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Thread: Oatman, AZ

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    Default Oatman, AZ

    One thing is very apparent from US66 alignment in Needles, CA; you can no longer pass over the Old Trails Arch Bridge over the Colorado River. The old bridge into Arizona still exists but now carries pipe lines over the river instead of cars. To get into Arizona you must take I40 over the Colorado. You could take the post 1953 alignment of US66 to Kingman through Yucca but that is the boring way, the real way is the Oatman Highway on exit 1. This section was once known as Bloody 66 and is the most infamous part of the original US66 route. The Oatman Highway begins in an area called the Topock Marsh. The Topock Marsh is a swamp land created by the flow of the Colorado River.

    What is immediately apparent is how narrow and in poor condition the road is, trust me it gets worse…rather better. The road eventually leads to the town of Topock, sometimes called Golden Shores. I honestly don’t have much information on Topock as it is only briefly mentioned in books and online. It’s a pretty ugly old town with not much to see, some old building mixed with the new. North of Topock US66 starts to get twisty and curvy as it approaches the Black Mountains. A rock formation known as the Boundary Cone is very apparent along this section of the road. My understanding is that Indians used to use the Boundary Cone as religious site due to it standing out around the entire area. Now the Boundary Cone is mostly known as way to the mining town of Oatman.

    Passing the Boundary Cone US66 enters Oatman. Oatman is mining town of the Black Mountains. The first building in Oatman was the Oatman Hotel built in 1902 and still in existence today. Oatman had a peak population of 3,500 people in 1915 but it is now a shade over 100. The reason for Oatman’s decline was during World War II when no-essential mining was shut down to aid the war effort, Oatman never really recovered even though the mines reopened several times post war. The miners who left abandoned their burros which, wandered off into the surrounding mountain sides. The descendants of said burros are still around today, they actually come down to the town to beg for food. Despite being so close to more modern cites like Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City and Kingman; Oatman has changed very little in a century. Most people think of Tombstone and Jerome when it comes to Arizona ghost towns, Oatman is the most authentic albeit a little bit more modern with the US66 tie-in.

    Traveling out of Oatman we come to Sitgreaves Pass, the most dangerous section of US66. The pre-1953 alignment of US66 went through Sitgreaves Pass to reach Oatman due to it being the most important town between Kingman and California at the time. As the mining was shut down in World War II the importance of Oatman was lost and the post-1953 spur of US66 was created that went through Yucca instead. The road through Sitgreaves Pass is a relic, the roads are extremely narrow, there are no guardrails and there is feral working animals all over the place on the open range. Basically this is as dangerous of a paved road you will find anywhere in the world. Ascending Sitgreaves Pass the road comes to a mine, this is all that is left of the town of Gold Road or rather the Gold Road Mine. Traces of the town site are on the hillside around mining camp, the most apparent is the grave yard at the top of Sitgreaves Pass on what is known as Gold Hill. Gold Hill offers a great overlook of US66 on its accent from Oatman.

    On the eastern face of Sitgreaves Pass; Golden Valley and the Hualapai Mountains can be seen off to the east. The downward descent of US66 through Sitgreaves Pass comes to a cluster of abandoned buildings once known as Ed’s Camp. Ed’s Camp is home to the lone saguaro cactus on US66. My understanding is that were two saguaros once, but the monsoon blew the second down. I’m to also understand that in the pre-war years a driver could be hired to drive your car down to Oatman through Sitgreaves Pass.

    Coming out of Sitgreaves Pass US66 travels through the community of Golden Valley. Although 4,500 people live in Golden Valley it can loosely be considered a town. Much of the area north of I40 is open range and through this section I usually see a heard of wild cows. The road through here isn’t as worn as Sitgreaves Pass but it is still very neglected. Eventually US66 comes up to exit 44 of I40 where the post-1955 meets up and heads on into Kingman via the frontage road on the eastern side of the Interstate.

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