Scenic USA - Nevada

Ward Charcoal Ovens

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Ward Charcoal Ovens - Ward Charcoal Ovens SHS, Nevada

Photo by Gary O'Toole

     Nevada, not well known for its streams or trout fishing, may surprise its Ely (EE-lee) visitors with a nearby recreation venue at Willow Creek. Here in White Pine County during the 1870s, Willow Creek became a major stop-over for freighters traveling between Pioche and the railroad town of Toano. Alongside the creek, a mix of grasses, sedges and wildflowers created a rich meadow were bullwhackers would rotate their tired oxen. Freighters would turn their oxen out to graze and round up a fresh set of legs to continue on their 270 mile journey. During their search for oxen, drivers began to turn up chunks of silver ore, spurring on a new era of mining in White Pine County.
     Here in the foothills of the Egan Mountain Range, visitors will find a string of oddly shaped rock beehives. Used to make charcoal for silver ore smelters, the ovens have survived well over a century. Preserved at the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, these ovens converted pinyon pine, juniper, aspen and even sagebrush into charcoal. Built by Italian-Swiss Carbonari, workers looked to the nearby Egan Mountains for building material. Remnants of volcanic welded tuff and silica rich quartz latite provided the perfect rock for these high temperature ovens.
     Park facilities provide their visitors with camping and picnicking areas. Along with a Nevada history lesson, guests enjoy trout fishing, hiking, mountain biking and ATV trails. Overnight guest are also invited to take in one of the starriest skies in the West.

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