Oatman, Arizona Ghost Town

After the mine adventure, I drove to Oatman, a remote mining town in the Black Mountains of Arizona. The area was originally settled when prospector Johnny Moss discovered gold in the area in 1863, though it did not officially become a town until 1906.

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman remained a modest mining community until 1915, when major ore deposits were discovered nearby, and it quickly grew into a gold rush boom town.

Oatman Arizona mining town

When United Eastern Mining closed in 1942, the population declined dramatically, but tourism kept the town alive. In 1953, Route 66 was rerouted to completely bypass Oatman, and the population dipped to about 60.

Oatman Arizona mining town

In the 1960s and 70s the town was rejuvenated in an effort to preserve and celebrate its history. The population is now about 135, with hundreds of tourists passing through daily.

Oatman Arizona mining town

I usually avoid tourist-oriented spots and prefer to explore places that are actually abandoned, but I enjoyed my afternoon in Oatman.

One of the town's most notable aspects is that burros freely roam the streets. Like the feral animals I encountered in the hills, they are descendants of those kept by miners as pack animals. Acclimated to crowds of humans, they stroll lazily among the tourists, often blocking traffic, unfazed by the honking of impatient motorists. They seem to know they've earned their place in Oatman through the hard work of their ancestors, and refuse to be hurried along by out-of-towners.

Many of the shops sell snacks to feed the burros. The animals have become so accustomed to the handouts that they boldly snatch handbags in the hope that they might contain a tasty treat. I witnessed several instances of burros attempting to steal purses from unsuspecting women, and had a good laugh.

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Hotel is one of the town's most famous landmarks because Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent part of their honeymoon there. It is also allegedly haunted by "Oatie", the friendly ghost of an Irish miner.

Oatman Arizona mining town

There are many historic buildings with artifacts on display from the mining era.

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

I had to get a photo of the Glory Hole museum and antique shop because of its provocative name. Apparently "glory hole" originally meant "a hole in a mineshaft where an orebody is mined upwards until it breaks through the surface into the open air." It wasn't until the 1940s that the term was used as sexual slang.

Oatman Arizona mining town

A gunfight occurs every day at noon and 2:15 in the middle of Oatman's main street, a stretch of Historic Route 66 now known as Oatman-Topock Highway. Just before the gunfights begin, they completely block off the street, which is the only route through town. Anyone driving through has no choice but to stop and watch. A semi and several other vehicles were forced to stop while I was there. The drivers' irritation at the inconvenience quickly vanished when they realized the novelty of the situation.

Oatman Arizona mining town

I spoke with a friendly older woman, who said she comes to Oatman every year. I can see why she would; it's a charming place. The only drawback is the total lack of phone reception and internet, but I suppose it makes the old mining town that much more authentic.

I grabbed lunch at The bucktooth Burro, a cute restaurant with a Route 66 memorabilia lining the walls. It also had a creepy mechanical pianist at a saloon-style piano. Someone put a quarter in the slot and the automaton sprung to life, playing an awful tinny tune way too loudly. I noticed people at neighboring tables tense up when the cacophony began, and then breathe sighs of relief when it ended.

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised when I opened my menu and found that Bush-era jingoism is still alive in Oatman.

Oatman Arizona mining town

I also couldn't help but notice the peculiar use of punctuation on Oatman's many signs. 

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

I was sad to learn that I had arrived a month too late to witness the Great Oatman Bed Races. I may have to come back next year. 

Oatman Arizona mining town

In the afternoon I drove down the steep twisting road out of town. I pulled over several times to enjoy more scenery and remnants of old mining operations. 

Oatman Arizona mining town


Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

Oatman Arizona mining town

I had a few hours of daylight left, and was determined to hit a few more sites before the day was done. Next stop: a creepy abandoned Christmas-themed amusement park

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4 comments :

  1. Your bottom couple of photos is more my style. Oatman looks interesting but WAY too busy for hubby and I!

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    Replies
    1. I agree. I usually avoid tourist-oriented places. Oatman was the only exception I made on my road trip.

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  2. There's an abandoned mine in the side of a mountain outside of Jerome Arizona that is so cool to look at. There's also a place called Beasley flats with cutouts in a huge cliff/rock from native Americans

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jerome is on my list of places to check out in the future. Beasley flats sounds amazing. Thanks for the recommendations!

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