There's a City in Arizona Where the Donkeys Own the Town, Including This Baby Napping in Road

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Ghost towns are fascinating places to visit. They remind us of times gone by and give us a little taste of what life might have been like in the past. There are ghost towns all over the United States, but perhaps the ones in the desert are the most thought-of because they seem more like the wild west.

According to Desert USA, the town of Oatman, Arizona, got its start because it promised wealth. Gold was found in its hills, and it wasn’t long before people from all over flocked to the area and built a camp.

The name comes from Olive Oatman, who was a young Illinois girl kidnapped and adopted by Native Americans and later traded back to her family. She had a new chin tattoo when she was returned, but insisted the tribe had taken good care of her.

She became the town’s namesake after a miner staked a claim using her name, and even after the gold rush frenzy died down and mining dwindled, reminders of the past have remained.

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Some of those reminders are the buildings and the staged shootouts that Oatman offers to tourists, but there’s a much bigger draw to the town: Donkeys.

Yes, the cute grey critters roam freely through the town. Originally brought in as pack animals and to pull carts through the mines, the donkeys were left behind when the miners vacated the town.

They managed to survive and thrive, multiplying and living off the land. There are other pockets of donkeys (also called burros) across the desert, the result of other miners leaving them to their own devices.

They’re one of the biggest attractions now, and their disarming cuteness belies their obstinate natures. The town’s website warns that visitors are no longer allowed to feed them, and the Bureau of Land Management will slap you with a fine if you’re found sneaking them snacks.

One of the oddest sights to see, though, is a baby donkey lying in the road, surrounded by cones. Locals know this is just another day in the life of a donkey, but visitors are often perplexed or even horrified to see this.

New Digg’ns, a gift shop in the town, recently posted a video of Opal, an absolutely adorable baby donkey who found the middle of the road to be a prime napping spot.

“Nothing like ‘Opal’ being so Dang cute & taking a nap right on Route 66 in Oatman , AZ ,” they wrote. “Yep this really happened.”

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The post went on to relate how not all visitors know how to handle such a scenario. “Funny last summer with another baby laying on Route 66 (with the cones around it) the BLM was called by hysterical travelers & said we had a dead baby donkey in the end of town & just put cones around it to let everyone in town to see a dead baby donkey.

“I guess they (travelers)came back to town to wait for BLM & during the drive back up the baby donkey had got up on its own & the cones were removed . When the travelers arrived back to town & did not see the baby & cones anymore they came inside New Digg’ ns shop & were shaken up about what they thought they had witnessed coming thru town . ??????.

“Boy we sure did have a lot of explaining to do with these guys ????? it was too funny. The travelers had a BIG HEART & were truly ,truly animal Lovers !”

So if you ever have the pleasure of visiting Oatman, rest assured that cones around a baby donkey are not a reason for concern, they’re just protecting the cute little critter taking a nap.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking