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Birding Around Scotty's Castle
Birding Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park
Birding Around Scotty's Castle
Death Valley National Park, Scotty's Castle
Birding the front lawn at Scotty's Castle (view north).

Description

With few exceptions, the overwhelming impression one gets from Death Valley is that the land is extremely hot and dry and unencumbered by the burden of dirt and vegetation. To most birds, the entire area probably looks barren. Scotty's Castle, an elaborate old homestead with springs, running water, and an irrigated landscape, is one of those exceptions.

Scotty's Castle is a semi-urban site the bottom of a rocky desert canyon where springs and irrigation provide water for palm, cottonwood, mulberry, other trees, shrubs, and lawns. While not a wilderness experience, the vegetation here contrasts greatly with the surrounding desert hillsides and attracts birds from miles around.

Death Valley National Park, Scotty's Castle
The mix of trees, shrubs, lawn, and water provides habitat for birds and opportunities for bird watching (view south).

The front lawn, with trees and a small creek, probably is best place to bird. Be sure to check the shrubs between the road and the creek. At the bottom of the lawn, there is a bridge over the creek, and the pool under the bridge is good for birding. You can get up on the bridge with a spotting scope for a slightly elevated view of the trees and shrubs. Be sure to check the shrubs below the bridge too.

If you get tired of birding, you can always tour the castle.

Death Valley National Park, Scotty's Castle
The creek on the edge of the lawn attracts many birds. The creek continues flowing for about a half-mile below Scotty's Castle (view south).

Location

Scotty's Castle is located at the far northern end of Death Valley National Park, about 55 miles north of Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

From Las Vegas, drive northwest for about 2.5 hours to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 712) in Death Valley National Park. From the Visitor Center, drive north on Highway 190 for 17 miles to Scotty's Castle Road (Site 763). Turn right onto Scotty's Castle Road and drive north for 36 miles to Scotty's Castle (Site 561). You will past Grapevine Ranger Station about 5 miles before getting to Scotty's Castle. The road goes right past Scotty's Castle, and there is only one paved road, so you can't get lost.

Birding Death Valley National Park, Scotty's Castle

Hours

The park is always open, but Scotty's Castle is a day-use area. They close the gates at 6 PM, but there is plenty of parking outside the gate, and you can walk into the area to bird in the early morning or late evening. When it is closed, however, I would stay in the lawn area and away from the buildings to avoid upsetting the caretakers.

Fees

After getting into the park, there are no additional entrance fees. However, separate fees are charged for tours inside the Scotty's Castle buildings.

Birding Death Valley National Park, Scotty's Castle
Scotty's Castle

Specialties

Scotty's Castle is good for finding migrants and desert species, but the species mix depends on the season, and during migration it depends on just who is moving through at the time. Watch for warblers, flycatchers, sparrows, and even shorebirds, but review the park bird list for ideas on what to expect during the time of year when you will be visiting. In the evening, be sure to watch the hillsides for vast herds of Chukar and watch the sky for bats. Some of the Rangers watch birds, so you might ask what they have been seeing lately.

Table 1. GPS Coordinates for Highway Locations (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
561 Scotty's Castle 37.0316 117.3402 469743 4098229 3,100 Yes
712 Death Valley Visitor Center 36.4616 116.8657 512030 4034954 -186 Yes
763 Hwy 190 at Scotty's Castle Rd 36.6391 117.0353 496843 4054636 104 Yes

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 110216

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