NSS 75th Anniversary Convention

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park is located in White Pine County, Nevada about 18 miles south of the town of Ely near Cave Lake State Park.

The basin near Ward Charcoal Ovens was a major stopover for settlers who used Cave Valley road to travel from Pioche, Nevada to the nearby railroad town of Toano from 1870 to 1876. The park's charcoal ovens are associated with the silver mining ghost town of Ward, established in 1876. The town at its peak had a population of 1,500, two newspapers, a school, fire department, two smelters and a stamp mill. The town declined after 1880, with a fire in 1883 destroying a third of the site. The post office closed in 1876. Mining revived briefly in the 1930s and 1960s. The town has been mostly destroyed by repeated flash flooding in its low-lying site. Only the smelter, mill foundations and a cemetery are left.

The charcoal ovens are two miles to the south of the townsite. Six large ovens remain in excellent repair, 30 feet high, 27 feet in diameter, with walls 2 feet thick at the base. The ovens were built in 1876 by emigrant Italian masons known as Carbonari who specialized in the ovens. They prepared charcoal from locally-harvested timber for use in the smelters at Ward, using 30 to 60 bushels of charcoal per ton of ore, for 16,000 bushels a day. The Ward ovens are the best-preserved of their kind in Nevada.

The Ward Charcoal Ovens were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

Recreational Opportunities

Audio Tour

Audio compliments of Nevada Commission on Tourism

There is a trail system that covers each end of the park suitable for many types of activities, including hiking and mountain biking. During winter months these trails are great for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There is also an off-highway vehicle trail that connects into thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management lands. Opportunities exist for fishing on Willow Creek. Rainbow trout are stocked as needed and the browns and brook trout are naturally reproducing.

There are two day-use areas that provide a great spot for a day hike and picnic. These areas have covered tables, restrooms, grills and wonderful views. Willow Creek Campground has two large pull-through spaces, which are great for RVs, and many other distinct spaces for every type of camper. A camping limit of 14 days in a 30-day period is enforced.


Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park

Video compliments of KNPB - PBS Reno, Nevada

Ward Charcoal Ovens is located about 18 miles southeast of Ely via U.S. 93. Visitors can drive about 11 miles on the dirt road of Cave Valley Road or can continue on U.S. 93 and turn onto a 7-mile dirt road that has signs for the park. The park is open year round with peak use between May and August.


Summer temperatures range from 90 degrees in the day to 50 degrees at night. Winter months range from 40 degrees in the day to -10 degrees at night. During peak winter months there is approximately a foot of snow as a base layer, so the park can support cross-country skiing and other snow activities.

Additional Information

Please help preserve this fragile desert environment by observing these rules:

  • No climbing on the ovens; it is not safe and causes extensive damage to them.

  • No shooting in the park.

  • State law protects all plants, animals, rocks, minerals and historic and prehistoric artifacts. Please do not remove, destroy or disturb these features.

  • Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.

  • Collection of wood is prohibited.

  • Please use trash cans or dumpsters provided.

  • Topographic Maps

    USGS 7.5 Quad Map: Ward Charcoal Ovens
    USGS 1:100,000 Map: Ely


    Elevation: 7,029 ft
    State: Nevada
    District: White Pine County
    Coordinates (WGS84): 39.037778, -114.846944
    Nearest town: Ely, NV
    Distance from the convention: ~20 minutes

    Links & Resources

  • Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park

  • Trails Map

  • Park Brochure

  • KNPB Teacher's Guide

  • Nearby Geocaching Sites

  • GNIS Detail: Ward Charcoal Ovens

  • Wikimedia GeoHack

  • Cave Lake State Park

  • The Italian Carbonari