Dust, Dinghies and Donkeys

1167535_oatman01.jpgIt’s on the once-wonderful Mother Road, Route 66, and if you’ve gotten
as far as Laughlin, Nevada, or even Las Vegas, it is certainly worth a
detour. Oatman, Arizona, embraces a time gone by, and yet manages to
keep it alive and lively with a sense of community and a sense of humor.
This little town, located about 30 miles southeast of Laughlin,
attracts almost a half-million visitors a year, tempting them with its
souvenir shops, its Wild West history and its burros. RVers would be
wise to park their vehicles outside of town, however, and negotiate the
historic roads via dinghy or tow vehicle, since parking is extremely
limited and the streets themselves are packed with semi-wild burros —
and gunfighters.

 

Once a bustling mining boomtown, Oatman owes its place in history to two
miners who struck it rich about 1915, supposedly uncovering more than
$10 million in gold. Today, visitors can get a better feel for the
area’s gold fever by touring the Gold Road Mine Tour, about 2 miles out
of town. The town name, however, is attributed to Olive Oatman, a young
girl kidnapped by Indians and eventually rescued and returned to her
family. More modern events also add to the allure of the tiny town, the
most famous of which is a visit by Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, who
spent their honeymoon in the Oatman Hotel. The well-used building,
listed on the National Historic Building Registry, continues to attract
visitors today, surprising them when they glimpse the small,
unpretentious room used by the doomed lovers.

More surprises awaiting travelers are handmade souvenirs
available in the shops lining the main street. Rather than the
run-of-the-mill trinkets sold in most tourist towns, many of the items
here boast the talents of the artisans of the area; from Indian jewelry
to leather goods, you’ll find a nice assortment to consider for holiday
gifts.

But, as appealing as the shopping and history are, the burros
and the gunfighters are the real stars of Oatman. You may buy carrots to
feed the feisty animals that roam freely over the roads, sidewalks and
often into the stores. Be certain to pose for a picture with one. And,
like the shows at Calico Ghost Town in Southern California, the
performances here take place in the streets; the Oatman Ghostriders,
desperadoes and lawmen shoot it out in front of the bank at regular
intervals, providing plenty of noise, smoke and Old-West banter. Have
your cameras ready, again.

For more information, call the Oatman Chamber of Commerce at (928) 768-6222, or visit www.oatmangoldroad.com.

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