Oatman, Arizona

Coordinates: 35°01′35″N 114°23′01″W / 35.02639°N 114.38361°W / 35.02639; -114.38361
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Oatman, Arizona
Main street of Oatman, August 2005
Main street of Oatman, August 2005
Oatman is located in Arizona
Oatman is located in the United States
Coordinates: 35°01′35″N 114°23′01″W / 35.02639°N 114.38361°W / 35.02639; -114.38361
CountryUnited States
Named forOlive Oatman
 • Total0.19 sq mi (0.50 km2)
 • Land0.19 sq mi (0.50 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
Elevation2,710 ft (826 m)
 • Total102
 • Density531.25/sq mi (205.08/km2)
Time zoneUTC-7 (MST (no DST))
ZIP Code
FIPS code04-50620

Oatman is a census-designated place (CDP) in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, United States, at an elevation of 2,710 feet (830 m). In 1915, it began as a small mining camp when two prospectors struck US$10 million (equivalent to $171 million in 2023) in gold, though the vicinity had already been settled for several years. Oatman's population grew to more than 3,500 in one year. As of the 2020 United States census, its population was 102.[3]

The town is now a Wild West tourist attraction, known for the wild burros that wander the streets.


Burros regularly roam the streets of Oatman.

The name Oatman was chosen in honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who was captured and enslaved by Indians, probably from the Tolkepayas tribe, during her pioneer family's massacre while on their journey westward in 1851. She was later sold or traded to the Mohave people, who adopted her and tattooed her face in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1856 at Fort Yuma.[4]

In 1863, prospector John Thomas Moss discovered gold in the Black Mountains and staked several claims, one named the Moss after himself and another after Olive Oatman, whose story was well known. For the next half-century, mining waxed and waned in the remote district until new technology, reduced transportation costs, and new gold discoveries brought prosperity to Oatman in the early 20th century. The opening of the Tom Reed mine, followed by the discovery of a rich ore body in the nearby United Eastern Mining Company's property in 1915, brought one of the desert's last gold rushes. The boom of 1915–1917 gave Oatman all the characters and characteristics of any gold rush boomtown. For about one decade, the mines of Oatman were among the largest gold producers in the American West.[5]

Oatman in 1921

In 1921, a fire burned down many of Oatman's smaller buildings, but spared the Oatman Hotel built in 1902. It remains the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County and is a Mohave County historical landmark. One of the hotel's major attractions is a room designated as the suite where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard supposedly spent their honeymoon after their 1939 wedding in Kingman, Arizona.[6] In actuality, Gable and Lombard returned directly to Los Angeles after their wedding for a press conference the next morning and did not take a honeymoon until much later in Baja California.[7][8]

In 1924, the town's main employer, United Eastern Mines, permanently shut down its operations after producing $13.6 million (equivalent to $242 million in 2023) worth of gold at the government-controlled market value of $20 per ounce. The district had produced $40 million (equivalent to $711 million in 2023) in gold by 1941, when the remainder of the town's gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the government as part of the country's war effort, because other metals were needed. Oatman was fortunate it was located on busy U.S. Route 66 and catered to travelers driving between Kingman, Arizona, and Needles, California. Yet even that advantage was short-lived, because the town was completely bypassed in 1953 when a new route was built between Kingman and Needles. By the 1960s, Oatman was all but abandoned.

The town survives as a nostalgic Route 66 stop with a Wild West feel down to the wooden sidewalks, staged shootouts, and wild burros wandering the streets. The federal government rounds up areawide wild burros using helicopters and said, "Oatman is a very particular case because that town's basically all about burros."[9][10]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2021 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Arizona". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 25, 2022.
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Oatman
  3. ^ a b "P1. Race – Oatman CDP, Arizona: 2020 DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171)". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved May 25, 2022.
  4. ^ The Blue Tattoo, the Life of Olive Oatman, by Margot Mifflin, 2009 ISBN 978-0803235175
  5. ^ Paher, Stanley (1980). Northwestern Arizona Ghost Towns. Las Vegas: Nevada Publications. pp. 24–31. ISBN 0-913814-30-X.
  6. ^ Varney, Philip (2005). "Mohave Ghosts". In Stieve, Robert (ed.). Arizona Ghost Towns and Mining Camps: A Travel Guide to History (10th ed.). Phoenix, Arizona: Arizona Highways Books. p. 39. ISBN 1-932082-46-8.
  7. ^ Harris, Warren G. (2002). Clark Gable: A Biography. Harmony Books. pp. 200–201. ISBN 0-609-60495-3.
  8. ^ Matzen, Robert. "The Many Stops of the Gables". Reinventing the Hollywood Biography. Archived from the original on July 11, 2020. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "Oatman". Visit Arizona. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  10. ^ Loomis, Brandon (January 22, 2024). "Where burros roam and tourists swoon, feds seek to reduce herds on Arizona rangelands". Arizona Republic. Retrieved January 28, 2024.
  11. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Goudy, Karin (1987). "Life in a Boom Town – Oatman, Arizona" (PDF). History of Mining in Arizona. Vol. 1. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  • Heatwole, Thelma (1991) [1951]. "Oatman: Burros and Mail Call". Ghost Towns and Historical Haunts in Arizona. Phoenix: American Traveler Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0914846109.

External links[edit]