were destroyed by the flood.
REPAIRS COMPLETED: the leach field and septic tank were replaced in 2020.
REPAIRS IN PROGRESS: a related project to damaged wastewater collection pipes within the historic district was awarded to a contractor in September 2023.
HVAC for Main House: Outside temperatures at Scotty's Castle range from 15 to 115 degrees F. Temperature and humidity fluctuations cause damage to museum collections, especially organic materials such as clothing, wooden furniture, and woven Timbisha Shoshone baskets. The Main House was heated and cooled by individual HVAC units in the basement, which weren't able to maintain a stable temperature for the musuem collection's preservation. Those units were also discharging large amounts of chlorinated water into the desert, in violoation of water codes. Several of those machines were damaged during the flood.
REPAIR IN PROGRESS: A contract is in progress to build a cooling tower, chiller, and boiler in and behind the historic Stables. Hydronic pipes will then carry heated and cooled liquid to air handlers in the Main House basement that will provide climate control for the building interior.
Museum collection: 139,000 archives, furnishings, and other artifacts are threatened by lack of heating, air conditioning, humidity control and fire suppression. The museum collection has been moved to temporary storage away from the park.
PENDING: The museum collection will be returned to display in the Castle after the HVAC is replaced.
Hacienda: This historic building serves as staff housing (top floor) and staff offices (basement floor). Damaged due mud up to four feet thick that was deposited inside the building. An architectural/engineering firm designed repairs and the California State Historic Preservation Office has concurred with the designs.
COMPLETED: winter 2021/2022.
Scotty's Castle (Main House & Annex): The roof leaked in several places, allowing moisture into the building.
REPAIRS PARTIALLY COMPLETED: Minor repairs have taken place; more are needed.
Flood Control: Due to hydrological changes and predicted weather patterns over time, newly engineered flood control structures are necessary to prevent future damage.
COMPLETED January 2023. This project was funded by user recreation fees (entrance and camping).
The flood control structures successfully protected the historic district from damage during flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Hilary on August 20, 2023.