Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

For an introduction to this blog and to the obsession a growing number of vintage film and TV fans have with the Iverson Movie Ranch — the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and TV history — please read the site's introductory post, found here.
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• To find specific rock features or look up movie titles, TV shows, actors and production people, see the "LABELS" section — the long alphabetical listing on the right side of the page, below.
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• I've also begun a YouTube channel for Iverson Movie Ranch clips and other movie location videos, which you can get to by clicking here.
• Here's a link to Garden of the Gods, the best-known section of the Iverson Movie Ranch (featured in the movie "Stagecoach," the "Lone Ranger" TV show and hundreds of other productions).
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers, click here.
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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Cliff Road, Steep Canyon Road and the "Gate to Nowhere" on the old Iverson Movie Ranch — and something for fans of "The Fugitive"

"Daredevils of the West" (Republic serial, 1943)

One of the many historic movie roads on the former Lower Iverson Ranch appears in this shot from the old Allan "Rocky" Lane serial "Daredevils of the West."

A stagecoach that has lost its team of horses careens out of control toward a cliff — we know it's careening toward a cliff because that's what stagecoaches always did after losing their horses in old movies.

Location of the shot as it appears today (Bing bird's-eye view)

In the real world, the old road does in fact lead to the top of a cliff — Nyoka Cliff. This bird's-eye view of the site shows the approximate position of the stagecoach as it speeds west toward the cliff.

The Iverson family referred to the road as "Cliff Road." Nyoka Cliff and Cliff Road today are situated just east of Redmesa Road in Chatsworth, Calif., a short distance north of Santa Susana Pass Road.

The "road" as it appeared on a visit to the site in 2016

Cliff Road is completely overgrown now — in fact, it would be a stretch to call it a road, as any part of it that may have once been stagecoach-worthy has been lost to time, history and the forces of entropy.

The concept of entropy comes up a lot in movie location research — especially in places like the Iverson Ranch, where much of the site's past glory has been reclaimed by nature.

"Life After People": Hollywood's Cineramadome gets swallowed up

One of the best treatments of entropy is found in the History Channel TV series "Life After People," which depicts what might become of the artifacts of civilization should the human race be wiped out.

Cliff Road in "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" (1959) 

Back in the filming days, before entropy set in, Cliff Road was the Autobahn of movie roads: smooth, wide and well-maintained, as seen in this shot from the "Wyatt Earp" episode "Wells Fargo Calling Marshal Earp."

The episode premiered on Dec. 29, 1959. A number of the rocks seen in the "Wyatt Earp" shot can be matched up with more recent photos.

Here are the same rocks noted in the "Wyatt Earp" screen shot, as they appear in the 2016 photo of the road area. To see the background rocks in detail you can click on the photo to enlarge it.

1959 aerial, showing a well-defined Cliff Road

The wide, well-defined Cliff Road really pops out in a 1959 aerial photo. Like most of the roads on the Iverson Ranch, the Cliff Road appeared in its share of movies and TV shows.

"The Fugitive" TV series (January 1965 — filmed in 1964)

Cliff Road had ample room for a sadistic sheriff to kick up dust in his 1964 Ford police wagon as he tormented a fleeing prisoner in "The Fugitive." This shot comes from the episode "The Nicest Fella You'd Ever Want to Meet."

Pat Hingle and worried prisoner Tom Skerritt — "The Nicest Fella You'd Ever Want to Meet"

The sadistic sheriff, Joe Bob Sims, was played with panache by Pat Hingle, and the prisoner he chased in his Ford wagon was Neely Hollister, played by Tom Skerritt. Iverson's Rock Island can be seen in the rear window. 

Sheriff Joe Bob's specially outfitted Ford on Iverson's Steep Canyon Road

Joe Bob's wagon had a set of bull horns installed on the hood to maximize the intimidation factor and make a "point" about who had the upper hand — kind of silly, all things considered.

Iverson's "Steep Canyon" in modern times (2017 Bing bird's-eye view)

The station wagon sequence is stitched together using a couple of different roads on the Lower Iverson: the Cliff Road up above, and a section of Steep Canyon Road below, along the base of Nyoka Cliff.

Joe Iverson builds Steep Canyon Road (ca. early 1930s)

Steep Canyon Road was put in by Joe Iverson back in the early 1930s as the Iverson Movie Ranch adapted to the surge in business that came along with the movie industry's transition to sound films.

Misinformation on the website

Film historians often call Steep Canyon Road "the Stagecoach Road" — a label that has had unintended consequences by contributing to the false belief that the road was part of an actual stagecoach route into Los Angeles. In reality the road was never anything more than a movie and TV road.

Nyoka Cliff, Steep Canyon Road and the Iverson Gorge in 2018

This photo from a recent visit to the Iverson Ranch, taken looking east from across the Gorge in the Garden of the Gods, shows the area where both Steep Canyon Road and the Cliff Road can still be found.

Some readers will recognize Stoney Point toward the right. The Chatsworth landmark appeared frequently in the background in productions filmed on the Iverson Ranch, but was rarely used as a filming location in its own right.

Prominently featured in the photo are the heavily filmed Nyoka Cliff and Lower Nyoka Cliff.

Running generally north and south along the Iverson Gorge, or Steep Canyon, is the Steep Canyon Road, whose route includes a key section along the base of the scenic cliffs.

This section of the road is reinforced by stone buttressing that was put in place when the road was built. For the most part this buttressing can still be found at the site today.

Here's a closer look at some of the buttressing as it appeared on that same recent visit.

The route of Steep Canyon Road hugs the base of the Lower Nyoka Cliff through this area.

The buttressing in the shot appears in two main segments, each of which remains largely intact.

Promo still for the 1953 Gene Autry movie "Pack Train" (photo from the Jerry England collection)

A promotional photo from 1953 gives an idea of what the road and the buttressing looked like back when the ranch was an active filming location.

Northbound on Steep Canyon Road: "The Millerson Case" (1947)

The well-maintained road was filmed regularly from the '30s into the '60s, and could easily be navigated by auto.

An impassable Steep Canyon Road in modern times

Similar to Cliff Road up above, Steep Canyon Road has been largely reclaimed by nature and today is virtually impassable in places, even on foot.  

High above Steep Canyon Road, Cliff Road runs east from park property above Nyoka Cliff into private property that was once the southeastern corner of the Iverson Ranch.

Cliff Road's "Gate to Nowhere"

There's a no-man's land along Cliff Road where the lines blur between park property and private property. This area is marked by an unusual modern "improvement" I call the "Gate to Nowhere."

As the name suggests, the gate does not appear to lead anywhere. It's just sitting there all by itself — not even attached to a fence. But the "Private Property" sign affixed to the gate makes its intentions clear.

Just behind the Gate to Nowhere is a movie rock. For our purposes we can call it "Gate to Nowhere Rock."

"Daredevils of the West": Gate to Nowhere Rock

Remember the shot at the top of this post from the serial "Daredevils of the West"? That's Gate to Nowhere Rock at the right of the frame — with the runaway stage headed straight for the future site of the Gate to Nowhere.

"The Roy Rogers Show" (1951)

Here's a similar shot from an early episode of "The Roy Rogers Show," with Gate to Nowhere Rock again seen at the right. The episode is "Doc Stevens' Traveling Store" — and that's the store traveling along Cliff Road.

Google aerial showing a portion of the Lower Iverson

This recent aerial photo from Google shows most of the Lower Iverson, including the entire area that has been preserved as public parkland. I've pinpointed where the Gate to Nowhere and its nearby rock can be found.

Google map of the Lower Iverson: The area in green has been preserved as public land

Besides spanning a road that goes nowhere and is both unusable and inaccessible, the gate and its "Private Property" sign are totally in the wrong place. The gate is positioned well within park boundaries, on public land.

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