Oatman - A
Living Ghost Town
Just across the
River and up the hill from Laughlin,
is the historic town of Oatman,
Arizona. Often described as a
town, it doesn’t quite fit the category, but, close enough,
considering that it once boasted over 10,000 people and now supports
just a little over 100 people year-round.
Though Oatman is
only a shadow of its former self, it is well worth a visit to this
town” that provides, not only a number of historic buildings and
photograph opportunities, but the sights of burros walking the
streets, as well as costumed gunfighters and 1890s style ladies
In its heyday, from the
early 1900s to the 1940s, Oatman
and the nearby town of
were the largest producers of gold in
Johnny Moss first mined the area for Gold
in the 1860's, staking claims to two mines, one named Moss, the other
Oatman, after Olive Oatman who was kidnapped by Apache warriors, sold to
Mojave Indians, and released after five years near the current town
site in 1855.
mining would have it's up and downs in the Black Mountains until the
early 1900's. An official town began to form around 1904, complete
with a Post Office, when the Vi-vian Mining Company began operations.
The tent city called Vivian quickly grew as miners flocked to the area.
Between 1904 and 1907 the mine yielded over $3,000,000 and a large
gold find at the Tom Reed Mine in 1908 brought in $13,000,000.
In 1909 the town changed
its name in honor of Olive Oatman.
Hotel, which was built in 1902, did a brisk business to the area
miners. This old hotel, renamed the
Hotel in the 1960's, is the only historic two story adobe building
in Mohave County. Though guests no longer stay the night here, there
is a museum on the top floor and a bar and restaurant on the bottom
In 1915, two
miners struck a $14 million gold find, providing yet another boom to the
settlement. Soon, the town had its own paper, the Oatman Miner,
as well as dozens of other businesses.
Route 66 was
first built in the 1920s, several supporters worked to have the road
parallel the railroad through
Yucca, where its supporters lived. However,
Oatman was at its peak as a
mining community and had more clout. So, even though it made the drive
more difficult on those old Model-T’s, the road took the hazardous journey
up Sitgreaves Pass and bypassed
In 1921, a fire burned much
of Oatman, but the town was
rebuilt. Just three years later the main mining company, United Eastern
Mines, shut down operations for good. But with the birth of
and other smaller mining operations, Oatman hanged on, catering to the
many travelers along the new highway.
By 1930, it was
estimated that 36 million dollars worth of gold had come from the mines.
The town boasted two banks, seven hotels, twenty
ten stores. There were over 10,000 people living in
During the Second World War, the
government needed other metal types for the war effort, so the miners were
taken to other areas and the
Oatman mines were
closed, leaving the gold to wait for better times.
Route 66 was changed to make an easier route
south of the mountain passes in 1953. By this time,
Oatman no longer held the clout that it
had earlier when the
was first implemented. It didn't take long for
Oatman to be
reduced practically to a
1970s, nearby Laughlin,
started building up as a popular gambling mecca, and in the late 1980s
again became a popular destination for tourists from all over the
becoming very lively again.
Then, in 1995 the
mine was reopened, taking out 40,000 ounces of gold annually. In 1998,
the mine closed again because of low gold prices. it then provided
gold mine tours for several years; however more recently, with the current price of
gold, the tours have ceased as the mine has reopened once
Oatman, Arizona Main Street, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, January, 2015.
This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads
today is a tourist
town. The main street is lined with shops and restaurants. Wild
burros, descendants of those brought by long ago miners, wander the
streets. Gunshots are heard as the Ghostrider Gunfighters perform
daily, displaying blazing six-gun shootouts in the middle of main
The road to
is very narrow with several sharp hairpin curves. No vehicles over
forty feet in length are allowed on this road. The road from
Golden Shores is not nearly as steep or sharp. Once in
Oatman, there is
limited parking. RV's or those traveling with trailers can often have difficulty finding a
When traveling westbound Route 66, Oatman
Highway continues another 20 miles to Golden Shores. The landscape
along the way is dotted with mining remnants of more prosperous times.
of America, updated March, 2015
National Park Service
Oatman Chamber of Commerce
The Haunted Oatman Hotel
available for photo prints & editorial downloads
To Gold Road