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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Friday, November 25, 2016

Joe Iverson's "Garden of Stacked Rocks" on the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch

Joe Iverson builds a road through the Gorge, circa early 1930s

Joe Iverson, who ran all or part of the Iverson Movie Ranch for more than 60 years, was known to take it upon himself to "fine-tune" the ranch's rocky landscape.

"The Miracle Rider" (1935): Freddie Frog in foreground

One of Iverson's favorite techniques for changing the look of the place was to cement one rock on top of another — creating a "stacked rock" formation.

Freddie Frog, an early Iverson Ranch "stacked rock"

The earliest known example of a manmade stacked rock at Iverson is a feature I call Freddie Frog, which was in place as early as 1926.

Promo still for "Tell It to the Marines" (1926)

While it's relatively small and would be easy to miss in this early promo still, a careful examination of the shot reveals that Freddie Frog had already been created in 1926.

Remnants of Freddie Frog as found today

We know Freddie Frog was a manmade formation because remnants of the rock, including the cement that once held it in place, can be found today at the site.

I blogged about Freddie Frog back in February 2014, including getting into the nitty gritty about chunks of cement that remain from the formation's movie days.

"Range Beyond the Blue" (PRC, 1947)

This shot from the Eddie Dean movie "Range Beyond the Blue" shows Freddie at its most "frog-like." For more of the Freddie Frog story, please click here to read my blog post from 2014.

"Gold Raiders" (1951): Gold Raiders Rock appears at left

The Iverson Ranch was sprinkled with these "stacked rocks" throughout its filming era, and many of the stacks found their way into movies and TV shows. One of the best-known of the Iverson rock stacks is Gold Raiders Rock, seen above in the movie role that gives the rock its name.

"Ghost Town Renegades" (1947): Al "Fuzzy" St. John
rides past the future Gold Raiders Rock

Gold Raiders Rock, as it would later come to be known, also appeared in productions before it became a stacked rock. This is what it looked like before it had the smaller rock cemented on top of it.

Gold Raiders Rock today (photo by Jerry Condit)

A number of the original Iverson Movie Ranch stacked rocks have survived and can still be found on the former movie ranch. This is what Gold Raiders Rock looks like today.

"Five Guns West" (1955): "The Head" makes a rare appearance

An unusual stacked rock can be found near the west end of Cactus Hill. "The Head," as I call it, was rarely filmed, but did show its, um, head, in Roger Corman's terrific Western "Five Guns West."

The Head in modern times

The Head has survived and can still be found today next to the trail the riders used in "Five Guns West."

A closeup reveals the cement work that was done to hold the "head" in place.

A small bird rests on "The Head" as dusk approaches 

The Head may have had a limited film career, but it continues to make itself useful to the local wildlife.

Joe Iverson's "Garden of Stacked Rocks" in 2016

Joe Iverson outdid himself in one particular section of the former movie ranch, creating what amounts to a "garden of stacked rocks."

Contained within a small area are three distinct stacked-rock formations. The "garden" is located in a rarely explored private section of the former Lower Iverson, near Flat Rock and what remains of the Iverson Ranch Eucalyptus Grove.

For research purposes, I refer to the three stacked-rock formations as Grove Stacks A, B and C. The most familiar of the three is the triple stack identified here as "A."

"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" (1960)

Grove Stack A is easy to spot in this scene from the "Wyatt Earp" TV series. The shot comes from an episode called "John Clum, Fighting Editor," which premiered April 12, 1960.

The key features of the "Wyatt Earp" shot are identified here. The camera is shooting northeast toward the nearby Eucalyptus Grove.

The same area is seen in this shot from a recent expedition to the site. A few new trees are in place, but the rock features are immediately recognizable.

"Escort West" (United Artists, 1959)

Another view of Grove Stack A, this time with the camera shooting south, appears in the Victor Mature movie "Escort West." The stacked formation can be seen at the left of the frame.

Grove Stack B in 2016

Grove Stack B, which is tucked in between Grove Stacks A and C, is the least frequently filmed of the three formations in Joe's "Garden of Stacked Rocks."

"The Roy Rogers Show" episode "Ghost Town Gold" (premiered May 25, 1952)

This rare shot from "The Roy Rogers Show" comes from one of the few scenes where it's possible to identify Grove Stack B in a production.

A portion of Grove Stack B appears at the far right in the "Roy Rogers Show" screen shot.

In fact, all three of Joe's Grove-area creations can be identified in the "Roy Rogers" shot, including a little bit of Grove Stack C hiding behind Grove Stack B.

"Hannah Lee: An American Primitive" (1953)

We get a better look at Grove Stack C in the John Ireland Western "Hannah Lee: An American Primitive."

The "Hannah Lee" shot also shows the stacked formation's proximity to Flat Rock.

"The Roy Rogers Show" episode "End of the Trail" (premiered Jan. 27, 1957)

Grove Stack C shares the screen with Roy Rogers in an episode from the final season of "The Roy Rogers Show."

Grove Stack C as it appears now, at left, and in "The Roy Rogers Show"

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the rock's profile in the "Roy Rogers" episode and in recent times.

Grove Stack C shows off its duck-shaped body in this modern-day photo.

A closeup of Grove Stack C shows the area where the "head" attaches to the body.

Zooming in further, we get a look at the cement work that helps hold the head in place.

Grove Stack B

Grove Stack B, too, is put together with the help of cement.

This closeup of Grove Stack B provides a look at some of the cement work holding the rock together.

Grove Stack A

As a classic "triple stack," Grove Stack A would have necessarily been slathered in cement.

Cement is used not only to fasten the head of Grove Stack A to the middle section, but also to hold the middle section in place atop the feature's large base rock.

Here's a closer look at the cement holding the head in place on Grove Stack A.

The finished product: Grove Stack A, in "Cole Younger, Gunfighter" (1958)

Joe Iverson's handiwork, Grove Stack A, can be seen in the lower right corner of this shot from the Allied Artists Western "Cole Younger, Gunfighter."

Joe Iverson's "Garden of Stacked Rocks" in 2016

Today the "Garden of Stacked Rocks" stands as a cement and sandstone testament to a man who knew a lot about rocks, earned his living from them — and even on occasion made his own.