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Death Valley National Park ~ Wildrose Charcoal Kilns


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Death Valley National Park

Wildrose Area Charcoal Kilns

Low light, the perils of not knowing the area and not having specific timing guidelines.

Busted my butt and my tow car’s butt to get back into the Wildrose Peak area, up the Emigrant Canyon Road.

Saw beautiful country, high country. Way different from the Valley floor and sea level and below spots.

After making the turn off Emigrant Canyon Road I found myself on a narrowing paved road giving way to a rough high country stone road leading up and beyond to the recently snow-dusted Telescope Peak.

Deep within Wildrose Canyon and well below the 3 PM sun sit the ten Charcoal Kilns.

The available light was a photographic limitation.

~

In 1877 George Hearst’s Modock Consolidated Mining Company completed construction of the charcoal kilns in Wildrose Canyon. The charcoal produced by the kilns was to be used as fuel for two silver-lead smelters that Hearst had built in the Argus Range 25 miles to the west. The kilns operated until the summer of 1878 when the Argus mines, due to deteriorating ore quality, closed and the furnaces shut down.

The Wildrose kilns employed about 40 woodcutters and associated workmen, and the town of Wildrose, a temporary camp located somewhere nearby, was home to about 100 people. Remi Nadeau’s Cerro Gordo Freighting Company hauled the charcoal to the smelters by pack train and wagon.

Each of the 10 kilns stands about 25 feet tall and has a circumference of approximately 30 feet. Each kiln held 4 cords of pinyon pine logs and would, after burning for a week, produce 2,000 bushels of charcoal.

Considered to be the best surviving examples of such kilns to be found in the western states, the kilns owe their longevity to fine workmanship and to the fact that they were in use for such a short time.

The Wildrose Charcoal kilns are located in Wildrose Canyon on the western side of Death Valley National Park. Access the Wildrose Canyon road from California Highway 178 between Trona and Panamint Springs. From California Highway 190, take the Emigrant Canyon road south to the turnoff up the Wildrose Canyon road to the kilns. The last 3 miles of the road are unpaved and the road is subject to storm closures.

http://digital-desert.com/death-valley-history/wildrose-kilns.html

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

excerpt from “Charcoal Kilns Historic Structures Report” 1970

The charcoal kilns complex in Wildrose Canyon is among the more remarkable historical-architectural features of Death Valley National Park. These ten beehive shaped masonry structures, about 25 feet high, are believed to be the best known surviving example of such kilns to be found in the western states.

Modock Mines

The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns were completed in 1877 by the Modock Consolidated Mining Company to provide a source of fuel suitable for use in two smelters adjacent to their group of lead-silver mines in the Argus Range west of Panamint Valley, about 25 miles distant from the kilns. Although the mines themselves were worked intermittently until about 1900, there is no clear evidence that the charcoal kilns were operational after 1879. Evidently either other fuel sources were located or it was found to be more profitable to ship the raw ore elsewhere for processing. This short life may help to explain the remarkably good condition of these kilns, more than 100 years after their construction.

Hearst Connection

One of the incorporators of the Modock Company, operating out of San Francisco, was George Hearst, Father of William Randolph Hearst. George Hearst became famous as a mine expert, and his immense wealth was derived from interest in various mines. However, the Modock group was not one of his great successes. Apparently it did not gross much more than $3,000,000 over a period of thirty years. Beginning about 1881 the mines were leased to others. They have been inactive since the turn of the century.

Transporting Charcoal

Associated with the Modock mines were the neighboring towns of Darwin and Lookout, rough towns which out-lived the more famous Panamint City. A trail from Lookout to Wildrose Canyon was constructed. Charcoal was transported to the smelters by jackass pack-trains, though wagons also were probably involved.

Building & Working the Kilns

A company man named Morris built the Wildrose kilns. Actual documentable details of the construction job and the operation are lacking, as is confirmation that the labor force included American Indians and Chinese. The presence of Mexicans is amply indicated. It seems logical that, with a fairly large labor force of wood-cutters, charcoal-burners and haulers, there would be a “settlement” of some kind, with tents and/or log cabins, and there is one hint of a town of “Wild Rose.” It was probably an ephemeral affair. Its exact location is unknown, but a fair guess would be that it was a summer camp near the kilns, where water would have to be hauled in; or else it was located in the vicinity of the life-giving Wildrose Spring, several miles downhill from the kilns.

Why Charcoal?

Charcoal is a black, porous form of carbon prepared by charring wood or organic matter in a kiln or retort from which air is excluded. Charcoal produced from wood retains its basic shape and texture but is converted to a 96% pure carbon content. In the 19th century and earlier, charcoal was used for a furnace fuel because it burned more slowly than wood and created a much greater heat that was needed for the refining of ores.

https://www.nps.gov/deva/learn/historyculture/charcoalkilns.htm

Categories: Uncategorized
Posted by bigdawg on December 17, 2016

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