Gold discovered in the early 20th century fueled growth in Oatman for a few decades. The town was originally called Vivian but it was changed to Oatman in 1909 with the establishment of a post office.
Oatman's population peaked at about 10,000 in the 1930s, some reports say. The miners moved on when the ore played out. In that exodus, ore-hauling burros were left behind. Those feral beasts of burden still populate Oatman as the star tourist attraction. Visitors can buy cheap food pellets for the burros.
Another attraction on the drive to Oatman is the Cool Springs filling station, built in the mid-1920s. The volcanic rock building is
on a tortuous stretch of Route 66 that winds its way up to Oatman over Sitgreaves Pass.
Cool Springs burned down in 1966 and was rubble for more than three decades. Then Ned Leuchtner bought the ruins in 2001 and painstakingly rebuilt it as a gift shop.
Meanwhile, Route 66 was realigned in 1952 and Oatman was bypassed. Adventurous drivers and motorcyclists still make the 29-mile jaunt from Kingman to this ramshackle mining town.
Recreational vehicles would not do well on this narrow road and vehicles over 40 feet are banned. Oatman is also accessible from
Bullhead City, a 28-mile drive that includes a stretch of unpaved road suitable for passenger cars.
The 2010 U.S. Census lists Oatman's population at 135.