In the late 1800s in Idaho’s Lemhi Valley, a group of intrepid miners worked a lead and silver mine in the tiny town of Nicholia. To operate their smelters they needed charcoal, so they went 10 miles across the valley and eventually built 16 kilns from local clay. Using local wood, the beehive-shaped kilns produced charcoal that was shipped across the valley by horse and wagon to fire the smelters.
Employing up to 200 people at one point, the operation lasted only three years. The kilns were left to disintegrate and today the remains of only four are left.
The remaining kilns were restored in the year 2000 to their original dimensions of 20 feet high by 20 feet wide. A dirt road off of Idaho State Highway 28 near Birch Creek leads to the site, which includes walkways and interpretive signage. A gaze across the valley to the site of Nicholia, now gone, provides an appreciation for the enormous amount of work involved in preparing the charcoal for the mine.
Know Before You Go
The turnoff is well signed and easily identified from the highway southeast of Leadore. It makes a great rest stop for people going in ether direction. It's best visited in spring, summer or fall -- the road is not maintained well in winter.