Travel spotlight: Meet the wild burros of Oatman, Arizona

Posted at 3:00 PM, Dec 30, 2016
and last updated 2017-01-01 19:28:18-05

OATMAN, Ariz. (KGTV) -- It was just beyond a weathered 'Welcome to Oatman, Arizona' sign that we saw them -- the famous wild burros we heard were a staple in the old mining town along historic Route 66.

"There they are!" I proclaimed excitedly. 

My husband smiled and slowed the car, then rolled down his window to get a better look. One of the wild burros came straight to the window and my husband, completely bemused, reached out his hand to pet the animal.

After a quick hello, the burro rejoined the rest of its group and we followed them in to town. And like every other tourist who stops in Oatman, we took plenty of pictures with the burros. It's what you do.

Oatman's burros are quite used to travelers and we found them to be very friendly, although once they discovered we didn't have any feed (which can be purchased in town), they started to lose interest.

A local from nearby Bullhead City, Arizona, did, however, have some feed for the burros and they quickly circled him. "I come up here all the time," he told us. "I love the burros."

He did have one smart tip for us -- don't ever stand behind them (because they just might kick). They are wild, after all. 

A hundred years ago, the ancestors of these wild burros were indispensable to miners who set up camp in Oatman -- they hauled rock and ore, and carried essential supplies.

Oatman's mining days are long gone nowadays, but burros have remained in the area and become quite the attraction.

According to the townsfolk, the burros come down from the hills in the morning, spend the day in town, and then head back in the evening. 

If You Go

Oatman is located in Arizona's Black Mountains and it's quite a drive from San Diego -- about 5 1/2 hours -- so you'll want to plan to spend at least a few days in the area to make it worth the trip. 

Laughlin, Nevada, for example, is about 45 minutes away and offers reasonable hotel rates at the casinos. And for RVers, there are plenty of scenic spots to set up camp along the nearby Colorado River.


Oatman is a living, breathing town with shops, eateries and plenty of things to look at that take you back in time to the old mining days.

Stick around long enough during your stop and you just might catch a good old-fashioned shootout -- 'cowboys' put on daily shows right on Main Street.

And you won't want to miss the Oatman Hotel's 'Dollar Bill Bar' -- a saloon covered floor to ceiling in dollar bills. Visitors are invited to write a message on their own dollar bill and staple it to the wall. Digital Journalist Kari Van Horn with our sister station in Phoenix recently shared this backstory of the Dollar Bill Bar:
Back in the early 1900s, Oatman, Arizona was a tent city turned mining town located along Route 66. The Oatman Hotel, called the Drulin Hotel, was established in 1902 and served as a popular rest stop. Travelers would rest their feet at the Restaurant and Bar then try to catch some z's in one of the famously haunted rooms. Guests share tales of playful spirits that find entertainment in raising glasses and lifting money off the bar at the saloon.
When the miners received their paychecks, they would write their name on a dollar and stick it on the wall. This served as a tab of sorts. If the patron needed extra cash to pay their tab during return visits, they would find their name on the wall and bring the dollar to their waitress.

The town also puts on some great events throughout the year, like the 'Great Oatman Bed Race' that's coming up at the end of January and their annual July 4 'Egg Frying Contest.'

For more:

FUN FACT: Actors Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spent their honeymoon at the Oatman Hotel on March 18, 1939. You can see their honeymoon suite if you visit the hotel. Gable was fond of Oatman and often returned to play poker with the local miners.