The Charcoal Kilns of Death Valley

When driving down the winding, unpaved road towards Wildrose Peak, the scenery was what you would expect in Death Valley. At 6,800 feet, desert plants line the roadside and mountains loom in the distance. The last thing I expected to see at the trail head was charcoal kilns.

The charcoal kilns, ten conical masonry structures, were completed by the Modock Consolidated Mining Company in the late 1800’s. The kilns converted lumber to charcoal for nearby silver miners, and the neighboring ghost towns of Darwin and Lookout used the kilns. For a brief period of time, charcoal was transported by jackass pack-trains down the trail from Lookout to Wildrose Canyon.

I crouched low and ducked my head to peek inside. There was an eerie stillness all around me. Sunlight poured in through the door and the top of the kiln. My mind wandered, as I tried to imagine what the kilns used to be like when they were in use. Death Valley is a land of extremes…hot, dry, low, and unexpectedly historic.

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