|Even though the drone of the bikes continued most of the night, we slept well. We woke refreshed and ready to do a bit of exploring. We met a nice couple from Canada walking their puppy last night on 'our hill' and they mentioned that Oatman, about 30 miles from Laughlin, was a fun place to visit. So we packed a picnic lunch and headed out, hoping to escape the crowd in Laughlin, at least for part of the day.
An authentic old western town, Oatman boasts burros roaming the streets and gunfights staged on weekends. The burros are tame and can be hand fed. The "Wild" Burro's are the descendants of burro's brought here by the miners in the late 1800's. When the miners no longer needed them they were turned loose. Each morning they come into town looking for food. They wander the streets and greet the tourists. Burro pellets and carrots are for sale at many of the shops. We understand that shortly before sunset they wander back to the hills for the night. We were afraid that with the number of bikes we passed today coming back down the mountain they would be in hiding. Not to worry, lol! They were in hog heaven, eating and drinking like drunken sailors! And the roar of the bikes didn't scare them one bit! Amazing...
We arrived at the edge of town and were astounded at the crowd. There was NO place to park so we were forced to crawl along Main street, mirrors pulled in, trying our best not to mow down man or beast! Not an easy feat. It was a great way to take in the sights and sounds actually. We had great views of not only the crowd but the unique buildings and wares too. One of our favorites was the Oatman Hotel, built in 1902. It is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mojave County and has housed many miners, movie stars, politicians and other scoundrels. Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel March 18, 1939. Their honeymoon suite is still one of the major attractions at the hotel. Gable returned there often to play poker with the local miners and enjoy the solitude of the desert. The town was used as the location for several movies. such as How The West Was Won, Foxfire and Edge of Eternity.
After a few other names, Oatman was named in the posthumous honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who was kidnapped by (presumably) Yavapai Indians and forced to work as a slave. She was later traded to Mohave Indians who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1855 near the current site of the town.
Reading an informational sign, we learned that Oatman began over 100 years ago as a mining tent camp and quickly became a flourishing gold-mining center. In 1915, two miners struck a $14 million gold find, and within a year, the town's population grew to more than 3,500. It was served by a narrow gauge rail line between 1903 and 1905 that ran 17 miles to the Colorado river near Needles, California.
But both the population and mining booms were short-lived. In 1921, a fire burned down many of the smaller shacks in town, and three years later, the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations for good. Oatman survived by catering to travelers on old U.S. Route 66. But in the 1960s, when the route became what is now, Interstate 40, Oatman almost died.
Fortunately, in the 1970's nearby Laughlin, Nevada started building up as a popular gambling Mecca, and in the late1980s Route 66 again became a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Oatman started becoming very lively again.
Then, in 1995 the Gold Road 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 with the price of gold climbing, the tours have ceased as the mine is reopening once again. Today you can see the old mine tailing piles.
As we made our way back out of town, we noticed a fascinating variety of desert vegetation and rock formations. We like to take a dirt road off the beaten path to enjoy the sights, smells and silence. So we did, and once again, we weren't disappointed.
Afterward, as we made our way back home, we were amazed at the growth in both Bullhead City and Laughlin. I guess it's been at least 15 years since we were last here so we shouldn't have been so surprised. We didn't even realize that since 9-11 you can no longer cross over Davis Dam. There's a bridge overpass these days. Too bad, we would have liked to see it once again. Perhaps another time.
So, that was our day. We're going to grab a bite and rest a bit. Then, around sunset, we're going to stroll down the river walk and afterward check out the vendor's, bands and bikers, all here for the Laughlin River Run. See you later!