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Oatman, Arizona: Where Donkeys Rule


The GPS said 23 miles, 1 hour. One hour to travel 23 miles? Once I reached the mountains, the 15 miles per hour on a winding road with sharp turns – and no guardrails made everything clear.

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Oatman, Arizona. You’ve probably never heard of it before, but it does have a few claims to fame. Work in Kingman allowed enough time for an excursion here.

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The first part of the drive was flat desert. Upon reaching the mountains the drive became scenic, engaging your senses.

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The adventure began before reaching the town of Oatman.  This donkey was stopping cars looking for food.

Just before reaching Oatman, part of its history greeted us. A burro (donkey) blocked traffic looking for food. The car ahead of me drove around it and I followed suit. Turns out that was a good call. One bandito burro apparently gets upset if no food is given and has resorted to kicking cars.

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A parking lot near the entrance to Oatman was operated on the honor system. Just a sign and a box.

16 KAI_6638R5 KAI_6619RIn a town of 43, who would have thought there is an 'uptown?'

Oatman grew with mining over 100 years ago. At one time 7,000 people called it home; today 43 people live here. The rest must commute supporting the tourist industry.

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A walk along the main street, which happens to be part of the historic route 66 reveals all kinds of shops and curios. The signs are fun to read, often playing on the numerous donkeys.

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The donkeys are descendants from the original pack animals used by the miners. They rule Oatman. They wander all over town and any where outside of town. Visitors can buy burro food.

21 KAI_6688R20KAI_6672RThe donkeys are friendly most of the time. They can be aggressive, if you have food, by grabbing your bag to dump food on the ground.

One would think that would be enough. The donkeys have discovered they don’t have to wait to be fed one piece at a time. Unsuspecting tourists will get mugged by donkeys. Donkeys will tear the paper bags, spilling the food. They will then munch away at their leisure.

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The donkeys don’t just stop there. Standing near the front entrance of a store, one donkey stuck its head inside and grabbed a bag of potato chips eating everything including the bag. Apparently known to the store owner, “April” was reprimanded. Clearly the donkeys rule here.

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Gable and Lombard’s room for their honeymoon night has been left pretty much the way it was.  I’m pretty sure their pictures weren’t there.  Gable returned in the following years because he liked to play poker with the miners.

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The Oatman hotel is the oldest two story adobe building in the county. It is also famous in its own right. When Clark Gable married Carole Lombard, the love of his life, they married in Kingman and honeymooned here. They were such huge Hollywood stars that their room was kept almost exactly the same way.

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On the main level there is a restaurant decorated in dollar bills. Traditionally miners would write their names on dollar bills and post them to the wall. That way if they stopped in for a drink and were short on money, they still had money posted to the wall. Today thousands of dollars adorn the walls.

22 KAI_6681REveryone was having a good time visiting Oatman.

The restaurant serves popular fare. I tried the bison burger with their chips and a Sarsaparilla (root beer). A tasty meal in a fun atmosphere.

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There is apparently, on many days, a short shootout on main street. It did not take place on my visit; you may have better luck.

This was a fun, half-day trip. Sometimes the smallest destinations have wonderful surprises.

23 KAI_6693RA Porsche club was enjoying the twisting roads and destination.  They were leaving town just ahead of me.


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