Mining Towns, Oatman, Arizona
Oatman Mining Town
We drove through Oatman on our way to Laughlin and found the little town to be a tourist trap. Most of the stores we saw had the basic paraphernalia you could get anywhere. I’m not sure what I was expecting at the time of my brief visit, but left me with no desire to return. There were a few visible mining shafts and ruins throughout the area, but would need a small 4x4 machine to access them.
Oatman is a former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona. It began as a tent camp soon after two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find in 1915, though the area had been already settled for a number of years. Oatman's population grew to more than 3,500 in the course of a year. By 1941, the remainder of the town's gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the US Government as part of the country's war effort since metals other than gold were needed. Oatman was fortunate insofar as it was located on busy U.S. Route 66 and was able to cater to travelers driving between Kingman and Needles, California. Even that advantage was short-lived as the town was completely bypassed in 1953 when a new route between Kingman and Needles was built. By the 1960s, Oatman was all but abandoned.
Oatman has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years thanks to burgeoning worldwide interest in Route 66 and the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada, which promotes visits to the town. Wild burros freely roam the town and can be hand-fed carrots and "burro chow," both readily available in practically every store in town.
The town name of Oatman comes from Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who was kidnapped by Yavapai Indians and forced to work as a slave. She was later traded to Mohave Indians who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1855 near the current site of the town.