Of all the stretches of Route 66 that our family traveled on this summer, one of our favorite stretches was the Oatman Highway. Located southwest of Kingman, Arizona, this old alignment of Route 66 takes motorists through the desert landscapes and the Black Mountains on a narrow ribbon of road that many people would find nerve wracking.
We really enjoyed this stretch of road, both for the scenery and the sense of history. Here are five stops that our family recommends.
About 15 miles west of McConnico is the Cool Springs Camp, which dates back to the 1920s when it was a popular stopping point for travelers on Route 66. (Read about it at Cool Springs History). A loving new owner has rebuilt the main building which is now a mini museum and gift shop.
A mile towards the west in Ed’s Camp, a collection of ramshackle old buildings that once catered to the Route 66 trade. No trespassing is allowed, but taking lots of great pictures is OK.
Shaffer’s Fish Bowl Springs
We just loved this quirky little attraction that is oh-so-easy to miss since it comes seconds before a tight turn with a deadly drop off. Shaffer’s Fish Bowl Springs is a small, man made pond that collects water from a seep in the cliffs above. This bathtub sized pond is 20 feet above the road and reached by climbing a very steep rock staircase. The fish bowl springs are just east of Milepost 30, where there’s a narrow place in the road for parking.
The road through Sitgreaves Pass is so harrowing that one forgets to look at the scenery. We found several places with wide shoulders and amazing views towards the east. Once crossing over the pass, there’s a developed overlook that is accessed by a gravel path for a triple state view of California, Nevada, and Arizona.
The Town of Oatman
This western mining town has reinvented itself as a tourist town with the biggest draw being the the wild burros that like to hang out around the buildings. With over 40 shops, staged gunfights, and ambiance galore, you can easily spend a couple of hours in Oatman like our family did.
Even though the Oatman Highway is only 46 or so miles from where it starts in McConnico, AZ to road’s end in Topock, it is a very slow drive with lots of hairpin curves, steep drops, and jay walking burros. If mountain driving doesn’t scare you, this old alignment of Route 66 is one that your family will enjoy.
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