Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Oatman, Arizona

Ever since we've been visiting Laughlin, we've been aware of nearby Oatman, Arizona. The Laughlin Entertainer provides a brief review of Oatman in its "Points of Interest" section, usually found on page 3 of its weekly publication. We decided to visited this old mining town since we now have plenty of time on our hands.

Oatman is located in the Black Mountains of western Arizona. Located at an elevation of 2700 feet, the town is surrounded by rugged crags. Homes are perched on hillsides. Old Route 66 runs through town from Kingman to Needles, California. In my mind, I can see the Joad family rumbling along this narrow roadway as they make their way to the "promised land" in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Essentially, the town today is just a tourist destination. The dozen or so shops that line the roadway sell T-shirts, leather goods, and similar items that tourists always seem eager to snatch up. There are a couple of restaurants.

The town is named for Olive Oatman, whose family was attacked by hostile Indians in 1851 on the Gila River about 80 miles or so east of Yuma, Arizona. All of the members of the family were killed except for Olive, 14, her sister Mary Ann, 7, and a brother, Lorenzo, age 15. Lorenzo was clubbed and left for dead while the two girls were taken by the Indians, who Oatman later identified as Tonto Apaches, but may have been Yavapais. The girls were used as slaves by the tribe for about a year, when a band of friendly Mohave Indians traded some goods for the girls and took them to their village near present-day Needles, California. They were more or less adopted into the tribe and treated well. Mary Ann died of hunger, probably during a severe drought and food shortage in 1855.When she was 19, Olive was turned over to authorities at Fort Yuma. She later met with her brother Lorenzo, who had survived the attack and had been looking for her over the years.

One place of local interest is the Oatman Hotel. Following their wedding in nearby Kingman, Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spent their wedding night in this hotel on March 29, 1939. It's said that Gable often returned to the hotel to play poker with local miners and enjoy the solitude of the desert.

Another unique point of interest in the town is the band of wild burros that wander about freely. Tourists enjoy feeding them and having their pictures taken with them. 

It didn't take long for Donna and I to tour the town. We have no need of buying trinkets and such, so we merely made a pass north along one sidewalk and then back south along the opposite sidewalk. I understand that they have gunfight reenactments quite frequently, though we did not witness one. We actually enjoyed the drive from Fort Mohave and back the most. As we headed east away from the river, we climbed gradually towards the Black Mountains, eventually joining the original Route 66 about 3 miles southwest of Oatman. On the return trip, the views of the Colorado River valley were outstanding.

Below are some pictures of Oatman.

Oatman is up in them thar hills. These are the Black Mountains of western Arizona, and Oatman is tucked away in them.

Donna and her new best friend. They have very similar personality traits.

Downtown Oatman
Suburban Oatman

Surrounding mountains

Mine entrance
Here come the burros!
The Oatman Hotel, where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spent their wedding night.
Oatman sidewalk
Oatman mountain chalet
Old Route 66 looking west from Oatman.

Leaving Oatman and looking west towards the Colorado River valley.

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