When silver ore was discovered in the Willow Creek Basin area in the 1870s, the Ward Mining District was developed immediately after. By the mid 1870s, the Martin and White Company from San Francisco invested money to extract silver ore, purchased several small claims, and built smelters [furnaces for melting ores.]
As a result, the Ward Charcoal Ovens [pictured above] were constructed, but lived a short production life, as they only operated from 1876 to 1879. The unique beehive shape of these ovens replaced an older system of producing charcoal, because the ovens were a more efficient way to reduce pinyon pine and juniper to charcoal. Although they served their purpose, they were ultimately phased out due to depleted ore deposits and shortage of timber.
While their technical purpose had an expiration date, the Ovens continued to serve a purpose: shelter for stockmen and prospectors during foul weather. What’s even more interesting: the Ovens have a reputation as a hideout for stagecoach bandits!
After their demise, the land was privately owned until the land became public in a land trade in 1968. It was designated as Ward Charcoal Ovens State Monument in 1969, and later became an official State Park in 1994.
Today, these 30-foot tall, 27-diameter structures make for an incredible State Park experience. The beehive shape was implemented to reflect heat back into the center of the oven, reducing heat loss. Each oven held nearly 35 cords of wood, producing a whopping 1,750 bushels of charcoal. With 20-inch thick walls, it’s no wonder they have remained for nearly 150 years!
This state park offers facilities for picnicking, camping complete with group sites, hiking with outstanding views of Steptoe Valley, fishing on Willow Creek and even access to a dedicated off-highway vehicle trail system. A short 18 miles south of Ely, Nevada, this incredible state park experience is one to add to your upcoming itinerary!