Oatman, Ariz. is a living “ghost town” sitting on Route 66 between Needles, Calif. and Kingman, Ariz. In its heyday, the town was home to one of the largest gold mining operations in Arizona. In today’s dollars, the value of the gold mined in Oatman is $2,600,000,000.
During World War II, the United States government shut down the remaining mines in the area. The miners were pulled from Oatman to mine metals more precious to the war effort in other parts of the country.
In 1995 the Goldroad mine was reopened but shut down again in 1998 due to low gold prices. At that time, they were taking about 40,000 ounces out annually.
Today, Oatman’s biggest attraction is the burros. Wild burros roam freely throughout the town and in the hills nearby. The burros are decendents of those freed by early prospectors. They now number in the hundreds, or possibly even thousands.
On any given day, a dozen or more burros will mingle with tourists. Although friendly, everyone should remember they are wild animals and NEVER stand behind them unless you want a good kick in the shin.
In the spring, several baby burros will stroll around to the oohhs and aahhs of visitors. Burro food and carrots are sold at almost every store but cannot be given to the babies.
Oatman’s other attractions include daily gun fights, classic car shows, Harley poker runs and much more. Shops in town sell souvenirs as well as jewelry made by locals and Native Americans, clothing and home décor.
Oatman receives more than 500,000 visitors a year. The town is open 365 days a year but many shops close on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other times, such as this week when the Laughlin River Run is in progress, the town will be overflowing with bikers and other tourists.