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Oatman Arizona: A Ghost Town Bursting with Wild West Charm
Oatman, Arizona is a fascinating ghost town nestled in the Black Mountains of Mohave County. This historic gem, located along the famous Route 66, takes visitors on a journey back in time to the days of gold mining and Wild West shootouts.
With its unique attractions, friendly burros, and entertaining events, Oatman, Arizona is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling the old Route 66 or exploring the southwestern United States.
A Glimpse into Oatman’s Rich History
Oatman, Arizona owes its existence to the gold mining boom of the early 1900s. The town was named in honor of Olive Oatman, a young girl who was captured and enslaved by Native Americans during her family’s westward journey in 1851.
She was eventually traded to the Mohave people, who adopted her and tattooed her face in their tribal custom. Olive was released in 1856 and her story became well-known throughout the region.
In 1863, prospector Johnny Moss discovered gold in the Black Mountains and staked several claims, one named after Olive Oatman. The initial gold discovery brought prosperity to the remote mining district, and by the 1920s, the population of Oatman had swelled to over 10,000 residents.
However, the town’s fortunes worsened when a fire in 1921 destroyed many of its buildings, and the main employer, United Eastern Mines, closed down in 1924. The town’s gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the government in 1941 as part of the country’s war effort, and the once-thriving community became a ghost town.
Despite its challenges, Oatman has managed to survive and reinvent itself as a nostalgic Route 66 stop, attracting over 500,000 visitors annually.
Discover Oatman’s Wild Burros
One of Oatman Arizona’s most endearing features is its population of wild burros. These small donkeys, descended from the pack animals used by gold miners in the 1800s, now roam the streets of Oatman, charming visitors with their friendly and inquisitive nature.
While feeding the burros is discouraged, they are known to approach people in search of food and affection. Tourists can often be seen snapping photos and petting these gentle creatures that have become an integral part of Oatman’s identity.
Step Back in Time with Wild West Shootouts
Another highlight of any visit to Oatman is the opportunity to experience a Wild West shootout right in the heart of town. The Oatman Ghost Rider Gunfighters, the oldest gunfighter group in Arizona, perform daily shows, complete with blazing six-gun shootouts and entertaining cowboy antics.
These staged gunfights are a fun and engaging way to immerse yourself in the town’s Wild West heritage. Just be prepared for loud gunshots and a crowd of excited onlookers!
Explore Oatman’s Historic Buildings
Despite the devastating fire of 1921, several original buildings still stand in Oatman, providing a glimpse into the town’s storied past. Some notable historic structures include:
The Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, is the oldest two-story adobe building in Mohave County. It is well-known for its connection to Hollywood legends Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, who reportedly spent their honeymoon there in 1939.
Today, the hotel serves as a museum, restaurant, and bar, where visitors can enjoy a meal and view memorabilia from the town’s mining days and the famous couple’s stay.
Glory Hole Museum
The Glory Hole Museum on Main Street is a treasure trove of antiques, artifacts, and memorabilia from Oatman’s mining era. Visitors can view displays of old mining equipment, desks from the Oatman School, and even a bed from the town’s red-light district. This small museum offers a fascinating look at Oatman’s rich history.
Shop for Unique Souvenirs
Oatman’s main street has quirky souvenir shops, offering everything from biker gear and mining memorabilia to donkey-themed gifts and Southwestern art. As you stroll along the wooden sidewalks, pop into the various stores and pick up a souvenir from your visit to this charming ghost town.
Indulge in Local Eats and Treats
Oatman offers a variety of dining options to satisfy your hunger during your visit. Some popular spots include:
Olive Oatman Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor
This small restaurant serves up delicious breakfasts, sandwiches, and ice cream in a charming western-themed setting. A visit to Olive Oatman’s is a must for anyone looking to cool off with a scoop of ice cream or indulge in some tasty southwestern comfort food.
Oatman Hotel Restaurant and Bar
For a truly authentic Oatman dining experience, head to the Oatman Hotel Restaurant and Bar. Here, you can enjoy a buffalo burger, fries, and a cold drink amidst the hotel’s historic surroundings, complete with walls and ceilings adorned with signed and dated one-dollar bills.
Visit the Annual Sidewalk Egg Fry
Oatman’s scorching summer heat has given rise to a quirky annual event, the Sidewalk Egg Fry. Held every Fourth of July at high noon, participants are given 15 minutes to fry an egg using only solar power. This lighthearted competition is a fun way to experience the town’s unique sense of humor and community spirit.
Experience Oatman’s Haunted Hotel
The Oatman Hotel is a historic landmark and home to a friendly ghost named Oatie. This spirit, believed to be the ghost of an Irish miner named William Ray Flour, is said to wander the hotel’s halls and can often be heard whispering and laughing in empty rooms.
Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, a visit to the Oatman Hotel is a must for anyone looking to experience the town’s rich history and intriguing legends.
Take a Scenic Drive Along Route 66
Oatman is located along a beautiful stretch of Route 66, providing visitors with stunning views of the surrounding Black Mountains and Mojave Desert. The narrow and winding road, known as Bloody 66, offers a thrilling driving experience and the chance to explore the picturesque landscapes that make this part of Arizona so unique.
Get an Old-Time Photo Taken
Capture the spirit of the Old West with an old-time photo taken in one of Oatman’s vintage photo studios. Choose a western outfit, pick a background, and create a memorable keepsake of your visit to this enchanting ghost town.
Stay Near Oatman Arizona
While there are no hotels in Oatman itself, nearby towns such as Kingman and Needles offer a range of accommodations for travelers.
A day trip to Oatman is easily accessible from these locations and offers a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.
Oatman, Arizona is a ghost town with a vibrant past and a present full of charm and character. With its friendly burros, Wild West shootouts, historic buildings, and stunning Route 66 landscapes, this town is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an authentic and engaging glimpse into the American West.
So, pack your bags and embark on an adventure to Oatman Arizona Ghost Town, where history, fun, and surprises await you at every turn.