Things to Do While in Laughlin: Visit Oatman Arizona

It is a fast 1/2 day trip for Laughlin visitors. It’s only 44 minute drive from Laughlin, NV to Oatman, AZ

oatman signOatman is a resurrected gold mining town – is located along Route 66. The former mining town in located in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona at an elevation of 2,710 feet. Oatman 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. The restored buildings tell you the history of the town and that once Clark Gable slept there. There is a mine site you can explore and 20+ touristy-type shops with surprisingly unique native crafts. The re-enacted gunfight at high noon is a fun attraction along with the descendants of the old mine burros that wander freely about the town and beg carrots from the bystanders.

Oatman Arizona got its name – in the posthumous honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who was kidnapped (or so goes the story) 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.

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Oatman Arizona GirlsOatman Arizona Mining Camp in 1921Oatman Arizona Tourist Destination

History of Oatman Arizona

Early history – In 1921, a fire burned down many of Oatman Arizona’s smaller buildings, but spared the Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, the now-Oatman Hotel is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County, a Mohave County historical landmark and 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. The Gable/Lombard honeymoon suite is one of the hotel’s major attractions. The other is “Oatie the Ghost.” “Oatie,” actively promoted by the hotel’s current owners, is a friendly poltergeist whose identity is believed to be that of William Ray Flour, an Irish miner who died behind the hotel, presumably from excessive alcohol consumption. Flour’s body wasn’t discovered until two days after his death and it was hastily buried in a shallow grave near where he was found.

From gold mining to tourism – 1924 would see United Eastern Mines, the town’s main employer, permanently shut down operations. 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 Arizona 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 Arizona Today

Oatman Arizona Today – 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. Though normally gentle, the burros are in fact wild and signs posted throughout Oatman advise visitors to exercise caution. The donkeys are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors, and are protected by the US Department of the Interior. Weekends in Oatman can see anything from classic car rallies to mock “Wild West” shootouts right down the middle of old 66. Independence Day celebrations include a contest where participants attempt to cook an egg on the sidewalk with the aid of solar devices known as the Oatman Egg Fry Along with the rest of Arizona’s US 66 towns, Oatman is fiercely proud of its Route 66 heritage and replicas of 66’s black-on-white US highway shield are posted all over the town. Route 66 souvenirs abound and many tourists have pasted autographed one-dollar bills on the walls and ceiling of the Oatman Hotel’s bar and restaurant. Estimates of the number of bills run into the thousands.

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oatman gunfightOatman Stage Coachoatman street

From Laughlin, Needles or Bullhead City, Arizona, Oatman is a short drive on State Route 95 to its intersection with Boundary Cone Road in Fort Mohave. About 10 miles (16 km) east of SR 95, Boundary Cone Road meets with old 66, now named the “Oatman Highway.” Oatman is only about four miles from there.

Oatman LINKS

Oatman Chamber of Commerce (Learn about Events, Lodging, Area Maps)
Oatman General Store
The OTHER Oatman Country Store & Old Time Photos
The Classy Ass Gift Shop of Oatman
The Creative Edge, in Oatman
The Ghost Rider Gunfighters
Main St. Emporium in Oatman

Driving directions and map to Oatman Arizona

Driving directions and map to Oatman Arizona


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