Located 20 miles south of Ely, Nevada, Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park is a 700-acre state park preserving a collection of charcoal ovens built in the late 19th century, connected to the ghost mining town of Ward, Nevada. In 1876, the city of Ward, Nevada was established for the purposes of silver mining, as the result of a major discovery of silver ore in the area four years prior.
Prior to the silver discovery, the nearby basin area had been used as a stopover for settlers traveling between the towns of Pioche and Toano, primarily for railroad access. Following the construction of furnaces by the Martin and White Company in 1875, the Ward Charcoal Ovens were established in 1876, peaking in activity for the remainder of that decade. At the height of the town’s mining operations, more than 1,500 residents lived in the area, and a school, fire department, and two newspapers operated within city limits. Following depletion of ore deposits and timber to fuel the mines, the town began to decline after 1880, with a major fire destroying nearly a third of its structures in 1883. Though the town’s post office closed in 1888, the charcoal ovens continued to serve a number of purposes throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including use as prospector shelters and reported use as hideouts for stagecoach bandits. Brief mining revivals occurred in the area in the mid 20th century, though most of the town’s structures were destroyed as a result of flash flooding events.
Until 1956, the Ward Charcoal Ovens area was privately owned, but on June 1 of that year, a special use permit was issued to the C.B. Land and Cattle Company for the purposes of preserving the historic structures. In 1968, several parcels of privately-owned land near the ovens were transferred to the control of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and the following year, 160 acres of the area was dedicated as Ward Charcoal Ovens Historic State Monument. In 1994, the monument was designated as a state park, with additional land being added to its area, including recreational facilities.
Today, Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park is located on 700 acres near the Egan Mountain Range of eastern Nevada. Six of the historic beehive-shaped charcoal ovens have been preserved in excellent condition and were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The charcoal ovens are located two miles south of the former Ward town site and are considered the best-preserved examples of their type of technology in the state of Nevada. The charcoal ovens measure 30 feet high by 27 feet in diameter, featuring two-foot-thick walls constructed of quartz latite. The ovens were originally constructed by Italian masons known as carbonari, who were considered experts in furnace construction during the late 19th century. At the peak of their operations, the ovens prepared up to 16,000 bushels of charcoal per day. Visitors may tour the preserved charcoal oven facilities at any time, as the park is always open.
The park also serves as a natural wildlife and recreational retreat, located within a forested Great Basin desert area at an elevation of up to 8,000 feet. Forests are populated by sagebrush at the park’s low elevations, with juniper and pinyon forests populating higher elevation regions. A number of creeks run through the park, sourced by several springs. Park wildlife includes mule deer, elk, grouse, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and foxes, along with a variety of bird species. Daily temperatures range from highs of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months to lows of up to -10 degrees during winter nights.
A variety of outdoor activities are offered at the park, including rainbow, brown, and brook trout fishing at the Willow Creek area. A trail system throughout the park offers hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and snowshoeing opportunities, and an off-highway vehicle trail connects into large nearby plots of land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Picnicking is permitted at two day use areas, which offer covered tables, grills, and restroom facilities. Camping accommodations are offered at the Willow Creek Campground, which offers pull-through RV parking and may be utilized for a maximum of 14 days within any 30-day period. A group camping facility is available within the campground upon reservation request.
Park policies strictly prohibit climbing on the outside of the ovens and removal of any connected artifacts, including fossils and plant life, in order to prevent damage to the historic structures. Firearms, wood collection, and littering are also prohibited. Pets are welcome within the park if kept on leashes under six feet. Accommodations may be made for visitors with physical disabilities by contacting Nevada State Parks by phone or email prior to visiting the park.
P.O. Box 151761, Ely, NV 89315, Phone: 775-289-1693