We decided to see the southern part of Death Valley since we had already explored the northern part. One thing I really wanted to do was to drive down Titus Canyon, Sharon,however, was not so eager... Leaving Beatty, Nevada the turn-off for the road is located just off of Highway 374 a few miles west of the ghost town of Rhyolite, NV.
This is a 27 mile mostly one way dirt road that bisects Titus Canyon and eventually connects to California state highway 190 on the floor of Death Valley. The road going to Titus Canyon has a sign that says a high clearance 4WD vehicle is necessary to drive the road. I asked a ranger about this and he assured us that our Honda CRV 4WD would be just fine…The road is rough, narrow in places, steep in other places, and ultimately one of the last places you want to be during a flash flood.
We turned onto the Titus Canyon road from the Amargosa Valley. Crossing the valley we then very slowly climbed into the Grapevine Mountains passing excellent examples of volcanic ash and breccia deposits until we reached our azimuth at Red Pass, 5250’ of elevation. The road is rough on the climb into Red Pass (where there is a great view off to the north) and the few miles just past Red Pass are nearly as rough as we were winding downwards along a very narrow, rough road that has very steep drop offs along its edge. Sharon held up rather well but I am pretty sure there was a pucker in the passenger seat that wasn’t there before this drive.
Further down the road we passed by the ghost town of Leadfield and then we entered Titus Canyon…. WOW!!! A very impressive canyon in Death Valley with geological features that are simply amazing. There are examples of synclines, volcanic dykes and apparent anticlines along with other amazing geologic features. The most spectacular part of Titus Canyon is last part known as the narrows.
The final 1.5 miles of the canyon is the most narrow as the walls begin to squeeze together as they get less than 20 feet apart in several places.
As the road narrows it appears as if the canyon walls are steeper as they creep closer and closer leaving nothing but us and a small slice of sky above us. Layers of rock become more apparent and a new geologic feature appeared before us as we saw a massive boulder with “Megabreccca.”
Megabreccia is rock composed of broken fragments of minerals or rock cemented together by a fine-grained matrix. It appeared to us as a one of a kind, art piece made by mother earth herself (left photo). We also saw several rock faces with Indian petroglyphs visible but unfortunately again some annoying defacing by wannabe Indians.
As we left the mouth of Titus Canyon the road carried two-way traffic for the last several miles as we crossed over the alluvial fans spilling into the valley. We exited onto the paved road and headed next toward Scotty's Castle.
We really didn’t have time to tour Scotty’s Castle but we did do a walk about the property and visited the grave site of Scotty. All I can say is why did the castle become known as Scotty’s Castle since Scotty was simply a con man who was allowed to live in the behemoth of a structure built by a man he conned? It should have been called Albert Mussey Johnson’s Castle as he was the one who built it…
Nonetheless an interesting piece of history and an intriguing story about how a con man and the man he conned became friends! What a strange world we live in! We made one last stop at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes to take a stroll into the steep dunes. Sand from all over Nevada found its way there creating a scenic panorama we enjoyed.
We left Beatty, Nevada and made a rather long drive of just under 300 miles where we found ourselves for a one night stay in Fallon, Nevada before moving on again for a week stay in Sparks just east of Reno, Nevada.