We’ve all heard the phrase, “Get your kicks on Route 66,” yet this historic highway offers much more than catchy lyrics to a song. Route 66 first opened in 1926, and gained fame thanks to John Steinbeck’s 1940 novel Grapes of Wrath. The iconic highway offered middle-America a route to the west, while providing those on the coast a direct line into the heartland of the country. And while Route 66 itself no longer exists, you can still follow along its path; and along the way, there are a few haunting stops you may come across!
At the first stop on our quest, we run into the lively ghost town of Oatman, Arizona (well, about as lively as a ghost town can be). From the swarms of tourists to the classic cars to the wild burros that roam the streets, Oatman remains a popular tourist destination to this day. While the town had been settled since the mid 1800s, the official establishment was in 1915. When two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find, the area became a tent camp. In just one year, the population boomed to 3,500.
By 1941, Oatman was responsible for producing more than $40 million in gold (around $2.6 billion by today’s standards). However, the gold mining operations were shut down by the U.S. Government as part of the country’s war efforts to produce other metals. When a new route between Kingman, AZ and Needles, CA was constructed in 1953, the town was eventually abandoned.
As mentioned above, Oatman has experienced quite the renaissance. Thanks to its proximity to Lauglin, Nevada and Las Vegas, the town is quite the destination for tourists. The descendants of the burros the miners set free when they left the town decades ago still roam the streets, and on weekends it’s not unlikely to stumble across a classic car rally!
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