One of the most unusual attractions in eastern Nevada is the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park in the state’s Egan Mountain Range. The park features six beehive-shaped charcoal kilns that were used in Nevada’s Old West era between 1876 and 1879 and are tied to the state’s early history as a mining state. Charcoal kilns were used to help process the rich silver ore that was discovered in the area.
Another of Nevada’s authentic Wild West experiences is to pop in and see the beautiful living cowboy and booming Wild West town of Virginia City, just outside of Reno. Nevada is a state full of surprises and well-kept secrets – like the famous Area 51 that we would all love to see if we had the chance.
The Wild West Tale of Charcoal Ovens
The fascinating history of furnaces is not limited to their actual use for mining. They served as shelters for travelers throughout the region and even had a reputation as a refuge for stagecoach bandits and highwaymen. Wild West indeed.
- Number of Ovens: six ovens
- Used: Between 1876 and 1879
- The Wild West: They were used by stagecoach bandits after they retired
In total, there are six stone ovens that rise and dominate the desert landscape that surrounds them. They are nestled in the basin near the Egan mountain range and only two and a half miles from the town of Ward. It is a place where one can learn about silver lodes, prospectors and stagecoach bandits.
The park is more than impressive kilns, it is full of scenic, forested landscapes where wild animals roam. Keep an eye out for deer, grouse, elk and mule deer.
The original purpose of charcoal ovens
They were part of the Nevada Silver Rush (not everything was a Gold Rush). These 30 foot “hives” were built to aid in the extraction of veins of silver ore found there in 1872. The silver ore had to be in super hot furnaces – the temperature needed was not possible with a wood fire.
To get the high temperatures, they needed charcoal. The charcoal was made from the local piñon pine and juniper that thrive in the area – these trees were turned into charcoal by dozens of days of slow, steady burning.
- Product : Charcoal for smelting silver ore
That was the job of the charcoal kiln – to be the region’s charcoal supplier. When they ran, they were packed with 35 cords of wood each. 35 cords of wood multiplied by six fours equals a lot of wood. It wasn’t that long until the area ran out of wood.
The nearby district was a booming town that reached a population of 1,500 in 1877, but after that the mines declined and a fire destroyed most of the town’s buildings. Ward was largely bankrupt by 1885.
Activities at Ward Charcoal Ovens Park
Today, the ovens and the surrounding park are open to the public. It is an ideal place to stop over when crossing the desert state. Enjoy camping, picnicking, hiking and fishing during your stay.
The park is open year round and is also open for camping. Besides visiting the great ovens, activities in the park include picnicking, mountain biking, fishing and hiking. In winter, it is also a place where you can go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
- Summer activities: Mountain biking, Fishing, Hiking, Picnic
- Winter activities: Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing
Visit and stay at Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park
Willow Creek Campground has two large RV pass-through areas and plenty of places to pitch a tent. The camping limit is 14 days in a 30 day period and this is enforced.
- Daily entrance fees: $5.00 per vehicle (non-VN vehicles $10.00 per vehicle)
- Camping: $15.00 per vehicle, per night (non-NV vehicles: $20.00 per vehicle, per night)
If one wishes to go fishing, there is fishing at Willow Creek where rainbow trout are stocked. There are also brook trout and brown trout which breed there naturally without needing to be stocked.
- Sin: Rainbow, brown and brook trout in Willow Creek
There is also a network of marked trails in the park, suitable for hiking and mountain biking. In winter, the trails are perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
- Location: 18 miles south of Ely, Nevada
- Access road: Accessible via a well-maintained gravel road
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