Oatman, Arizona is an authentic and photogenic Wild West mining settlement that is rich in history. The town is a place that you need to see to believe. During your visit, you’ll find authentic Old Western Buildings from the 1900’s, which feature cheeky names. Oatman has a fun kitschy sense of humor that will make you giggle as you wander the stores of this town stuck in time.
Almost destined to be a ghost town, more than half a million visitors come to experience the Wild West that was. When you visit, make sure to take time to wander the shops. They depend on tourist dollars to stay up and running.
Route 66 is such a fun road trip, with so many quirky sights that are sure to bring a smile. Oatman, Arizona, is a great blast from the past and is well-worth the visit. Oatman is a great way to “get your kicks on Route 66”.
The town has been used as the location for several movies such as How The West Was Won, Passage West, Foxfire and Edge of Eternity.
Here is a Visitors Guide to Oatman, Arizona
The History Of Oatman
The town of Oatman was named after Olive Oatman, a woman who was kidnapped by the Yavapai tribe in Arizona in 1850. She was held captive for five years, and then was sold to a local tribe before being freed to her family in 1855, nearby what became Oatman.
Oatman began as a small mining camp when prospector Johnny Moss discovered gold in the black mountains in 1863. For the next half a century, mining had its ups and downs, until the opening of the Tom Reed mine and a $10 million gold find in 1915. The mining boom lasted until 1941, when the US entered World War II. Oatman miners were then ordered to excavate minerals for use in World War II, instead of mining for gold. For a decade, the mines of Oatman were among the largest gold producers in the American West.
After the mining boom, that earned Oatman an impressive $40 million (the equivalent of $2.6 billion today), residents of Oatman had to find a new way for the town to flourish, and turned to Route 66 tourism.
How To Get To Oatman
Oatman is a village in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona. It is located along historic Route 66. To get there, you can follow Route 66 from Kingsman or Laughlin. The Oatman Highway is a very demanding drive. It can be a bit of an ‘edge of your seat’ drive at times with the very narrow road and no guardrails as you drive up the mountain, leaving no room for error. If you’re afraid of heights, you probably do not want to drive this way.
Alternatively, you could drive from Laughlin and Bullhead City by taking Arizona State Route 95 South into Fort Mojave, and turn left onto Boundary Cone Rd. Oatman is about 13 miles (or 21 km) down the road. If you’re taking in the sights of Las Vegas, it is just over a two hour drive; perfect for a day trip or to add a stop along your journey. You can also take a day tour from Vegas to explore Oatman.
Getting Around Oatman
There is no public transportation to Oatman. Unless you visit with a tour group, you will have to drive to get there. The town is completely walkable, so once you’re in town you need not worry about getting around. You’re able to park your vehicle in a dirt parking lot, located on each end of the main street. Parking is free.
Where To Stay
There is no lodging within Oatman. If you would like to stay nearby, the closest lodging is in Bullhead City, 19kms away. Otherwise, try Kingman on Route 66.
If you like unique accommodations, an hour and a half away from Oatman you will find Taylor Mountain Cave Inn Retreat, an off the beaten path location where you can stay Inside a unique Cave House.
You can also stay in a Vintage Trailer, located at the base of the black mountains, just off of Route 66.
The Wild Burrows
The wild burros (donkeys) roaming the town are quite the sight, considering the human population of Oatman is only 128. The burro population is around 2,000.
Once the mines went out of business, the burros were turned loose. The burros in town today are descendants of the donkeys that were used as mining workers back in the early 1900’s. The animals are tame, unless spooked, and can be hand fed. The burros come to town during the day and graze in the Black Mountains at night.
Some of the stores sell alfalfa cubes that you can feed the burros. They are not to be fed anything else.
Keep in mind that feeding wild burros outside of Oatman is not legal. You are able to pull off the road to safely watch them, but do not try to feed them. Attempting to feed them can put them and yourself both in danger.
The Oatman Hotel
One of the most noteworthy buildings in Oatman is the historic hotel. Built in 1902, the two-story adobe structure welcomed many miners and movie stars. Most notable are Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, who honeymooned there after getting married in nearby Kingsman. The honeymoon suite is a major attraction at the hotel. Many say that their spirits still vacation there, along with others who loved to stay there. Locals claim that they have often heard whispers and laughs of ghosts in the empty rooms.
While you can’t stay at the ghostly hotel, it remains open as a restaurant and museum. Do not miss the hotel’s saloon. Inside, you’ll find the walls covered with signed one-dollar bills. This tradition was started when miners would sign and attach their money to the walls, to be used in the future when they were short of cash.
Ghost Riders Gunfighters
You’ll find costumed Western characters strolling along the town boardwalks, and the exciting Ghost Riders Gunfighters shoot it out twice a day on the main road, right in the middle of the street. Featured in the show, with a comedy spin, are cowboys insulting each other, the theft of loot and one of the gunslingers falling. They square off daily at 1:30 and 3:30. The show is free. Proceeds from donations go to charitable causes.
Walk Along Historic Route 66
Historic Route 66 runs right through Oatman. Between the 1920’s to the 1950’s, historic Route 66 was the main highway across the United States. Although Historic Route 66 is no longer the “Main Street of America”, it is full of iconic sights to explore.
Learn About The Mining History
At the Oatman Mine Museum, you’ll learn about the history of the town. You can also walk a short distance into a shaft. It is a simple tour, but it is a neat chance to learn firsthand. The mine is still operated by two gentlemen as a hobby and they joke that it may pay for their beer.
Best Time To Visit
Summer months are the busiest and hottest. For the best weather to enjoy exploring, try to visit between October and April. The highest average temperature in Oatman is 38°C in July and the lowest is 14°C in December. Unless you like scorching temperatures, avoid Oatman during the summer.