Arizona: Burros and Wildflowers

Returning from Las Vegas, we made a detour along Historic Route 66 to visit Oatman, Arizona. We knew it as a tourist ghost town with wild burros that wander the streets.  

Oatman is a former mining community and burros were common beasts of burden for the industry.  As the mines were abandoned, burros were sometimes released to fend for themselves.  The burros in Oatman are descendants of those mining burros.

We arrived in town on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and found way more than we expected.  Oatman was very busy!  

There were the old buildings and wooden sidewalks you expect in a western ghost town.

It didn’t take long to find the burros! They are technically wild, but also tame enough to enjoy a scratch or snack.

We bought a bag of hay cubes to feed the burros but they were not interested in “healthy” food. 

They wanted better treats than we were offering.

The locals performed a wild west showdown for us!

We wandered through some of the old buildings and shops.

This restaurant was decorated with $1 bills and was busy enough that we only peeked inside.

We missed the Bed Races but it looks like it could be fun!

Olive Oatman’s restaurant and saloon was closed but it suggested a connection between her and the name of the town – something I hadn’t picked up on previously. Prospector Johnny Moss named the area after Olive Oatman in 1860 during her celebrity era.  

Olive Oatman and her family were part of a group traveling west to settle in western Arizona or southeastern California.  Some of the group decided to stay in New Mexico while others stayed near Tucson.  Although the Oatmans were warned of the danger, they eventually traveled further west alone.  

Ninety miles east of Yuma, the Oatmans and their seven children were engaged by Native Americans and the encounter turned deadly.  Both parents and four of the children were killed.  A teenage son survived and two daughters were taken captive.   

The girls, ages 14 and 7, were taken by the Yavapai and lived as slaves for about a year.  They were eventually traded to the Mojave tribe who treated them as adopted daughters. They were given tattoos identifying them as members of the tribe.

Over several years, people interacting with the tribe noticed the white girls living amongst the Mojave.  Word made it back to civilization. Olive was eventually “rescued” although accounts differed on whether she appreciated being taken away. (Prior to finding Olive, the younger sister died, along with many of the Mojave, during a drought.)

Olive was reunited with her brother and became a bit of a celebrity on the lecture circuit. She later married and lived until age 65.   

Entering and departing Oatman we were delighted to see bright yellow wildflowers against the stark landscape. 

We were at the right place at the right time for Mexican poppies!

When you live in the desert, spring wildflowers are such a gift.  The winter of 22-23 has been wet and cool.  

Water is desperately needed and we also knew that the moisture might treat us to a nice wildflower season.

Twice this past week we ventured out on a desert hike looking for wild flowers.

White Tanks Regional Park is near us and we enjoyed seeing a variety of flowers.

A few days later we went just a bit further to Lake Pleasant Regional Park.  There were more flowers there!

Lake Pleasant is one of our favorite parks because not only are there nice trails, but there is a lake, a restaurant at the marina, and the possibility of seeing wild burros.

It seems like hiking Wild Burro Trail should work for seeing burros! We see them about every third time we visit Lake Pleasant. 

On this day we heard the burros way before we saw them!  We could discern their general location by listening to their loud braying. It still took some time to find them high upon the ridge.  (This picture is using a phone zoom lens.) One of the three burros is just to the right of the saguaro in the top middle. They blend in so well that they must be moving to see them at this distance.

Burros and wildflowers (and lunch at the marina) made for a great day at Lake Pleasant!

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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4 Responses to Arizona: Burros and Wildflowers

  1. Mark McClelland says:

    What self-respecting burro would turn down a hay cube!! Picky. Oatman looks like a hopping town for tourists! We’ve gotten lucky and seen the desert in bloom a couple of times. It is really amazing how many flowers seem to pop up out of nowhere after a rain.

  2. Donna Fischer says:

    Enjoyed this!

  3. Teri McClelland says:

    When you said “ghost town” I certainly wasn’t expecting all those cars. Oatman looks like a really fun place to visit.

    The dessert in bloom is beautiful.

  4. The wildflowers are beautiful!

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