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Route 66 News

A history of the Shaffer Spring Goldfish Bowl

Shaffer Spring Goldfish Bowl

Many people have visited the wondrous Shaffer Spring Goldfish Bowl on Oatman Road (aka Route 66) between Kingman and Oatman in western Arizona.

However, many of you probably don’t know about the history of this bowl fed by a natural spring from the side of a mountain.

Herberta Schroeder, in a special article for the Kingman Daily Miner, provides some of the background. First off, it was an offshoot of the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s and ’40s.

During the WPA construction of the “Gold Road Section” from Gold Road Mine to Kingman, sources of water for animals, cars and humans alike were hard to find.

A man named Shaffer found water seeping from cliff walls and built a basin made of indigenous rock and concrete. He set it where the springs could drain into it.

Locals kept gold fish, snails and plants in it to help keep the water fresh and algae free. Many local residents call it the Gold Fish Bowl.

The spring has frozen over or gone dry, but someone always restocks it with fish. The only hint of its presence is a column of stone stairs built up the cliff wall to the basin.

Schroeder notes that wildlife — including the famous wild burros that frequent the area — and honeybees can be seen drinking from the bowl. She also says a monkey paw orchid also grows at one side of the bowl.

And although algae seems to have returned to the bowl, we’ve seen goldfish in at least one of the times we’ve visited it.

Another online source says 31 steps go up the mountain to the bowl. But there are no banisters, so be careful.

There’s no road signs pointing out Shaffer Spring Goldfish bowl, but Schroeder says to watch for those stairs after mile marker 31 heading to Oatman.

(Image of the Shaffer Spring Goldfish Bowl on Oatman Road by Gallopingphotog via Flickr)

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2 thoughts on “A history of the Shaffer Spring Goldfish Bowl

  1. Arla Woodling

    We were there 28 Jul 2016; climbed up to the spring, and yes there are steps, but not all the way up, so be very careful. This was awesome to find out in the desert on our way to Oatman to see the Burro’s come down into the village. My trip of a lifetime, the entire route of The Mother Road (Rt 66) west to Santa Monica!! Thanks to my two daughters, Janel and Danielle.

  2. Lipspeaker Trainer

    I saw this in 2008. There was an elderly man and his grandson looking at it. He told me it was a watering hole and he knew the man that built it. When I was there, there was a swarm of wasps around the area.

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