Death Valley National Park runs along the border between eastern California and western Nevada and is the largest US National Park outside of Alaska. Death Valley itself is the lowest, driest, and hottest place in North America. Despite its name and its harsh conditions, Death Valley is anything but dead. More than 1000 kinds of plants live within the park, as do a variety of wildlife, including native mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and butterflies. The Timbisha Shoshone Indians have lived here for centuries and continue to inhabit part of Death Valley. The Valley received its English name during the California Gold Rush, named by prospectors who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields.
Scotty's Castle is located in the mountains of northern Death Valley. In the early 1920's, prospector and con man Walter Scott, known as "Death Valley Scotty," convinced Chicago millionaire Albert Mussey Johnson to invest in his gold mine. The gold mine turned out to be a fraud, but the millionaire and the con man became unlikely lifelong friends. In 1922, Johnson paid for construction to begin on the villa as a winter home for himself and his wife Bessie. Scotty, who hosted parties there and lived in one of the guest cabins, often claimed to own the property himself, and it became known as Scotty's Castle. The luxurious villa now belongs to the National Park Service.