Oatman, Arizona: Living Ghost Town - Burros and Gunfights

Chaotic Old West street of wandering burros and free gunfights.

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Burros of Oatman

The donkeys are very friendly and tame, although there are signs warning people not to harass or try to ride them. Most of the shops sell carrots so people don't feed them junk food.

It is part of the legendary highway 66, so some of the shops cater to bikers selling Harley t-shirts. But Oatman is strictly a walk-through town. The donkeys rule the dirt roads!

[Beth Xavier, 02/09/2010]
Burros of Oatman, trailer fires of Oatman.  Oatman Burros and Ghosts

I needed to get out of southern California so ... I loaded up the little Datsun diesel truck and headed for Oatman, Arizona, some 300 miles away. I had heard wild burros roam the streets of this miners' ghost town turned tourist attraction. It's true! This is NOT the likes of Calico, where you park, pay admission, and go on tours and rides. Oatman is still a functioning town -- there are shops selling tee shirts, antiques, paintings, leather work, and of course ... the Oatman Hotel bar serving adult beverage.

While there, a mobile home burst into flames about 2/10ths of a mile south of town. Quite the smokey event, which brought out a lot of residents to watch. Fire department took at least 15 minutes to arrive, which means there wasn't much to save. Oh well.

The Oatman Hotel has a lot of history which you will see when you walk inside. Don't want to spoil the surprise waiting.

[Philip, 09/08/2006]
Friendly Burro. Burros of Oatman

Oatman is located on historic Route 66, a town originally named after the Oatman family was attacked and killed by Indians nearby. Oatman was founded and once thrived due to its proximity to the richest gold mines in the state, which operated from 1904 through 1931. The town population peaked at 10,000 during the mining years, when it produced $36 million in ore. After the mines closed down, the burros used as pack animals were set free -- but they never left.

The construction of I-40 should have nailed the coffin shut on Oatman, but the scrappy town survived into the 1970s, when someone came up with the bright idea of declaring the entire burg a tourist attraction using the decendants of the mining burros as the main attraction. I expected to find a near ghost town, but there were hundreds of people in the town feeding and taking pictures of burros. Burros have total run of the town and people are encouraged to feed them carrots. Some citizens dress in early 1900s costumes to add to the ambience. The result is a "Tombstone, Arizona meets Assateague, Maryland in the Twilight Zone" experience.

A plaque in town reads, in part: "..if it were not for these burros, in all probability, neither you nor this plaque would be standing here today. People come from all over the World to visit, feed, and take pictures of the burros."

[Greg Brown, 03/24/2001]
Ghost Riders and Jezebels

The burros are a wonderful part of Oatman. But wait.. there's more! Check out the re-enactment group, the "Oatman Ghost Riders" (male cowboys) and "Jezebels" (saloon-girl/period hookers) that do free shoot-em-ups on the street daily. In August they have a day where people come and fry eggs on the sidewalk. And during the nearby Laughlin RiverRun, over 40,000 bikers visit Oatman, mingling with the cowboys and prostitutes in period garb. Make sure you visit the Oatman hotel, where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon! There's an interesting tour of a nearby mine- ours was led by a crusty yet benevolent old miner named "Two Dogs". And you get to scan rocks found in the mine with ultraviolet lights to see the gold flecks!

[Mimi B, 06/25/2000]
Burros of Oatman

yes the burros will eat from your hand, but one got a little over zealous with me when I ran out of carrots (they're on a special all-carrot diet these days) and chased me across a parking lot. I ducked quickly behind a rusted-out Chevy Impala, and the burro gave up. I wasn't hurt and it was sort of exciting, so maybe it's a reason TO go to Oatman.

[Marc Mickelson, 09/02/1997]

Living Ghost Town - Burros and Gunfights

Address:
Route 66, Oatman, AZ
Directions:
I-40 exit 44. Follow the signs for Oatman, 23 miles. From California, its about 30 miles east of Needles. Motorhomes will have problems coming from the Kingman, Arizona side due to the switchbacks. Long wheelbase vehicles should approach Oatman via hwy 95 from I-40 at the Topock exit at the AZ/CA border.
Hours:
Daylight hours.
Admission:
Free.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
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