Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oatman, Arizona and Historic Route 66

Bullhead City  High 90 Low 63

Today we went to Oatman, Arizona. Oatman is supposed to be a ghost town, but is home to many shops and museums. It is said to draw over a million visitors in the winter. It is located on old route 66, which we found out is a narrow, windy road. On the way to town we saw a road sign warning of burros in the road. We had read that the burros roam the streets, and though they are wild, they will come up to people begging food. I don’t know how many we saw, but I even petted a few. There were signs asking to please not feed the burros on the wooden sidewalks. At one time, one blocked the sidewalk, and one was laying down in the doorway of one of the stores.

 There were touristy things for sale at every store. The bar portion of the Oatman Hotel had one dollar bills pinned everywhere, and the estimates we  heard, were from 90,000 to 120,000 dollar bills were pinned up. Each had someone’s signature on it, and date when they were hung up. There was a sign that Clark Gable spent his honeymoon there. After a few other names, Oatman was named in the posthumous honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who was kidnapped by (presumably) Yavapai Indians and forced to work as a slave. She was later traded to Mohave Indians who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1855 near the current site of the town.

  Early history

In 1921, a fire burned down many of Oatman's smaller buildings, but spared the Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, the now-Oatman Hotel is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County, a Mohave County historical landmark and is especially famous as the honeymoon stop of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard  after their wedding in Kingman on March 18, 1939. Gable fell in love with the area and returned often to play poker with the miners. The Gable/Lombard honeymoon suite is one of the hotel's major attractions. The other is "Oatie the Ghost." "Oatie," actively promoted by the hotel's current owners, is a friendly poltergeist whose identity is believed to be that of William Ray Flour, an Irish miner who died behind the hotel, presumably from excessive alcohol consumption. Flour's body wasn't discovered until two days after his death and it was hastily buried in a shallow grave near where he was found.

  From gold mining to tourism

1924 would see United Eastern Mines, the town's main employer, permanently shut down operations. By 1941, the remainder of the town's gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the US Government as part of the country's war effort since metals other than gold were needed. Oatman was fortunate insofar as it was located on busy U.S. Route 66 and was able to cater to travelers driving between Kingman and Needles, California. Even that advantage was short-lived as the town was completely bypassed in 1953 when a new route between Kingman and Needles was built. By the 1960s, Oatman was all but abandoned.

  Oatman today

Burros roam downtown Oatman.

Oatman has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years thanks to burgeoning worldwide interest in Route 66 and the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada, which promotes visits to the town. Wild burros freely roam the town and can be hand-fed carrots and "burro chow," both readily available in practically every store in town. Though normally gentle, the burros are in fact wild and signs posted throughout Oatman advise visitors to exercise caution. The donkeys are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors, and are protected by the US Department of the Interior. Weekends in Oatman can see anything from classic car rallies to mock "Wild West" shootouts right down the middle of old 66. Independence Day celebrations include a contest where participants attempt to cook an egg on the sidewalk with the aid of solar devices known as the Oatman Egg Fry   Along with the rest of Arizona's US 66 towns, Oatman is fiercely proud of its Route 66 heritage and replicas of 66's black-on-white US highway shield are posted all over the town. Route 66 souvenirs abound and many tourists have pasted autographed one-dollar bills on the walls and ceiling of the Oatman Hotel's bar and restaurant. Estimates of the number of bills run into the thousands.
There were quite a few burros right in town.

Painted on the road in town.
Sign says this is on national historic registry. See sign on door below

Another sign says this building was used in the move How the West Was Won.

There are signs everywhere saying the burros are wild, and will bite and kick, but seemed pretty docile.

Tells a little history of Olive Oatman.

Inside of the bar at the hotel.

Unfortunately, we couldn't go upstairs to the honeymoon suite.

Again, a little history.

The bad guy, in black naturally.

The new sheriff.

After the gunfight. 

Blocking the sidewalk.

This baby burro got tired and just layed down in the doorway

Kind of neat sign.

We wondered about this sign on the way in.

A little more history

Cindy by the "wild" burros.
From Laughlin, Needles or Bullhead City, Arizona, Oatman is a short drive on State Route 95 to its intersection with Boundary Cone Road in Fort Mohave. About 10 miles (16 km) east of SR 95, Boundary Cone Road meets with old 66, now named the "Oatman Highway." Oatman is only about four miles (6.5 km) from there.

 At noon there was a gunfight between the new sheriff and a bank robber. Of course good prevailed. It was entertaining for a few minutes. The road was closed off, and the bad guy asked people to close the street and watch the show. He said he didn't mind getting shot, but didn't want to get ran over.
After we left, we went down route 66 for an extra 21 mile and saw how narrow and windy the road was. I’m sure glad they don’t build roads like it now days. After that we came home to the 5er.  

Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to show what we had seen.


  1. We loved our time in Oatman with the burros. And we did feed them carrots when we were there.

  2. We had a good time in Oatman. I love the picture of the baby taking a siesta.

  3. When we were there in February we saw a baby burro - would that be a burrito? - that was less than 24 hours old . It was so cute. We love to visit Oatman but it is very touristy. Enjoying following your travels as we volunteer camphost in cold rainy Kansas.