Motherload On the Mother Road
Route 66 in the area of Kingman Arizona provides visitors with a plethora of things to see and do, from the wonderful museums to a feel of the Old West in Oatman. We've also added quite a few photos to areas east of Oatman not talked about in our Photo Blog in our Arizona Route 66 Gallery.
These are some of our favorites from the area of Kingman Arizona and Route 66 journey. While this is by no means all of the sites along your path, these are what caught our lens, and tickled our fancy the most. Click on an image to go to the Arizona Route 66 Gallery. Links in text will take you to more information and stories on the subject referenced.
In October, 1857, Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale first explored the present site of Kingman when he and his team surveyed the 35th parallel in anticipation of building the wagon road. In the heat of the desert they used camels for transportation, an idea they were sure would catch on. Alas, it never did.
When the railroad began to reach this part of the west, a man named Lewis Kingman surveyed the route between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Needles, California in 1880. The new railroad, when it arrived, would closely parallel Beale’s old wagon road. Later when Route 66 came barreling through; it too, would closely follow this historic path.
In 1886, Kingman built its first school. The next year would see the organization of the town’s first church and the opening of the Kingman Hotel. But the biggest event of 1887 was when Kingman won the election of county seat for Mohave County from nearby Mineral Park. Despite the conclusiveness of the polls, Mineral Park officials refused to give up the county records. Outraged, Kingman citizens subsequently raided the Mineral Park town hall and made off with the county documents, literally "taking” the county seat.
The premier hotel in Kingman, the Beale first catered to the many passengers of the railroad and later to travelers of Route 66, when it came through. Tom Devine, father of famed Actor Andy Devine, bought the hotel in 1906. Andy often referred to his time growing up in Kingman and considered it his hometown, despite being born in Flagstaff. Successful for decades, the historic Hotel Beale now sits lonely and abandoned on Andy Devine Avenue, which is part of Route 66 through Kingman.
Home to Arizona's Route 66 Association, the old Power House in Kingman was converted into the Powerhouse Museum with great exhibits from Kingman's hey days, including it's glory time on Route 66. In 2014, the museum added an electric car exhibit that continues to grow.
The historic Hotel Brunswick, which was originally built in 1909, served customers for almost a century and is closed, but currently under renovation. The Kingman Club's been doing business for years, and recent owners have updated/repaired its neon for some added flare.
While at the Powerhouse Museum, the aroma from across the street at Mr. D's was "Powerful". Enough that we scrapped our plans for lunch and drifted on in. This is a great stop for Route 66 enthusiasts, with fun decor from the glory days of yesteryear and some down right tasty treats. Might I suggest the Tex Mex Burger for green chile goodness, along with side of delicious onion rings. If I had room I would have topped it off with one of their great ice cream treats, but will have to wait for another stop.
Kingman is also home to author and friend Jim Hinckley and his wife Judy. We hope you have had a chance to check out some of Jim's photo's in our "Jim Hinckley's America" Gallery. Jim also contributes to our auto industry history on Legends Of America. We had a great time catching up with him during our stay.
There are two Route 66 alignments from Kingman southwest to the California border. The pre-1952 alignment along the Oatman Highway is by far the most beautiful, providing numerous photographic opportunities, legendary Route 66 icons, and a peek at the wild old west in historic Oatman, Arizona.
However, this old route travels through notorious Sitgreaves Pass, the most intimidating portion of Route 66, with its steep grades, narrow road, and sharp hairpin curves. In addition, the highway does not allow vehicles over 40 feet, so, if this is you, think about coming into Oatman from the south through Topock, an easier route.
Sitgreaves Pass, AZ - National Old Trails Highway, Route 66 - 2Sitgreaves Pass of western Arizona along the course of the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66, and the National Old Trails Highway. Photo by Jim Hinckley.
After traveling through the pass, and going by some re-activated mining, you will finally come into Oatman, which is a real treat, complete with the gratuitous gun fight in the middle of the road, along with real wild Burro's which come into town daily begging for food from the local tourists (Oh, and you can buy burro food to feed them, but be warned, they will come up to you regardless).
In its heyday, from the early 1900s to the 1940s, Oatman and the nearby town of Gold Road were the largest producers of gold in Arizona.
Prospector Johnny Moss first mined the area for Gold in the 1860's, staking claims to two mines, one named Moss, the other Oatman, after Olive Oatman who was kidnapped by Apaches, sold to Mojave Indians and released after five years near the current town site in 1855.
Gold mining would have it's up and downs in the Black Mountains until the early 1900's. An official town began to form around 1904, complete with a Post Office, when the Vi-vian Mining Company began operations. The tent city called Vivian quickly grew as miners flocked to the area. Between 1904 and 1907 the mine yielded over $3,000,000 and a large gold find at the Tom Reed Mine in 1908 brought in $13,000,000. In 1909 the town changed its name in honor of Olive Oatman.
The Drulin Hotel, which was built in 1902, did a brisk business to the area miners. This old hotel, renamed the Oatman Hotel in the 1960's, is the only historic two story adobe building in Mohave County. Though guests no longer stay the night here, there is a museum on the top floor and a bar and restaurant on the bottom floor.
In 1915, two miners struck a $14 million gold find, providing yet another boom to the settlement. Soon, the town had its own paper, the Oatman Miner, as well as dozens of other businesses.
When Route 66 was first built in the 1920s, several supporters worked to have the road parallel the railroad through Yucca, where its supporters lived. However, Oatman was at its peak as a mining community and had more clout. So, even though it made the drive more difficult on those old Model-T’s, the road took the hazardous journey up Sitgreaves pass and bypassed Yucca.
In 1921, a fire burned much of Oatman,, but the town was rebuilt. Just three years later the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations for good. But with the birth of Route 66, and other smaller mining operations, Oatman hanged on, catering to the many travelers along the new highway.
Route 66 was changed to make an easier route south of the mountain passes in 1953. By this time, Oatman no longer held the clout that it had earlier when the Mother Road was first implemented. It didn't take long for Oatman to be reduced practically to a ghost town, as mining operations had already ceased by 1941.
In the 1970s, nearby Laughlin, Nevada started building up as a popular gambling mecca, and in the late 1980s Route 66 again became a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Oatman started becoming very lively again.
Kathy's been to Oatman before and you can read more about the history of this great ghost town here. We did more on this stretch, including Needles, Ca, so come back to our Arizona and California Route 66 galleries as we continue to expand our collection as internet allows.
Coming up in our Photo Blogs, 0ur next primary destination was Death Valley, then we headed down to take a quick look at the Salton Sea, with views of Joshua Tree National Park and Box Canyon along the way.
[Blog and story on Oatman updated February 22, 2015]
About the RV Parks we stayed at during this portion of our Journey:
We stayed in Golden Valley RV Park, in Golden Valley just outside of Kingman for about a week. It is a very small RV park with not that many spaces, but the price was right ($125 for 7 days during our stay) and the amenities adequate. You are right by the highway here though, so there was quite a bit of traffic noise. Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets added to the stay, along with lots of cacti to navigate our furry friends through.
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