Oatman Arizona - Summary Page

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This page last updated on 10/07/2019
(Fig. 01)
Directions: Depending upon the route you take to approach Oatman is between 136 and 177 miles. It is 136 miles from Las Vegas to Oatman Arizona via the western approach. Take 215 to the I-15 to I-95 to Searchlight and Laughlin and to the Avi Resort Casino. Take the Aztec Road and cross over the Colorado River and turn right onto the Veterans Parkway. Then turn left onto Route 153/ Oatman Hwy to Oatman. The eastern approach it is 177 miles from Las Vegas to Oatman Arizona via Kingman, Az.. Take 215 to the I-15 to I-95 to Kingman. Then take the historic Route 66 west to the I-40 to Route 10 and the Oatman Hwy to Oatman. Westbound drivers have it the easiest—simply follow the well-signed Historic Route 66 west from Kingman, exit 44 off I-40. From the west heading east, take exit 1 on the Arizona side of the river, then head north. Whichever way you go, you can’t avoid the steep hills that lead to Oatman (elev. 2,700 feet).
(Fig. 02)
Description of AreaOatman is a village in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, located at an elevation of 2,710 feet. Oatman's climate is high-desert, which is arid, dry and thanks to its altitude, cooler than the low lying terrain close to the Colorado River. The picture in (Fig. 02) was taken about 1.5 miles southeast of Oatman. The White Chief G. M. Company Gold Mine is in the distance between the two cactus on the left. Click to enlarge. Winters and summers are cooler than those of neighboring Laughlin, NV or Needles, CA. Snow occasionally falls in winter with some 2 inches per year. Rainfall is scarce, only 7 in. of rain. Temperatures during the year: summer average high (Jul) 104°F, and summer low 76°F. Winter average high (Jan) is 56°F and a winter low is 33°F. Today's population is about 128 people.

Background and History: Oatman is a village in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, located at an elevation of 2,710 feet. Oatman was sparsely settled starting in 1863 when a small bit of gold was discovered in the surrounding Black Mountains. Ben Taddock struck gold in Oatman in 1902 and filed a claim. A tent city sprung up to cater to the prospectors who rushed in. Taddock sold his claim which was acquired by the Vivian Mining Co. and the little town was named "Vivian". Three million dollars of gold were mined between 1904 and 1907 and in 1909, the town changed its
(Fig. 03)
name to Oatman. After a few other names were discarded, "Oatman" was chosen for the name of the town in honor of Olive Oatman (Fig. 03), a young Illinois girl who had been taken captive by an Apache tribe during her pioneer family's journey westward in 1851 and forced into slavery. She was later traded to Mohave Indians, who adopted her as a daughter and tattooed her face in the custom of the tribe. She was rescued in a trade in 1856 or 1857 at Fort Yuma, Arizona. During this mining boom, the population of Oatman grew from about two hundred to over 3,500 within a year! The post office was established June 24, 1909. The town had its own newspaper, the Oatman Miner.  There was a seventeen mile long narrow-gauge railroad that operated 1903 to 1905, and connected the Leland and Vivian Mines with the east bank of the Colorado River, opposite Needles, California. All the rails were removed after it was abandoned. Not much came of the discovery until two lucky prospectors struck it rich in 1915, with a 10 million dollar claim. The town boasted two banks, seven hotels, twenty saloons and ten stores along its mere 3 blocks. Oatman certainly prospered during a decade-long gold rush. At its peak, Oatman had a population of over 10,000, but when the mines dried up, so did everything else. The town’s biggest mine closed in 1924, and by the early 1960s, the whole area was all but abandoned.

Side Note: Around 1916, the Mohave-Oatman Water Company constructed a water and sewage system in the Oatman District for a cost of between $250,000 and $300,000. Water was pumped from wells on the east bank of the Colorado River through a 20 in pipe to an intermediate reservoir of 2,500,000 gal. The line covered 9.5 miles up a height of 1762 feet. From there, the water traveled in an 8 in pipe through various townsites to its main reservoir at Oatman. Also of 2,500,000 gallons, a distance of 3 miles up another 625 feet. A 4 in lateral was then constructed from the intermediate reservoir to Black Range townsite, a distance of 4 mi, and another to the Times townsite, a distance of 2 mi, which was supplied by gravity. The pumping plant delivered 800 gallons per minute to the intermediate reservoir and then pumped again to Oatman, with a total lift for the two pumping stations of 2400 ft. The water main ran through Oatman, Oatman City, Marona, Carter, Ryan Addition, Old Trails, and South Oatman, all adjoining townsites along the Old Trails Highway. Route 66 was aligned along the Old Trails Highway in 1926. Most of the modern-day "National Trails Highway" follows latter-day U.S. Route 66 (Rickard 1916). 
(Fig. 3a)
Taken from the north end of town, this is a picture of Oatman taken in 1934. The circled area in the picture is of the Tom Reed mine and processing plant. Also see (Fig. 12) towards the end of the page.
It is fortunate in that Oatman was located on busy U.S. Route 66, and was able to cater to travelers driving between Kingman and Needles, California. Yet even that advantage was short-lived, as the town was completely bypassed in 1953 when a new route between Kingman and Needles was built. By the 1960s, Oatman was all but abandoned. Fortunately, the town being located on historic Route 66 has saved it. The winding road is a destination in its own right. The part of the road passing through the mountains is a very narrow two-lane with no shoulders, extremely tight switchbacks and many steep drop-offs (Fig 04). Oatman has favored the tourism of Route 66 and benefited by the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada.  In summer, while the Colorado River Valley may reach temperatures well above 100 °F, Oatman is often 10 or more degrees cooler. 

(Fig. 04)
10/10/2019 Trip Notes: On this fourth trip to Oakman, Arizona, I was accompanied by Jim Herring, Bob Croke, and Ron Ziance. On this visit, we spent more time visiting and exploring the remains of some of the town's nearby gold mines. For pictures and details about this trip, click on the following link ... Oatman Arizona - Trip Notes for 10/10/2019.
(Fig. 05)

09/12/2019 Trip Notes: Today's trip with Jim Herring was my third visit to Oatman. My first visit was with Connie in December of 2008 and our second visit, we took my cousin John Coxon in 2011 on one of his visits. The main street through this tiny town has awnings over the plank wooden sidewalks (Fig. 05). (and a few burros) wandering the streets, lots of rust, and slumping old buildings filled with a handful of junk stores, restaurants, and gift shops that are entirely dependent on tourist dollars. Many of the shopkeepers make their own products and obtain other rare and interesting items from far and near. There are many handmade leather goods, handmade Indian jewelry and excellent knives sold right from the wooden sidewalks running the length of the town. One can make an afternoon of thoroughly exploring all its stores getting a glimpse of the hardscrabble life that existed here in years past.

On June 27, 1921, starting at 2:30 PM, fires destroyed most of the business district. The frame wooden buildings, huddled together, with passages in between only wide enough for an automobile, had little resistance. The post office, the four principal stores, three hotels and both its garages, together with many lesser structures and 20 residences were reduced to ashes. Only three or four buildings were saved by dynamite and a firewall. Four people were severely burned and many were
(Fig. 06)
left homeless. An inadequate supply of water, from a spring four miles away, hampered the "scores of volunteer firemen who, despite every conceivable handicap, mastered the blaze finally."  (Prescott Journal-Miner, June 29, 1921.) Fortunately, they spared the now Oatman Hotel (Fig. 06). Built in 1902, the Drulin Hotel did a brisk business to the area miners. This old hotel, renamed the Oatman Hotel in the 1960s, remains the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County and is a Mohave County historical landmark. It gained fame when the world's most famous movie star chose it as his honeymoon destination. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were the Hollywood golden couple, and in 1839, after a wedding in Kingman, AZ (another major Route 66 town), Gable and Lombard checked into the Oatman Hotel. Gable was a big fan of poker, and it's said he loved the town and became friends with the miners. Though you can't stay there, inside is a small museum and a restaurant with every square inch of wall and ceiling space is covered with dollar bills (Fig. 07).
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
(Fig. 09)
Oatman is a fun place to visit -- an authentic old western town with burros roaming the streets (Fig. 08) and gunfights staged on weekends.

The burros are tame and can be hand fed (Fig. 09). Oatman's "wild" burros are the descendants of burros brought here by the miners in the late 1800s; when the miners no longer needed them, they were turned loose. The burros you meet today in Oatman are themselves wild. They will bite and kick. Please keep a safe distance from them. Wild burros are protected by federal law from capture, injury, or harassment.
(Fig. 10)
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 -- the burros will eat all day if you feed them. Shortly before sunset they wander back to the hills for the night (Fig. 10). Most days at noon you can watch a gunslingers show - when traffic is stopped every day for this grand event — a wild west shootout, just like in the movies.

Oatman and Gold Road Mines:

The Oatman Mining District is a gold mining area located on the western slopes of the southern portion of the Black Mountains, about 9 miles East of Hardyville, which is on the Colorado River. The district was established in 1863 and ranges between 2,000 to 3,200 feet in altitude. Making researching difficult, the district has had many names throughout the years, most notably the San Francisco District and the Union Pass District, but also a few more obscure names including the Katherine District, the Gold Road District, the Vivian District, and the Boundary Cone District.

In the early 1900s, work began at the Tom Reed, United Eastern (Fig. 11), and Gold Road Mines, which were the three greatest gold mines in Arizona (Keane and Rogge 1992), and were by far the most productive in the district. The Oatman District is the largest primary gold producing district in Arizona with a historical gold production including Gold Road of more than 2.1 million ounces. The vast majority of the production has come from two sub-parallel vein systems, the Gold Road system (Fig. 12) and the Tom Reed-United Eastern (Tr-Ue vein) system (Fig. 14). The picture in (Fig. 15) is all that is left today of the processing plant in (Fig. 14). The distance between these veins is less than 1 mile.

(Fig. 11) The United Eastern Mine and Mill. The only thing that remains today is sludge tailings from the mill

(Fig. 12)
This is a picture of the Gold Road Mine taken in 1906.

(Fig. 13) The Gold Road Mine 500 TPD mill and cyanide leach operation
(Fig. 14) Early 1930's picture of the Tom Reed Mine & processing plant
(Fig. 15) All the remains of the Tom Reed processing plant
Though I'm not sure how the White Chief mine, about 1.5 miles southwest of Oakman, fits into all of this, but we drove out to the remains of this mine site (Figs. 17, 18 & 19).

Discovered in 1900, the workings of the Tom Reed mine included a 100 feet deep. A 20-stamp mill was erected on site in 1904. Production for the period 1908 - 1913 was some $13,053,000 (period values). Past operations took place from 1905 to 1939. Production size when active was considered to be small. Mine operations consist of underground workings. There is one known shaft. Subsurface depth reaches a maximum of 1,400 feet. The ore mined is composed of gold with waste material consisting primarily of gypsum, fluorite and quartz.

Leaving Oatman, driving east and driving up the hill towards Gold Road Mine and the ghost town of
Goldroad (Fig. 16). From what I can gather, Goldroad was a settlement that was developed near the Gold Road Mine. At one time there was over 400 people living at Goldroad and today, there is nothing but foundations. The ghost town of Goldroad stands in a canyon just beyond Sitgreaves Pass when traveling westbound Route 66. Around the mine, a settlement sprang up with a number of new businesses. It had a post office that was established on April 15, 1902. The Gold Road Mine was started during 1905 and only lasted for a short time. But by 1907 the rich veins began to give out and the mine closed. It was estimated that more than two million dollars in ore was taken from the mine during its short duration. However, the immediate area surrounding Goldroad continued to be a haven for other miners until 1931. It was a mining community in those days, with 718 residents. In total, the district took in over seven million dollars worth of gold over this period. Still, the town hung on, as the post office wasn’t discontinued until October 15, 1942. However, just a few years later, in 1949, the entire town was razed in order to save taxes, preventing later visitors from ever seeing the once popular businesses that thrived in this gold mining boomtown. Seemingly the mine of Gold Road was completely dead until a company called Addwest Minerals acquired the Gold Road Mine in 1992. After three years of development work, the mine began producing gold again. Hard-rock miners worked three shifts a day until 1998 when the bottom dropped out of the gold market again. It shut down once more and the mine sat waiting for the day when it would once again be profitable. In the meantime, the mine operated gold mine tours. In 2007, that profitable point returned as gold prices once again soared. The mine tours were closed as mining operations began again. Though the town was razed, there are visible remains that can still be seen. Often blending with the surrounding terrain, slowing down for a moment can provide you a peek at old water tanks, cement stairs, rock retaining walls and roofless buildings. A search of the nearby hills displays a number of old mining shafts. Now it is abandoned, with the ruins of some buildings visible among the bushes, it is a real ghost town. Although mining is still going on in the vicinity of Goldroad at the Gold Road Mine, it is private property.

(Fig. 16)
1903 photo of Goldroad from Arizona Highways Magazine. Courtesy of the Mohave Museum of History and Arts.
The Gold Road Mine had a few large shafts, both horizontal and vertical. The vertical is gated off (Fig. 20 & 21), but the horizontal mines are just across the road surrounded with a fence falling apart (Fig. 22). There appears to be 3 large openings just beyond the fence. There are also several ruins down the hill and the largest which was the old mill (Fig. 23) and Main shaft. In 1900, the Gold Road Mine was discovered by a prospector named Jose Jerez. Jerez was looking for his burro one day when he stumbled over a chunk of quartz that contained gold. With the help of his friend Henry Lovin of Kingman, Jose dug a 15-foot deep shaft, and the Gold Road Mine was born. Between 1905 and 1907 the mine milled $2,250,000.00 worth of gold. Gold Road Mine has been in production off and on for close to 100 years. In 1992, Addwest Minerals purchased Gold Road Mine and reopened shafts and built a mill for extracting gold from the hard rock ore. Little remains of the area, other than the mine and the original mine hole and shaft. A modern fully permitted 500 tpd cyanide leach (CIP) mill, which last operated in June of 2016, is located at the Goldroad site.  The site has recently permitted over 20 years of additional dry stack tailings capacity. All surface disturbance is on private land. The 500 TPD mill and cyanide leach operation has been on care and maintenance for one year and is in good working order. It is believed that no major capital costs will be incurred to restart the mill.
Side Note: In 1924, United Eastern Mines, the town's main employer, permanently shut down its operations after producing $13,600,000 worth of gold (equivalent to $198,824,000 in 2018) at the then-government-controlled market value of $20 per ounce. The district had produced $40 million (equivalent to $681,357,000 in 2018) in gold by 1941, when the remainder of the town's gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the U.S. government as part of the country's war effort, since metals other than gold were needed. In 1930, it was estimated that 36 million dollars worth of gold had been mined around Oatman. Overall, I have found it difficult to find detailed information on the surrounding gold mines.
(Fig. 17) Click to Enlarge
(Fig. 18) Click to Enlarge
(Fig. 19) Click to Enlarge
(Fig. 20) Click to Enlarge
(Fig. 21) Click to Enlarge
(Fig. 22) Click to Enlarge

(Fig. 23) The Gold Road Mine processing plant
Gold Road Mine Today:
Side Note: Para Resources Inc. (“Para”), is a Canadian company, and is the first company to have secured the rights to all of the patented and unpatented claims along the Gold Road Mine (Fig. 13 & 20) and the Tom Reed (Tr-Ue) veins which includes the sites of over 7 historical underground mines. The Gold Road property consists of 279.07 acres of 18 patented claims, 4 patented millsite claims totalling 20 acres and 1,820 acres of 91 unpatented claims fully owned or controlled by Para Resources Inc et al.  Para also has under lease from Cruski Mines an additional 14 patented claims totalling 466 acres (188.26 ha). Total acreage owned or controlled by the Company is 2,603.07.
These mines mostly ceased production in 1942 as a result of the US war effort. It is important to note that the mines stopped production while still mining high grade ore. Para believes that there is significant potential to re-open these mines and to process the mineralized material at Gold Road Mine which is approximately 1 mile away on a paved road. Para has entered into an asset purchase agreement, along with its indirect 88% owned subsidiary, Gold Road Mining Corp., to acquire from Mojave Desert Minerals LLC all of the assets comprising the Gold Road Mine. The Gold Road Mine is the only fully permitted mine in the largest primary gold district of Arizona. The Gold Road mine has produced over 700,000 ounces of gold and operated as recently as 2016. In August 2017, Para, through its 88% owned subsidiary Gold Road Mining Corp., acquired the 500 TPD CIL/CIP Gold Road Mine and Mill, including patented claims and a mill and processing facility. In February 2018, Para published a NI 43-101 Preliminary Economic Assessment on the Gold Road Mine and in April 2018, a NI 43-101 Technical Report on Report on the Oatman Gold Mining District for the Tr-Ue vein. Both reports recommend multi-year exploration plans that together target and additional 1,600,000 to 2,150,000 ounces for an estimated cost of US$14.2 million.

Note: Every attempt is made to provide accurate information, but occasionally depictions are inaccurate by error of mapping, navigation or cataloging. The information on this site is provided without any warranty, express or implied, and is for informational and historical purposes only.