Oatman, Arizona would be a ghost town if it weren’t for its wild burros and location on Route 66. Peggy and I stopped there on one of our explorations of the historic highway and were immediately greeted by the burros.
A ten million dollar gold strike in 1915 gave Oatman its initial growth spurt. Travel on Route 66 during the highway’s days as a major east-west road maintained its existence. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent a honeymoon night there and Clark returned occasionally to gamble with the miners.
The town received its name from Olive Oatman who had been kidnapped by the Yavapai Indians, rescued and tattooed by the Mohave Indians and eventually released near the town.
The wild burros, or donkeys, are a legacy of early prospectors who used the burros to carry their gear as they wandered in search of gold and other valuable minerals. Today they can be found throughout the desert Southwest. The burros of Oatman hit tourists up for carrots, provide lessons on donkey mating practices, and leave their calling cards on the streets of the town.
By 1960 the gold was gone and the highway was rerouted. Oatman was on its way to ghost town status. Fortunately the energy of the town’s citizens, the rebirth of Route 66 as a national historic treasure, and the desire of the burros for carrots have given Oatman reasons to prosper. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Oatman is located in northwestern Arizona off of Highway 95 on Historic Route 66 between Bullhead City and Needles.