Oatman is a small town in the Black Mountains in northwestern Arizona. It is located in a remote area, but the town has quite an illustrious history.
It started as a tent camp soon after two prospectors found $10 million worth of gold in nearby area in 1915. The town was named after Olive Oatman, an Illinois-native woman who was abducted by an Indian tribe, kept as a slave, traded to another Indian tribe, and later released near the site of the town of Oatman.
Later on, the Oatman Hotel in town became famous as the place where famous Holywood actors Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon after getting married in nearby Kingman, AZ. Supposedly Clark Gable enjoyed spending time playing poker with the miners in the town.
During the heyday of Route 66, the town became a tourist attraction because of its colorful history and its location that is right on the old Route 66. After the Interstate 40 was opened and it bypassed the Route 66 segment in Black Mountains area, it almost became a ghost town. Today it regained its popularity as a tourist attraction as there is more interests on the Historic Route 66. There is also a nearby gambling town in Nevada that runs tourist groups to visit Oatman on regular basis.
After following the road markers on a seemingly dead end road, we started a gradual climb in the Black Mountains area. And around a bend suddenly we saw a sign to welcome us to Oatman. As we reached the main street of the town, we noticed some interesting sights. Here was an old town that looked like what you see in old wild west movie settings — except this is a real deal. That we expected already from reading about Oatman before the trip. We also saw a couple of big coach buses with tourists. I was expecting to see tourists, but not in big coach buses like that. It was quite a contrast comparing the old town with its off the beaten path road and two modern coach buses there.
The most unexpected sight was seeing several burros (wild donkeys) roaming around the town. Apparently these burros were descendants of the burros used by gold prospectors back almost a century ago. They had been released and lived in the wild, and are actually protected by law. In Oatman, they were freely roaming the main street, and apparently they knew to look for tourists with food who were willing to feed them. The local gift shop sold a bag of carrots for $1 that you could buy and feed the burros with.
My brother and I stopped and walked around the area for a little bit before continuing our journey. On some days, there were reenactment of wild west gun fight on the main street, but there was nothing going on when we were there.
The photo below was taken outside a curio shop off the main street of Oatman. You can see a couple of local shopkeepers with the burros in front of their shop.