November 6, 2015

Oatman, Arizona: Let's visit the donkeys; things to do

Let's visit the donkeys in Oatman, Artizona

Situated at elevation 2,700 feet and on the 38th parallel, the old Gold Rush town of Oatman in Arizona is on the original, now defunct, Route 66.  Started in 1906 as a tent camp, its mines had produced 1.8 million ounces (worth about $60 million) of gold by 1931.  The boom was over by the mid-1930s, and in 1942 the few remaining mines closed after being declared nonessential to the war effort. 

sign for Sidewalk Egg Fry in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

Now this historic mining town is a sort of "living ghost town," with about 100 permanent residents.  A mine shaft opening can be entered at no cost, and shootouts on main street are scheduled daily.
mine shaft in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

shootout in front of Oatman Hotel in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

But most people come here to see the burros, which are also known as small donkeys.  
adult burro in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

Though it is wise to keep a safe distance from them because they are wild and will sometimes bite and kick, that is almost impossible to do.  Especially the babies, which are too, too cute and just beg to be petted.  You can buy inexpensive feed for the adult burros—just watch that they don’t come after you for more and take a nip out of your shirt or purse by mistake—but you’re reminded by a note attached to their foreheads not to feed the babies.  They are still nursing and regular food is detrimental to their health.
baby burro with do not feed note on forehead in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

Burros were brought to the area by early prospectors. They were used inside mines for hauling rock and ore, and outside for hauling water and supplies.  Eventually, when the mines closed, they were released into the surrounding hills.

Oatman Hotel  181 Main St., (928) 768-4408.  Hollywood movie stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard famously honeymooned here in 1939.  You can view their upstairs honeymoon suite for a small fee.  The hotel dates back to 1902.  It survived a bad fire in 1920 and is now the oldest two-story building in Arizona's Mohave County and is on the Registrar of National Historic Places. The hotel looks pretty much like it did when the miners were here and is rumored to be haunted by Oatie the ghost.  Downstairs is a bar and cafe that are memorable for the dollar bills tacked like three-dimensional wallpaper to the wall, a tradition that started with the miners back when 5 cents bought a beer.  They would write their name on a dollar bill and tack it to the wall to start a tab.  Ask to borrow a staple gun and add your own signed dollar.  The menu is simple American food.  But the $6 cocktail menu offers temptingly named drinks:  Oatman Punch, Blushing Burro, Pink Lizard, Snake Bite, and Donkey Pee, which is made with Parrot Bay coconut rum, sour mix, and club soda, and many swear is quite tasty. 

restaurant at Oatman Hotel in Gold Rush town of Oatman, Artizona

Oatman, Arizona, is 28 miles southeast of Laughlin, Nevada.  Getting there takes you along Route 66 through the scenic Black Mountains.  They are dotted with cholla plants and tumbleweeds, some of which bear the wind-blown remnants of decorations bestowed upon them by schoolchildren at Christmases past. 

More information about Oatman, Arizona.

Things to do in nearby Las Vegas, Nevada.


More ideas for travel adventures in California and the U.S. and around the world. 
images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


  1. What a perfect old west experience, love it! You're right, the little guys are cute, but they can be a bit ornery at times.

  2. I loved visiting ghost towns like Oatman and Tombstone! There's something about that wild west mystique that is fascinating, when the actuality must have been much less exciting.

  3. Oh my gosh, Oatman looks like a town where time has stood still.

  4. Looks like a movie set! How charming!

  5. We were there in 2012!!! Those burros are enchanting. Too bad we missed that hotel and restaurant!