The alignment of Route 66 between Kingman and Topock in western Arizona, bypassed in 1952, is a stunning portal to awe inspiring western landscapes. As a highway it also a near perfect time capsule of motoring through the desert southwest circa 1948.
I40 biscets it at the eastern end of the Sacramento Valley. Suburbia intrudes briefly on the desert landscapes near the junction of the past and present, I40 and Route 66.
Still, while climbing into the Black Mountains it takes little effort to imagine your mini van or rental car has been transported back in time. During events such as the annual Route 66 Fun Run, held the first weekend in May, it becomes even harder to separate the illusion from the reality.
In driving across the valley, over Sitgreaves Pass, and towards the Colorado River valley the observant traveler will notice numerous hints that even though this is an old, antiquated, and scenic highway it is a modern incarnation of even older roads.
The first is found just to the west of Walnut Creek Estates at the crest of Seven Mile Hill. If you park at the pullout, on the north side of the highway, you will notice a roadway bissected by a barbed wire fence and peppered with grease wood bushes. This was the national Old Trails Highway as well as the first incarnation of Route 66.
Another is found directly to the east of Goldroad. This would be found by parking at the bottom of the hill below the hairpin curve, the sharpest curve found on Route 66, and walking into the canyon below Route 66.
This road dates to circa 1905 and was abandoned at some point after 1914. The bridges that remain on this obscure old roadway are amazing examples of the stone masons art.
The resurrection of Cool Springs, a delightful addition to the time capsule feel found on this drive, is more than a delightful photographic opportunity. It is also a monument to the passion that Route 66 still commands even though it is technically a defunct highway.
There is little in Goldroad today that hints of the important role it once played in Arizona mining or Route 66 history. Oatman has fared somewhat better in regards to surving into the modern era but here too original vestiges of its colorful but brief history are difficult to find.
Mining in this area dates to the discovery of gold by John Moss in the 1860s. Riches proved difficult to find in the rugged Black Mountains and with the discovery of rich deposits in the Cerbat Mountains some 25 miles to the north miners abandoned their efforts there.
In 1902, a lone prospector Joe Jenerez, stumbled on a deposit that sparked a rush. Within one year Acme, changed to Goldroad three years later, was a thriving community. The boom was a brief one as ore bodies were quickly exhuasted and by 1907 most of the mines were closed.
The cycle of boom and bust in regards to mining continued through World War II. Traffic on the National Old Trails Highway, and then Route 66, kept the town alive.
The real boom came in Oatman beginning with the discovery of gold in 1902. Within three years the Vivian Mining Company had produced more than three million dollars in gold.
The town, named Vivian at that time, mirrored this prosperity. In 1909 the name was changed to Oatman in honor of Olivve Oatman, a young girl rescued from the Mohave Indians near this location inthe 1850s.
Another major discovery in 1910 gave rise to the legendary Tom Reed Mine. This as well as an exponentially increasing tourism trade fueled by the National Old Trails Highway, and then Route 66, transformed Oatman into a boom town with a population numbered in the thousands.
The Milltown Railroad ran a spur from the main line near Topock. The Oatman Hotel, currently the largest and oldest adobe structure in Mohave County and location of the Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymoon suite, became a beehive of activity.
In 1930, the Oatman Mining District, with Oatman at its center, entered the history books as the richest mining district in Arizona history to date. The towns time in the spotlight was short lived.
By the 1930s the mines began playing out. Federal intervention for the production of vital metals for the war effort during World War II proved to be the death knell for a weakened mining economy. The final blow came with the bypass of Route 66 in 1952.
In the now classic 1946 work by Jack Rittenhouse, A Guide Book to Highway 66http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0826311482&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, Oatman, with a population of 737, is described as, “…a mining boom town whose day has passed, although a few mines still operate. Along one side are boarded up stores, plank sidewalks, and old sidewalk awnings.” Rittenhouse also noted there were two tourist courts, a hotel, garage, and limited facilities.
That is your trivia and travel  feature for the day. If you find this, or previous posts helpfull or informative, or if you have questions please drop us a note.

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