Tag Archives: Wildrose
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.
Lookout City is located at the top of Lookout Mountain in the Argus Mountain Range at an elevation of 3579 feet. To get to Lookout City, you’ll likely begin on Panamint Valley Road. If you are coming from 190, you’ll want to follow Panamint Valley Road for 7.4 miles, then turn on Minietta Road. Follow Minietta for 3.6 miles until you reach Nadeau Road. Turn right on Nadeau Road, follow Nadeau for about .4 miles. Turn left on unnamed road. From the unnamed road you can continue on foot, or if you have a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle you can continue in your vehicle for the 4 miles to Lookout City. Hiking the route can be strenuous as a majority of the hike is climbing up the mountain.
The short-lived story of Lookout City begin in 1875 when silver-lead ore was discovered in the Argus Range on top of Lookout Mountain. B. E. Ball, J. E. Boardman, E. W. Burke and J. S. Childs made the discovery while searching for the “Lost Gunsight”.
This first discovery was called the Modoc, in August the mine was sold to a number of investors including one extremely wealthy and well-known man by the name of George Hearst. Hearst was a famed mining engineer and U.S. Senator, and even ran for the Governor of California in 1882, but lost. The group of investors became the Modock Consolidated Mining Company of San Francisco.
By the of 1875 the town was in full boom with two General Stores, three saloons, a slaughterhouse, a hotel, and a post office. The post office operated under the name Modock as opposed to Lookout City; this was to avoid confusion with another town in Mono County already officially called Lookout City.
In 1876 the Minnietta Mine opened directly below Lookout City, however it was not extensively mined until 1895, well after the rise and fall of Lookout City.
In October of 1876, the first of two thirty-ton furnaces began operation at Lookout. Previously, the ore was shipped off to Panamint City to be crushed and treated at their twenty-stamp mill. The furnaces at Lookout City had the ability to produce 160 bars of bullion, each weighing 80 to 85 pounds, per day. Within a month it was reported that $100,000 worth of bullion had been produced by the Lookout furnaces.
The furnaces at Lookout required a large amount of coal to stay in operation. In 1877, Nadeau’s wagon road which connected the newly constructed charcoal kilns at Wildrose to both Lookout City and Darwin was completed. Lookout Coal and Transportation Company began operating a tri-weekly stage between the locations. The summer of 1877 was a busy one, as 40 men alone were employed at Wildrose just to keep Lookout City stocked with charcoal for their furnaces. 1877 saw 140 voters registered at Lookout, and 8 children from Lookout enrolled in the Darwin School District.
In the fall of 1877, things began to make a turn for the worst. The first blow was both of the furnaces breaking down, then the Modock Company changed managers, following by a drop in the price of lead, and finally the Modock Company cutting wages. In the end the miners struck, and again changes were made in management. It wasn’t until about May of 1878 that things turned around for a short time when the furnaces began operation again, but never returned to the height previously seen. The town of Lookout City (Modock) was pretty well dead.
In all, before the towns demise, Lookout City had over 50 dwellings, 5 saloons (Jake Whitemere, Collar and Elbo, Greens, Jim Maloney, and Jack Gun Saloons), a Blacksmith and stable, Modoc Mine Company Office, two General Stores, a post office and a boarding house with a restaurant.
In 1881, the Modoc Mine was leased to Frank Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was previously Lookout’s constable before the town had died; when he lost his job he moved to the nearby community of Darwin and become the deputy sheriff. By 1890 the Modoc had produced $1,900,000. The Minnietta Mine didn’t see any real production until 1885 when Fitzgerald began to work it and produced $65,000 in silver and $600 in gold. Ten years later the Minnietta had produced over $350,000 in silver and $25,000 in gold. The total estimated production for the Minnietta from 1895-1955 is $600,000.
What is left of Lookout City today is mostly stone walls from the dwellings that many of men once called home. The largest of these is the basement of one of the town’s General Stores. Inside the basement you will find an old rusted out metal stove, broken glass, fallen beams, and rubble from the fallen walls and dreams of the store clerk that once made business here. In all, I counted roughly twelve stone cabin ruins that are still distinguishable. The town site is littered with rusty metal cans of all sorts, and broken bottles lay discarded throughout.
On the drive/hike to Lookout City you will pass ore bins, mines, and rusted out mining equipment. The entire area around Lookout Mountain is a mining enthusiast’s dream come true. If you decide to hike down the mountain from Lookout City you will find the pack trails built by the Chinese workers that built the route from Wildrose. The trails are still in impeccable condition. The stone walls that these men built along these trails and ledges are mind boggling.
Lookout City has made it high on my list of must see locations. I’m already looking forward to a return trip to be able to spend more time exploring both the city, and the remainder of the mountain.