A series of El Nino-fueled storms in October ravaged parts of Death Valley with floods and mudslides, leading to serious road damage and impacting other park resources, including Devils Hole, a spring thats home to endangered fish.
According to the National Park Service, flash floods heavily damaged historic structures at Scottys Castle. In a press release, the park service floods pushed over a wall and buried some buildings with about five feet of mud.
The park often sees weather extremes, including flash flooding, but geologists said Octobers events were near the edge of the historic envelope.
The historic Garage/Longshed is severely damaged. Its not clear yet how much of the building can be salvaged, said Death Valley National Park superintendent Mike Reynolds.
Flood waters also flowed into the historic Hacienda building up to 2 feet deep, leaving mud and debris behind. The Cook House has a few inches of mud deposited in it.
An engineering report described this flood as the probable maximum flood event for Grapevine Canyon, the canyon in which Scottys Castle is located. Flood waters deposited debris 15 feet above ground in places. A park ranger observed dumpsters floating out of Grapevine Canyon Sunday night. No one was in Grapevine Canyon during the flood. Concrete k-rails, buried to stabilize roads, were blown out by the flood and moved down the canyon.
The flash flood through the Scottys Castle area was a catastrophic event. We were in sprint mode the first 24 hours while evacuating visitors trapped by flooding. Now park staff need to transition into marathon mode. Were gearing up for a long, hard recovery, Reynolds said.
Scottys Castle was built in the 1920s as a vacation complex by Chicago millionaires, Albert and Bessie Johnson. Albert Johnson first became interested in Death Valley because of Walter Death Valley Scotty Scotts efforts to recruit Johnson as an investor in his gold mine. By the time Johnson realized Scotty was a con man, the two men had become close friends.
Today Scottys Castle is part of Death Valley National Park and is managed by the National Park Service. Scottys Castle and the surrounding Grapevine Canyon are currently closed to park visitors. It is too early to have a clear estimate of when Scottys Castle will reopen to public tours, but it is likely to be at least several months.
Devils Hole, the only natural habitat of the endangered Devils Hole pupfish, had large amounts of mud and rocks washed into it on Sunday morning. There were 131 pupfish counted in the September 2015. No population count has been done since a storm washed rocks, mud and clay into Devils Hole, but healthy-looking fish have been seen swimming and spawning.