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Travels With Ernie — Ernie Discovers Oatman Arizona, a Fun Wild West Overnight Trip from Sedona

Main street through Oatman, Arizona, a quaint wild west town along Route 66.


Among my favorite adventures away from Sedona has been my trip to Oatman, Arizona. It’s a real dog heaven. Lots of interesting scents, and the folks there are good about handouts. I even got to share an ice cream cone with a wild burrow. Actually, I really had no choice since the burro didn't ask first.

Quirky and colorful Oatman, Arizona is located along the old historic Route 66, between Kingman, Arizona and Needles, California. This authentic Wild West town was named after Olive Oatman, whose family was attacked by the Yavapai Indians in 1851, as the family traveled through Arizona on its way to California. All of the members of the family were killed except for Olive, her younger sister Mary Anne, and her brother Lorenzo. Lorenzo had been wounded by the Indians and left for dead. However, Lorenzo survived and spent the next few years searching for his two sisters.

Olive and her younger sister Mary Anne were taken captive and enslaved by the Yavapai Indians. In 1852, the Yavapai Indians traded both sisters to the Mohave Indians, who resided along the Colorado River not far from the future location of Oatman. During the time that the two sisters were captives of the Mohave Indians, they continued to be treated as slaves. During her captivity, The Mohave Indians tattooed Olive around the mouth and chin, which was a traditional practice of the tribe. Mary Anne died during her time in captivity, and the Mohave Indians released Olive near Oatman in 1856. She was reunited with her brother Lorenzo, who she had not seen in four years. She served as the inspiration for the character, Eva, in the AMC original series, “Hell On Wheels.”

Mules in Oatman Arizona come to a car window to see what treats are being offered.

Gold was discovered in the Oatman area in 1863, and for the next eighty years, the mines in the area produced over $2.6 billion in gold. The mines were closed in 1941 due to the outbreak of World War II. But since Historic Route 66 was still an important route for travelers heading from Kingman to California, it continued to thrive by catering to those traveler’s needs.

In 1953, Oatman was completely bypassed by a new route between Kingman and Needles, and the town was all but abandoned. However, Oatman has gone through a renaissance of sorts and continues to be a popular tourist attraction due to the worldwide interest of Historic Route 66 that goes through the center of the town. What makes Oatman very unique are the wild burros that roam freely throughout the town. Every day, a number of middle-aged, housewife-types are out there among the burros in the heart of downtown Oatman, offering them all kinds of treats. As a dog, you need to be careful about sneaking up behind them to do a little sniffing. I was licked all the way across the dusty road! The burros are the descendants of burros that were once used by the miners but released when mining in the area ended in the early 1940’s.

Oatman Wild Burros are ready to greet any and all visitors.

A trip to Oatman is definitely worth the time and effort, not only for dogs, but also for the peoples. If you are real adventurous, travel to Oatman on Historic Route 66 from Kingman like I did. It will take about 4 to 5 hours driving, but you are in for a real treat. The narrow road winds through the mountains complete with hairpin curves, the remnants of turn-of-the-century historic buildings and abandoned gold mines—even some gold mines that still operate today. As a dog, I can’t say enough about this place. People were very generous with their scraps and as long as I stayed away from the burros, I felt pretty safe!

Want to find out more about Oatman? Check out the Oatman Chamber of Commerce website: www.OatmanGoldRoad.org

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