People who are fascinated with the Old West will love taking a day trip from the cosmopolitan, bustling city of Las Vegas to the old mining and ghost town of Oatman, Arizona.
The open desert calls to be discovered. Hear the cicadas buzz on a quiet desert afternoon while venturing to the town of Oatman.
This is a tiny town comprised of basically one street. It is also a town filled with things to remind a person of life in the Old West. Visitors experience first-hand what it must have been like back in the early 1900s when the west was still mostly undiscovered and was very lightly populated.
Old West ghost towns and the people who inhabited these places were all quirky, adventure-minded and interesting. Just a short day trip from Las Vegas, about 135 miles and 2 ½ hours by car, can make anyone feel as if they have traveled back 100 years. It is an adventure well worth taking.
Feed the Burros – They Are Hungry!
Some of the first things that usually catch a visitor’s eye are the wild burros that freely roam the main street of historic Oatman, Arizona. Watch in fascination and wonder as they meander down the street looking for friendly visitors who happen to have hay cubes, carrots or burro pellets to feed them. You will see mama and baby burros, and burros of all ages walking along this rugged street in search of food.
It’s smart to be careful while feeding them to watch your fingers so you aren’t bitten. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. The burros appear to be so tame and so used to people that there isn’t very much that fazes them. They are accustomed to people and get along well with everyone. Offer them food, but be sure to pull away from them once they have been fed.
Wild burros have been known to eat things from unwary visitors that they should not eat. Among those things are iPhones, sunglasses and electronic tablets! Watch your pockets while you’re walking among these naturally curious pick pockets.
Stay For the Gunfight
One of the most memorable things about a visit to Oatman, Arizona – besides feeding the wild burros – is the staged gunfight that happens twice a day, every day. The first gunfight happens exactly at noon and the second at 2:15 p.m.
The adventure begins with the sharp crack of gunfire. From there visitors are taken into a Wild West styled vignette, played brilliantly by experienced actors. Thrill to the story line and to the gunfight that is naturally worked into the story. These actors are actually volunteers who seem to just love what they do.
They take donations after the show, and all the money raised goes to the Shriner’s for their children’s hospitals. The actors are glad to pose with anyone who would like to have a picture taken with them as well. These guys really look authentic, too. They have that grizzled, worn, old leather and tough as nails appearance about them. When you talk to them, though, you find out what genuinely nice guys they are. They are soft-hearted under a tough exterior.
A Visit to the Historic Oatman Hotel Is a Must
Every visitor to the historic old mining town and ghost town of Oatman should save some time for a visit to the old Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, this hotel was the place frequented by miners, politicians on the campaign trail and actors and actresses.
In fact, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stayed at the hotel on the night of their honeymoon. Carole Lombard was killed a few years later in a tragic plane crash in the nearby mountains.
It is said that Clark Gable continued to visit the town and the hotel to play poker and to trade stories with the miners. He and Carole loved the quietness of the desert and the fact that they could simply be themselves there. There was no need for pretense. It was a place to completely relax, naturally. The room that was their honeymoon suite is now a museum, which is reported to be haunted by the spirits of Clark and Carole.
The hotel is also said to be visited by another other worldly visitor, a ghost simply referred to as “Oatie.” He was a Scottish miner whose family did not survive the trip to America. He is often reported to be heard playing bagpipes in his family’s memory.
People hear the faint sound of bagpipes throughout the upper level of the hotel. The last ghostly apparition is thought to be that of an old hotel chambermaid who has simply not left the hotel yet.
A Nice Place to Visit Even For Those Who Do Not Believe In Ghosts
Even for visitors who find the old ghost stories to be a bit far-fetched for their taste, the Oatman hotel is a must visit attraction. The restaurant on the first floor of the hotel is a very good place to have lunch, surrounded by the interesting decorative remnants of the old western days. One of the most noticeable decorations are the dollar bills that are stapled to the walls of the hotel near the bar area, and throughout the entire first floor.
It is said that miners would stop by the bar for drinks. Many times, however, they didn’t have cash with them to pay for their drinks. This led to the custom of stapling one dollar bills to the walls when they did have cash with them. They would write their names on the dollar bills to pay for future visits.
Today, people no longer use these dollar bills to pay their bar tabs. They are simply an interesting decorative item, with a unique story behind them. It is estimated that there are over $25,000 of these dollar bills stapled to the walls. Children especially love stapling dollars to the wall and writing their name on them. They enjoy finding them again if they come back to Oatman for a return visit.
It’s also fun for kids of any age to visit the many shops along the streets of Oatman. You can find handmade jewelry, turquoise items, leather items, kid’s toys and interesting decorative items for your home in these shops. Another favorite attraction for kids is a penny candy shop, which is actually more like a dollar candy shop these days. But, it still has the charm and aura of an old-fashioned penny candy store.
How Oatman Got Its Name
Oatman, Arizona was named after a woman named Olive Oatman. The story goes that Olive was a teenager when her family moved west from Illinois in search of a better life. In other stories that followed, it is said that Olive and her younger sister were kidnapped and forced into slavery by the Yavapai Indians.
Once she was older, she was traded to the Mojave Indians and had tattoos placed on her chin. This was the custom in those days to show that she belonged to a certain tribe. She lived with the Indians for many years. She was released in 1855 near the town of Oatman. Years later, her surviving son was instrumental in getting the name of the town changed to Oatman, in his mother’s honor.
If you are able to spend some time talking to the local people of Oatman, Arizona, you will hear many stories like this. Visiting Oatman is a fascinating way to spend a day away from the hustle, glittering lights and casino noise of Las Vegas. A simple 2 ½ hour drive seems to put you back in time to over 100 years ago, into a memorable and fun western adventure.
Children of all ages love a trip to historic Oatman, Arizona. Spend a day, leave with a lifetime of memories. A part of Oatman always seems to stay within the hearts of those who have been there.