"Bonanza": Dan Blocker on the Upper Iverson in "The Last Trophy" (March 26, 1960)
Dan Blocker and the rest of the "Bonanza" gang rode the Iverson Ranch on a regular basis for much of the 1960s. Airing from 1959-1973, the wildly popular Western series produced 430 episodes during its 14 seasons on NBC. Of those, about one in ten shot at Iverson.
Michael Landon on Cactus Hill in "The Last Trophy" — the rock behind him is Cowbones
"Bonanza" and a few other TV Westerns of the period such as "Gunsmoke" and "The Virginian" helped fill a void left by the disappearance of the B-Western, both in popular culture and at the Iverson Ranch. As the business evolved, demand from the still relatively new medium of television kept the location ranch in operation.
"The Ride" (Jan. 21, 1962) — Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts on the Lower Iverson
"Bonanza" accounted for a number of interesting shoots on the Lower Iverson in the 1960s, even as filming in general was winding down in that part of the ranch. For most of the decade, the Upper Iverson maintained a far busier schedule of productions — and "Bonanza" spent plenty of time there, too.
Plaque near the base of Hawk Rock (2015)
Today Hawk Rock bears a plaque commemorating the designation of the Garden of the Gods as public parkland.
Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright in "The Crucible" (April 8, 1962)
In an intense episode called "The Crucible," Ben scoured the Upper Iverson's North Rim, above, searching for clues to the disappearance of his son Adam.
"The Savage" (Dec. 3, 1960) — Turtle Rock in the background
The rocky South Rim, on the Upper Iverson, was often strewn with bodies after "Bonanza" rode into town. The heavily filmed area below Turtle Rock was a favorite destination for the series.
"The Crucible": Hoss announces the family's arrival at Bobby's Bend, on the South Rim
Turtle Rock resurfaces here, in another shot taken on the South Rim. The scene was part of a major Iverson shoot for the episode "The Crucible," which premiered April 8, 1962.
"The Beginning" (Nov. 25, 1962) — Michael Landon on the Upper Iverson
Location notes that appeared during "Bonanza's" end credits never mentioned the Iverson Ranch. For example, in the credits for the episode "The Beginning," from which the above Iverson shot is taken, the two locations mentioned are Paramount Studios in Hollywood and Incline Village, Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
"The Deadly Ones" (Dec. 2, 1962) — The Southwest Rim
The large rock tower above the tree at the left in this shot is known as Prominent Rock or Medicine Rock. You may also be able to make out Cap Rock toward the right, above the lead horses.
"The Hayburner" (Feb. 17, 1963) — The Fury Set
"Bonanza" set up shop on the old Fury Set in 1962 for "The Hayburner," which premiered early the following year. Located on the Upper Iverson's North Rim, the set was built in 1955 for the TV show "Fury," and continued to be used in movies and TV shows until being consumed by the massive Newhall-Malibu wildfires of 1970.
William Demarest on the Fury Set in "The Hayburner"
William Demarest was one of the veteran actors on hand at Iverson for "The Hayburner." Some readers may recall that Demarest, a TV fixture as Uncle Charley on "My Three Sons," was also a part of the inaugural appearance by the Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, playing Gary Cooper's sidekick in "Along Came Jones."
Ellen Corby in "The Hayburner"
Western movie and early TV mainstay Ellen Corby also popped in at Iverson for "The Hayburner." Here she appears with Michael Landon and William Demarest in the corral area of the Fury Set.
"The Hayburner": William Demarest and the Nike Missile Base
The Nike Missile Base at the top of Oat Mountain also made its way onto the screen in "The Hayburner" — albeit in background appearances that probably went unnoticed at the time.
Charles Bronson gets the drop on Michael Landon in "The Underdog" (Dec. 13, 1964)
The "Bonanza" episode "The Underdog," featuring guest star Charles Bronson, filmed heavily on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson, where the above shot was taken. The episode also featured a tree I call the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree, which is still alive today. You can read about it here.
"The Unwanted" (April 6, 1969): Bonnie Bedelia and Charles McGraw on Cactus Hill
"Bonanza" largely steered clear of the Iverson Ranch for a few seasons in the mid-1960s, before returning near the end of the decade. The hiatus coincided with construction of the 118 Freeway, which split the 500-acre Iverson property in half. The freeway was one of the main reasons Iverson eventually ceased filming operations.
"Death on Sun Mountain" (Sept. 19, 1959): Wrench Rock
"Bonanza" began shooting at Iverson almost from Day 1. The show's second episode, "Death on Sun Mountain" — also known as "The Sun Mountain Herd" — filmed its climactic sequence on the ranch, with guest stars Bek Nelson, Leo Gordon and Barry Sullivan (left to right, above) mixing it up with the Cartwrights on the South Rim.
"Death on Sun Mountain": Little Joe and Adam in a shootout on the South Rim
Even if Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts and the others were "playin' cowboy" during their days at the Iverson Movie Ranch, the Cartwrights were NOT playing when it came to shooting it out with the bad guys. A couple of key players met their fate by the time this exchange was over.
Leo Gordon in "Death on Sun Mountain"
The always intense Leo Gordon did what he did best — being intense — on the South Rim.
Barry Sullivan as Burdette — reaching for the stars
As the typically complex "Bonanza" character Mark Burdette, Barry Sullivan sank his teeth into a role that gave him a chance to be bad ... but not ALL bad.
Bek Nelson as Glory — putting some thought into "Bonanza"
Bek Nelson helped class up the joint during the Iverson shoot for "Death on Sun Mountain." Glory was one of a number of characters who offered thoughts on the word "bonanza" during the course of the episode.
The "Bonanza" title is explained
This is the scene, shot on the South Rim, that gives "Bonanza" its title — or at least some form of an explanation for it. Responding to Burdette's death, Glory tells Adam, "He found his bonanza."
Bek Nelson and Pernell Roberts discuss the "Bonanza" series title
Here's the full exchange between Adam and Glory explaining the title:
Adam: "He came here to strike it rich, find a bonanza, and now he's dead."
Glory: "He found it. He found his bonanza. He found it just as he died. And that's better than never finding it at all, isn't it?"
Adam: "Yes, Glory. It's better."
"The Paiute War" (Oct. 3, 1959): Another episode, another body count
"Bonanza's" fourth episode, "The Paiute War," again featured extensive location footage, incorporating both the Upper and Lower Iverson. The sandstone giant in the top right corner is the Phantom, a fixture of Garden of the Gods on the Lower Iverson. A couple of especially bloody battles take place in this area during the episode.
Jack Warden as the unsavory Mike Wilson in "The Paiute War"
I blame it all on this guy — the Indian-hating Wild West archetype Mike Wilson, played with slimy panache by Jack Warden. Hey, isn't that the rock E.T. behind him? That means Elvis worked here too. Check out this previous post for more about the King and E.T.
"The Paiute War": Garden of the Gods
Here's a nice overview of Garden of the Gods in "The Paiute War," with the camera aimed more or less toward the south. Readers may recognize a number of the rock features seen here.
"The Paiute War": Saddlehorn Village
"The Paiute War" included a few shots of Saddlehorn Village, a small cluster of Iverson buildings adjacent to the Saddlehorn Relay Station on the Lower Iverson. I've done a couple of previous blog posts about this rarely filmed set, which you can find here and here.
Jack Warden at Saddlehorn Relay Station
While Saddlehorn Village stood only from about 1958-1966, the heavily filmed Saddlehorn Relay Station stood for about 30 years, going back to 1940.
In a notorious "comedic" Easter episode, Hoss pranced around the Upper Iverson in a bunny costume. The location shoot for "Caution, Easter Bunny Crossing" appears to be the final "Bonanza" shoot on the Iverson Ranch, with filming most likely taking place in late 1969 for the episode's premiere in early 1970.