ward charcoal ovens historic state park, nv
Somewhere between Ely and Great Basin are these crazy cool charcoal ovens dating back to the mid-1800s when trees were reduced to charcoal and then used to smelt ore. Did you know? The ovens were actually only used for three years (1876 - 1879)! That's when the silver boom waned, the trees were gone, and the need for charcoal ended. However, the charcoal ovens didn't go to waste. Prospectors and stockmen found shelter in them during harsh weather. Stagecoach bandits tried to escape the law by hiding in the ovens. And today, we can walk right into them for a glimpse of Nevada's history.
Beehive-shaped ovens were a more efficient way of reducing pinyon pine and juniper to charcoal than the earlier method of piling wood in an open pit and lighting it on fire. The ovens allowed control over how hot and how long the fire burns, which was important when producing quality charcoal.
Fun Fact: Charcoal burns slower and hotter than raw wood, a necessary factor for smelting ore. To fill one charcoal oven, they needed trees from six acres of land. The wood burned for 12 days, producing 1750 bushels of charcoal per oven. To reduce one ton of ore, it took 30 - 50 bushels of charcoal. Not all of the trees have grown back, but some second-growth timber is starting to grow.
When you visit the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, take photos and look around, but leave what you find for others to enjoy as well. Historic structures and artifacts on public land are protected. Excavating, removing, damaging or otherwise defacing any archaeological resource is a felony punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Directions: From Ely, Nevada, take US-50 towards Great Basin National Park. Follow that road for about 16 miles, then turn right onto White Pine County Road 16. After 5 miles, turn left onto Cave Valley Road/White Pine County Road 45. After a slight right, the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park will be straight ahead. Entrance fee is $5, payable in cash only.