Sunday, March 25, 2007

Charcoal Kilns (Death Valley National Park)

High up (6,875 ft. above sea level) in the piñon pine forest of the Panamint Range, about 10 miles west of Badwater Basin, you can see a collection of old charcoal kilns, designed by Swiss engineers, and built by Chinese laborers in 1879. There are 10 of them, each 25 feet high and 30 feet in diameter.

They suppled the Modock mine smelter, 30 miles to the west, which extracted silver and lead from the ore mined there. After only three years of use, the kilns closed, so that what we see are probably the best preserved charcoal kilns in the West.

Each kiln held four cords of pine wood. Burning the wood took 6-8 days, and cooling the resulting charcoal another 5 days. You can still see stumps of trees felled over a century ago to feed these kilns.

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