Tag Archives: Modoc
The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are located within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park despite their location being in the Panamint Mountain Range. They are located 7.10 miles from the Wildrose Road, and Wood Canyon Road intersection. Turn on Wood Canyon Road, which quickly turns into Charcoal Kiln Road. The last couple of miles the road becomes dirt and can be a bit washboard, however just about any vehicle can make it without issues.
The charcoal kilns were constructed in 1877 by Chinese Labor men in the employ of George Hearst. George Hearst had purchased into a mining operation at Lookout City (25 miles west of the Charcoal Kilns in the Argus Mountain Range). As the mining operation at Lookout City continued to grow the decision was made to build two furnaces directly at the mining site. Previously everything had been shipped off to Panamint City to be crushed in their stamp mill. There was only one problem, there was limited lumber in the Argus Mountains which was needed to fuel the furnaces. Construction of the charcoal kilns in the Panamints was the solution.
Once in operation the kilns employed roughly 40 woodcutters, and workmen. Remi Nadeau’s stage and freight company was hired to transport the charcoal from the kilns across the Panamint Valley to Lookout City three times per week.
Each of the ten kilns stands roughly 25 feet tall, with a circumference of about 30 feet. Each kiln could hold up to 42 cords of wood, and could produce 2,000 bushels of charcoal.
The men that worked at the kiln lived in a town by the name of Wildrose. The location of the town has never been found, but it’s speculated that it may have been located near the kilns, or possibly at Wildrose Spring, 7 miles away. Due to there be no evidence of the location it was most likely a tent town with limited to no structures.
Death Valley National Park states that the kilns had been used for three years (1877-1890). Most likely that is not so accurate. In the fall of the same year that construction was completed on the kilns (1877), the furnaces at Lookout City broke down and remained broken until May of 1878 (down time estimated at 5-6 months). Hearst and his associates had stopped mining the Modoc (the mine at Lookout City) in the later part of 1878. It wasn’t mined again until 1881 when it was leased to Frank Fitzgerald, and by this time the kilns had already ceased operation. Based on my research I have determined that the kilns may have been used for the better part of a year and a half.
The kilns are located of off of the beaten path, however it is worth the trip, as are most of the locations in the Panamint Mountains (IE: Harrisburg, Skidoo, Aguereberry Point, Telescope Peak, Panamint City, etc.). You will not find kilns in this condition anywhere else in the western United States. During my latest trip I enjoyed lunch inside one of the 100+ year kilns, as it made for a cool break from the blazing sunshine.
For more information on Lookout City, and the Modoc Mine head over to my Lookout City page.