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Caution Burro Crossing! Welcome to Oatman Arizona

Caution Burro Crossing! Welcome to Oatman Arizona

Caution Burro Crossing!!… Welcome to Oatman, Arizona

By Françoise Rhodes – Host of Traveling With Françoise Radio & Television

Chances are many of you choose to visit Laughlin, Nevada instead of Las Vegas.  Laughlin offers small town charm, the scenic Colorado River, resorts, golf and enough casinos to keep any level of gambler busy. What many Laughlin visitors might not know is less than an hour away on the Arizona side of the Colorado River you’ll find the historic town of Oatman, with one main road leading in and out, Historic Route 66.  Built in the 1920’s, Route 66 became the famous “Main Street of America.” It ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, a distance of 2,300 miles. Between Kingman and Oatman, Route 66 is a narrow, paved two-lane road that winds through spectacular Black Mountains and some barren desert landscapes which will have you wondering if you are lost. But not to worry, it’s basically a big loop and you’ll stumble upon Oatman before you know it.

Oatman is named in honor of Olive Oatman, a young girl kidnapped by Mojave Indians in 1851. After a harrowing captivity, she was ransomed by the United States government in 1856.  At an elevation of 2,700 feet, Oatman is an authentic western Ghost Town and Mining Camp that was discovered in the early 20th century as a mining tent camp. It grew into a flourishing gold-mining center when in 1915; two miners found gold, the mine produced over 10 million dollars. Within a year, the town’s population mushroomed to more than 3,500 people. Today there are about 128 residents.  By the mid 1930’s, the boom was over and in 1942 the last remaining mines were closed. The burros you’ll see roaming the streets first came to Oatman with early day prospectors. The animals were also used inside the mines for hauling rock and ore, outside the mines they were used for hauling water and supplies. As the mines closed and people moved away, the burros were left behind and released into the surrounding hills.

The burros you meet today in Oatman, while descendants of domestic work animals, are themselves wild. They will bite and kick and I found a few to be aggressive, mainly because they are used to the tourist feeding them and they just want food.  However after decades of asking the tourists not to feed the burros, visitors can now buy burro feed and try their luck.

Wooden sidewalks run the length of the town and with the one main street that is where you’ll mostly wander. There are several small shops to explore and an old museum that may or may not be open.  A must is lunch at the Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, it is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mojave County. It has hosted miners, movie stars, politicians and weary travelers; today the hotel is open only as a museum and restaurant.  The town is so old west that it was used as the location for several movies such as How The West Was Won, Foxfire, and Edge of Eternity. Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel on March 18, 1939.  The bar/restaurant is wall to wall dollar bills with traveler’s names on them, maybe you can find mine!

Oatman is surrounded by Bureau of Land Management wilderness, which is also home to desert bighorn sheep. Outdoor activities include hiking, camping, hunting, photography, and rock climbing.  Tours are available for some of the old mining areas so keep your eyes open because may find a little gold dust!



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