Arizona is home to the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, crazy desert wildlife, and very hot summers.
#1 Oatman is a tiny historic town in Arizona that’s been around since 1915!
Like many small towns that sprung up across the west, Oatman owes its existence to the gold rush. Its humble beginnings were that of a tent camp, but when two miners uncovered $10 million worth of gold, you can imagine how quickly the town appeared on the map! In under a year, nearly 4,000 people had flocked to Oatman. Of course, to get anywhere back in that time, you had to take the railroad! From 1903 to 1905 Oatman boasted their own seventeen mile rail line.
#2 The way that Oatman got its name is a little sinister…
You might expect that the miner who discovered the gold in Oatman would have named the town after himself. In fact, though, he discovered two mines! One of these he named after himself, Moss, and the other…. was named after Olive Oatman. Perhaps this Olive Oatman was Moss’s wife, daughter, or long lost love that he wished to commemorate? Well, not exactly. Olive Oatman was actually a woman who had been kidnapped by Arizona Indians as a young girl. Taken by the Apache tribe, she was later sold to the Mojave Indians. Some sources report that the Indians treated her well…but photos of the face tattoo that the Mojave Indians gave her certainly give us reason to question that statement. Oatman was ultimately rescued during a trade in 1857 near the town.
#3 Oatman thrived for a while…but not for long.
As the thirst for gold grew, so did Oatman’s population. More than 10,000 people lived in the town between 1900 and 1940. Three significant events can be pinpointed that most contributed to Oatman’s eventual decline. In the 1920’s, many of the town’s buildings were damaged in a fire, which led to the closure of the primary mining company, United Eastern Mines, not long after. The town soldiered onward, at least until the United States became involved in WWII. With a war looming on the horizon, gold was no longer the most precious metal. Instead, minerals that could be used for the war effort were in demand. Even still, Oatman survived, by virtue of being along the famous Route 66. Their new specialty became catering to travelers, but when Route 66 was replaced by Interstate 40 in the 1960’s, there wasn’t much hope left for saving the once booming town.
#4 Thankfully, Oatman survived and you can visit it today!
Lucky for Oatman, there are plenty of people who are interested in historic Arizona and travelling what remains of the iconic Route 66. These days, they survive as a charming tourist attraction. One of Oatman’s most well-known attractions is their Oatman Hotel. The Oatman Hotel has been steadily gaining character since 1902 when it was built. It’s officially the oldest adobe, two story structure in Mojave County! The list of people who have stayed there over the years is practically never ending, from politicians, scoundrels, miners, and movie stars who acted in movies, like How The West Was Won, and Foxfire, that were filmed in the small tow. The locals love to share the story of the most famous visitors the hotel ever hosted: Clark Gable and Carol Lombard. Not only did Gable often visit the town to play poker, but he and Lombard also spent their honeymoon there in March of 1939. Their honeymoon suite is a place you can visit even today! Keep a wary eye out during your visit, though. Legend has it that there are some guests who simply refuse to check out — like Oatie the friendly ghost!
#5 The real stars of Oatman are the burros!
As with most tourist centered locations, there’s a ton for visitors to do in Oatman. You could easily spend the whole day perusing the eclectic shops full of handmade goods, visiting other attractions with names like Fast Fanny’s, Ore House, or Classy Ass, watching the gunfights they stage on the weekends, or chowing down on some local grub. But, whether you’re looking to or not, you’re bound to meet the town’s adorable burro population. Back in Oatman’s mining days, burros were the preferred form of transportation. When they miners didn’t need the burros anymore, they simply set them free. Ever since, the burros stroll into town each morning looking for a meal. Most of the shops sell pellets or carrots that will make you quite a celebrity among the burros, at least until your hands are empty. Most of them will keep munching as long as there is food to be had. Near sunset, they head back out of town for the day with full bellies. This unexpected population makes Oatman not only an awesome historic tourist destination, but also pretty great for some adorable photo opportunities!