Driving to the historic mining town of Oatman is a favorite Arizona road trip.
A town that hasn’t changed much over the years, Oatman lies along a twisting ribbon of asphalt on Historic Route 66, roughly 28 miles southwest of Kingman.
Located in the Black Mountains at an elevation of 2,710 feet, Oatman comes close to being a ghost town, considering that it once boasted nearly 20,000 people and now supports just a little over 100 people year-round. It began as a tent camp soon after two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find in 1915.
Oatman has about 40 gift, antique, and craft shops, two Old Time Photo Shops, Judy’s Bar, Olive Oatman Restaurant and Saloon and several places to eat and listen to live music. They include The historic Oatman Hotel with its thousands of dollar bills tacked to the walls of the restaurant and bar.
Built in 1902, this historical landmark is especially famous as the honeymoon stop of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard after their wedding in Kingman on March 18, 1939. Gable fell in love with the area and returned often to play poker with the miners.
Though Oatman is only a shadow of its former self, it is well worth a visit to this living ghost town that provides not only a handful of historic buildings and photo opportunities but costumed gunfighters and 1890s style ladies strolling the wooden sidewalks, as well as the sights of burros walking the streets.
The burg’s most famous residents are its four-legged ambassadors. Burros from the surrounding hills wander into Oatman daily and mosey around town blocking traffic, greeting visitors, and chomping carrots sold by the shop owners.
Burros first came to Oatman with early-day prospectors. The animals were also used inside the mines for hauling rock and ore. Outside the mines, burros were used for hauling water and supplies. As the mines closed and people moved away, the burros were released into the surrounding hills.