Birch Creek Charcoal Kilns
If you’re heading out to Birch Creek Valley for some recreational adventures or to take in some of Idaho’s most breathtaking views, you’ll find yourself right on the cusp of Idaho’s Targee National Forest. Here, just off the beaten path is an exceptionally rich part of Idaho’s mining history, the Birch Creek Charcoal Kilns. These charcoal kilns date back to 1886, the kilns were built to create charcoal to melt down the vast amounts of ore being mined just across the valley. At the peak of operations the kilns employed over 200 workers who would harvest timber, burn the timber down to charcoal and would transport it to the smelters in the mining shafts. There were originally 16 Kilns in operation that could burn up to 400 cords of wood at a time, the kilns were roughly 20 feet in diameter and about the same in height, there are now just four remains still standing.
We would certainly recommend the Birch Creek Charcoal Kilns as a must see historical destination in Idaho.After hearing about the charcoal kilns we decided to head out to Birch Creek Valley and have a look for ourselves. We found that there were two different access points to reach the charcoal kilns, so we decided to come in one way and leave the other. One access point is right off Highway 28 and is clearly posted directing you onto a well maintained gravel road leading you just five miles to the charcoal kilns. But, of course, we chose to start with the scenic route on a partially maintained seven and a half mile drive down a county road with little to no assisted directions. If you decide to take this route, which is a couple miles north of the main entrance, be sure your vehicle has four wheel drive and can handle parts of the road where there really is a lack of just that. The drive in (and out) was absolutely stunning with the Targee National Forest mountain tops still capped with snow and rays of sunlight poking through the clouds above. As we came around the last knoll approaching our destination the beehive looking structures appeared to our left. Their location was certainly peculiar as the lightly flesh colored structures are nestled at the foot of a spectacular mountain range.
The craftsmanship of the brick and mortar remains are certainly astonishing and carry 133 years of weathered character. There are trails that lead in front of the kilns and up behind them for vantage points through the doors/windows to observe the astounding inner architecture of the kilns.