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Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 | 9 comments

Oatman: The Town Owned by Burros

As soon as I got off Interstate 40, excitement started to build up. It was the first time I was riding over one of the most famous pieces of Historic Route 66.

All sort of vintage and hand-made signs started to mark the road.  In one corner, a quite large mural depicting the Coyote and the Roadrunner (the cartoons) seemed to welcome you.

The smooth paved road turned bumpy and solitary.  I started to wonder if I was driving in the correct direction.  At least, I was relieved by the impressive scene, textured mountains in ocher, pink and tawny tones.

Black Mountains, Arizona

Once I reached the skirts of the mountains, a rusty sign pointed me in the correct direction.

Oatman, Arizona

A big laugh came out of my mouth when I set sight on the next sign: Burros – Next 8 miles.

Oatman, Arizona

And then, before turning right into the dusty parking lot, I catch a glimpse of the famous burros walking along Main Street.

Oatman, Arizona

Yes, you read that right.

Oatman, a former mining town located in the Black Mountains of Arizona, is famous because of the burros roaming its streets.

We’ll get to the burros.  Let’s get a little deeper into history, for now.

The Town

Oatman was founded around 1906. By 1931, the area’s mines had produced over 1.8 million ounces of gold.  By the mid 1930’s, the boom was over and in 1942 the last remaining mines were closed.  For about a decade, the mines of Oatman were among the largest producers of gold in the West.

Oatman, Arizona

 

Oatman, Arizona

It is possible to enter one of the mines (practically, on main street). As you may know, I am not attracted to enter random mines in different states of despair.

Oatman, Arizona

The town was named in the posthumous honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who was taken captive by Indians. She was later traded to another tribe of Indians who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe (there are many stories about what really happened). Olive’s picture is plastered all around town.

Oatman, Arizona

Oatman has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years (after being deserted for many years) thanks to burgeoning worldwide interest in Route 66 and the explosive growth of Laughlin (the other big gaming town in Nevada).

To be honest, the town meets most of the requirements of a tourist trap: souvenirs stores, kitsch, overpriced drinks / snacks, weird attractions and odd events.

I guess it gets down to personal tastes but I enjoyed my time there (and wish I have stayed a little bit longer).  There are a lot of cute, colorful buildings and signs along the main road.

Oatman, Arizona

 

Oatman, Arizona

Plus, I saw several stores selling beautiful art, pottery, jewelry and clothing pieces.

Oatman, Arizona

The Burros

And, I am not going to deny it. I really, really wanted to visit Oatman because of the burros.

Oatman, Arizona

Burros first came to Oatman with early day prospectors.  The animals were used inside the mines for hauling rock and ore.  Outside the mines, burros were used to haul water and supplies.  As the mines closed and people moved away, the burros were released into the surrounding hills.

Oatman, Arizona

 

Oatman, Arizona

The burros hang around the town because they know they will get food and water.  You can hand feed them with hay cubes sold at most stores in town.

Some burros have a “Stop- Do not Feed Me” sticker in their foreheads.  For what I observed, these stickers were placed on young burros that were still drinking maternal milk.

Oatman, Arizona

 

Oatman, Arizona

The burros were calm and gentle and it was a delight to be around them.  Come on! Look at those cute faces!

PicMonkey Collage 2

The Scenery

The piece of Historic Route 66 connecting Topock, Oatman and Kingman is considered a Scenic Byway.  I recommend you take your time to admire the beauty of the Black Mountains.  The rock pinnacles behind Oatman are gorgeous.

Oatman, Arizona

 

Oatman, Arizona

 

Oatman, Arizona

The Gunfight

We can add fake gunfight to the odd things that happened daily in Oatman.  A group of residents do a simple and short gunfight scene to raise money for a local children’s hospital.  It is not an essential but it is fun to watch.

Oatman, Arizona

 

Oatman, Arizona

Be aware the phony shooting is really loud.  The most interesting thing is that the burros take it really cool (as opposed to the visiting humans that scream and jump like crazy).  Maybe they are used to it.

Continuing Towards Kingman

You can turn back to take the freeway or continue the Historic Route towards Kingman (another Route 66 favorite).  As I mentioned, the scene is fabulous. Make sure to stop at Cool Springs for a little bit of the old days nostalgia.

Black Mountains, Arizona

 

Black Mountains, Arizona

 

Black Mountains, Arizona

 

Cool Springs, Arizona

Details

  • Oatman is a great stop if you are driving along Route 66 or towards Flagstaff or the Grand Canyon.
  • You should allocate 2 to 2.5 hours if you are deviating to the town (about 1 hour to drive and 1 hour in the actual town).
  • Do not get fooled by the burros sweet faces! They are considered wild animals.  Therefore, they will kick and bite.  The day I visited, the burros were calmed and well behaved.  I don’t think there is reason to be afraid but a couple of precautions would not hurt.  I am not expert but I would recommend not letting the burros go behind you.  Make sure you are seeing what they are doing.
  • I would be super careful if I take kids to Oatman.  Do not let them handle the burros by themselves.
  • Wild burros are protected by federal law from capture, injury or harassment.
  • Follow the guidelines about feeding the burros.
  • The town caters to visitors.  It may be a good idea to take your own drinks and something to eat in case you get hungry.
  • The town is in the middle of nowhere with limited services and spotty (or null) cell phone reception.  Take the necessary precautions.

Would you like to visit Oatman?

Ready to pin? Let’s do this!

Oatman, a town on Route 66, is famous for its mines, gunfights and burros that roam freely around the streets.  The burros can be fed and pet (with caution).

9 Comments

  1. HI Ruth, I have not heard of Oatman before. Really find this interesting, especially the story about Olive Oatman. Those burros look adorable. I’d love to visit the town just to see them. It’s fascinating what they have done to honor the town’s past. It may look a tourist trap ow but its history truly sprinkled it with lots of charm. Lovely post.
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted..The Mysterious Statues (Moai) of Easter IslandMy Profile

    • This is just one example of what residents along Route 66 have done to honor many the past of many towns along the route. I am happy because you enjoyed the post.

  2. Ohmigosh how incredibly precious!! I love them! And Oatman reminds me a lot Virginia City, which is a tourist trap if ever the was one. Still a fun place to visit along, though, and I learn something new every time I go.

    Seriously – I love those little burro faces!
    Jen recently posted..Welcome Spring!My Profile

    • Are they cute? What Virginia City are you referring to? I think there are several historical towns with that name.

    • Hurray to the burros! I figured out not a lot of people have heard about the town but glad to be spreading the word.

  3. Hi Ruth. I would definitely spend a few hours in Oatman, and the surrounding scenery is worth a serious look. The burros are cute. I rode one when i was in Egypt. There is a first time and a last time for everything! 🙂

    Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday
    Nancie recently posted..Chiang Mai: Delicious Ruam Mit for Travel Photo ThursdayMy Profile

    • Cool to have you here Nancy! I do not know about riding a burro. The are famous because of their stubbornness. I can see why you do not want to ride another one ;0)

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