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Contact: Cheryl Chipman, 760-786-3207
Death Valley National Park visitors are now able to reserve tours at historic Scotty’s Castle in advance. On extremely busy days, there can be up to a two hour wait for the next available House Tour to see the inside of Scotty’s Castle. Reservations can be made in two ways: by calling 1-877-444-6777 or online at www.recreation.gov. This feature will make trip planning easier and help park visitors avoid a potentially long wait for the next available tour.
It is rare that all tours will sell out in a day, but the less frequently given Underground Tours and Lower Vine Hiking Tours regularly sell out. Reservations can be made until one day before the tour date. On the day of the tour, tickets may only be purchased in person at Scotty’s Castle. Ticket prices are the same for reserved tickets or walk-up tickets.
Scotty’s Castle is a beautiful Spanish Colonial-style historic house. House Tours are presented every day of the year by National Park Service rangers who dress in period clothing to portray life in the late 1930s in Death Valley. Today’s visitors see the original furnishings which hosted Hollywood favorites and even former a former President. Even the carpets and curtains are original to the Castle. The theater pipe organ is played during the conclusion of the House Tour.
The Underground Tour visits the concrete tunnels that connect several of the buildings. Along the way, visitors learn about the largely self-sufficient technology in use at Scotty’s Castle in the 1920s and 1930s. The tour concludes with a demonstration of electrical generation with a Pelton water wheel. Underground Tours are offered daily from mid-November through late April.
The Lower Vine Hiking Tour is a 2-mile, 2 ½ hour walk with a park ranger to the cabin that Scotty actually lived in. This program is offered two days per week from mid-January through early April.
Much of the charm of Scotty’s Castle involves its colorful history. Walter "Death Valley Scotty" Scott claimed to have found a rich gold mine in Death Valley in 1902. While there were some gold mines in Death Valley, none of them belonged to Scotty. However, Scotty was a talented self-promoter, doing stunts like breaking the speed record by train from Los Angeles to Chicago in 1905 to convince people to invest in his gold mine.
One of his investors was Albert Johnson. Albert Johnson was a business man from Chicago, who invested in Scotty’s mine from a distance for two years before travelling to Death Valley in 1906 to inspect the mine.
Scotty staged a holdup, complete with a gunfight, in an attempt to scare Albert Johnson away, while still convincing him that the mine was real. When Scotty’s brother got shot during what was supposed to be a bloodless staged gunfight, Albert Johnson learned that he had been conned. Instead of suing Scotty, as one might expect, Albert Johnson continued to send Scotty money.
Albert Johnson and his wife, Bessie, camped in Death Valley on and off for years, always with Scotty as a guide. In 1922 they began construction of their vacation home, but Scotty soon saw an opportunity for a publicity stunt and claimed that his gold mine was in the basement. The employees would be sent downstairs to make noise when reporters were there, which caused the newspapers to report the place as "Scotty’s Castle."