While driving up Highway 395, you have no doubt seen the historical marker signs for the Cottonwood Kilns, South of Lone Pine in the Owens Valley. These kilns used to sit on Cottonwood Creek, which dried up when the water from the lake was diverted, and now they sit in relative disarray as a memory from a lost time. I got a chance to visit them, and it was a great little detour that I recommend, here is all the information.
- 1-mile dirt road
- Time needed: 10 minutes
North of the town of Cartago and Olancha, keep your eyes peeled for a historical marker sign for the Cottonwood Kilns. The road then heads off to the east for one mile before you arrive at the kilns. You can park in the dirt here.
These kilns were at one time used to provide the charcoal needed for the profitable Cerro Gordo mine. In the late 1800’s there was even a saw mill built here that they used to process the wood that was being cut down to keep the kilns at the mine operational.
Today there are only two kilns still in existence and both are not whole, but they are still a great piece of history that you can explore.
When I arrived at the kilns, they were surrounded by a fence with razor wire at the top; however, the door to the fence was completely open, so I walked right in to see the kilns. I am not sure what happened to the door but interesting to see the kilns up close.
The two kilns were both a lot bigger than I anticipated, standing at probably 20 or so feet tall. After exploring the kilns for 5 minutes, I headed back out to the road. These are an interesting stop along the Highway 395, and I recommend you check them out if you are in the area (be sure to check road conditions when you get there though). Let me know if you have been in the comments.