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The highways of Nevada tend to follow valleys. They seem to stretch on endlessly across monotonous land, and many travelers continue towards their final destinations without stopping.

Beyond those flatlands dotted with sagebrush and rabbitbrush, interesting sights beckon. One such place is Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, located 18 southeast of Ely in eastern Nevada.

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
Prospectors discovered silver ore nearby in 1872. Three years later, Martin & White Company from California purchased some of the mining claims and built smelters. High quality charcoal improved the smelting process, and the company hired Italian stone masons to construct six huge ovens.

Instead of writing a lengthy description, I will take the lazy way out and add pictures of two markers located on the site.

Historical marker
Here is a better view of the text:
historical marker
Hostorical marker
Being a forester, I was of course fascinated by this passage:
Each filling of one of these ovens required the total tree crop from 5 or 6 acres of land. During the late 1870s the hills and mountains around many mining camps were completely stripped of all timber for a radius of up to 35 miles.
When you consider how many mining towns sprang up across the West in the last half on the nineteenth century, the cleared forests represented an enormous part of the landscape. Wildfires took an additional toll on the slow-growing trees. As the decades passed and the mining camps faded into oblivion, the juniper and pinyon forests grew back. Looking over the area today, it's difficult to imagine how the land appeared in 1880.

Humans have long been capable of altering landscapes on a big scale in a short span of time. Nature, given a longer span of time, can recover.

The six charcoal ovens, with Wheeler Peak (13,063 feet) in the distance.

charcoal ovens
Outside view of one oven.
charcoal oven
Entrance to an oven, showing the skill of the stone masons.
entrance to charcoal oven
Inside view, looking up.
Inside view of charcoal oven
Pinyon pine (foreground, right) and juniper trees (center) have returned to the area.
charcoal ovens
Nearby lime kiln.
Lime kiln
Looking west towards the mountains. All of this land was stripped of timber in the 1870s.
Desert vegetation and pinyon-juniper forest
Your turn! Add your observations, comments, and photos.

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Originally posted to Backyard Science on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 10:38 AM PST.

Also republished by Shutterbugs, DK GreenRoots, and National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.

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