John Wayne in California

Death Valley

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, for the first time shot in glorious Technicolor, for "Three Godfathers", starring John Wayne.

Much filming for Three Godfathers was done between May 3 and June 9, 1948,  in the Furnace Creek area in Death Valley, noted for its erosional landscape. What is now known as a favorite tourist view point Zabriskie Point is where...

The location for John Wayne's "Three Godfathers", the exact same spot in Death Valley, was also used in "Spartacus" and, that same year, "One-Eyed Jacks".

...Ford lensed the sequence of the trio discovering that their waterbag has been shot. It's also on the ridge  where...

John Wayne throws the empty waterbag down the hill from Zabriskie Point, in Death Valley.

...Wayne's character frustratedly throws the empty waterbag into the abyss... 

Zabriskie Point, the location for a pivotal scene in John Ford's "Three Godfathers", was also used in "Spartacus" and "One-Eyed-Jacks".

...right on this spot, which is now the top of the lookout, towards the Amargosa Range. Ford filmed the three bank robbers crossing the dry lake in a place called the Devil’s Golf Course, not far from Badwater, which is the lowest point below sea level in the Western Hemisphere. 

The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, out in Death Valley, were the perfect remote location for John Wayne in John Ford's "Three Godfathers".

Ford turned his cameras towards Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, for the scenes where the Godfathers find the wagon and the baby...

The hill on which John Ford's "Three Godfathers" pray can still be found in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, out in Death Valley.

...a spot right on Highway 190, with distinctive hills, covered with brush. After work, they rode back to the Death Valley Motel. At the two-room cabin motel, the stars slept two in a room, Wayne and Pedro Armendariz doubled up. It  is now Furnace Creek Ranch, an oasis on Highway 190.

Point mugu

John Wayne was friendly with the commander of the Naval Base at Point Mugu. The opening scenes of "North to Alaska" were filmed on the far end of the beach.

Point Mugu near Los Angeles doubled for Nome, Alaska, for the beach scenes of North to Alaska.  A set was constructed on the far end of the beach...

The beach at Point Mugu, with Mugu Rock on the far end, was used in two John Wayne movies: "North to Alaska" and "The Green Berets".

...with the distinctive Mugu Rock visible in some scenes. Wayne had connections to the Naval Base at Point Mugu. He used that same stretch of Californian beach for the closing scene of The Green Berets, when he tells the orphan kid "You're what this is all about".  

Vasquez Rock

John Wayne passes the often-filmed Californian location of Vasquez Rock two times: in "The Lawless Range" and "Dakota".

Trekkies call it "Kirk Rock" but Wayne fans recognize the striking formation as Vasquez Rock. Wayne passes it for the first time in 1935 in The Lawless Range and...

The natural park area of Vasquez Rock in Agua Dulce provided the scenic background for two John Wayne movies: "The Lawless Range" and "Dakota".

...returned to the natural area park of Vasquez Rock in Agua Dulce 10 years later for Daktoa




Apple valley

One of John Wayne's earliest B-movie efforts, "Somewhere in Sonoro", was shot at Deadman Hill, at the eastern edge of Apple Valley.

Somewhere in Sonora was shot at Deadman Hill, in the southern portion of the Granite Mountain, at the eastern edge of Apple Valley. Highway 18 runs along the southern edge of the hills. They used the then unpaved highway, heading west. When in Apple Valley, Wayne stayed at the Apple Valley Inn. When Roy Rogers and Dale Evans became residents of Apple Valley, they leased the inn and restaurant and renamed it Roy Rogers Apple Valley Inn. 



The classic chase in Stagecoach, with John Wayne shooting his trademark winchester for the first time, was filmed on the dry lakebed, east of Victorville, named Lucerne Dry Lake.

The chase in Stagecoach  was shot in three days on the dry lakebed, east of Victorville. John Ford had used the Lucerne Dry Lake before for the landrush scene in his silent western Three Bad Men. Highway 247 travels through it. Ford filmed the chase on both sides of the road. Yakima Canutts stunts...

Yakima Canutt's stunts in "Stagecoach" were accomplished on the left side of the road, leading through Lucerne Dry Lake, just outside Victorville.

 ...were accomplished on the left side of the road,  to the South...

John Ford shot the scenes of the cavalary coming to the rescue of the "Stagecoach" on the ride side of the road that leads through Lucerne Dry Lake. The camera is pointing north, with the San Bernardino Mountains in the background.

...while the cavalry coming to the rescue was filmed on the right side of the road (looking north),  with the San Bernardino Mountains in the background. Ford, Wayne, and Canutt stayed at the Green Spot Motel in Victorville. 


In the classic John Wayne film, the "Stagecoach" travels through Beale's Cut in Newhall. At the time of filming in 1938, the Sierra Highway was the main roadway from Los Angeles to Newhall.

In Stagecoach, to make the transition between Monument Valley and the flats at Victorville, Ford came back to another location he had used before: Beale's Cut in Newhall. In 1938, the Sierra Highway was the main roadway from Los Angeles to Newhall. 

Beale's Cut, the location of the classic John Wayne western "Stagecoach", can still be found, however, the cut in the mountain suffered a partial collapse during the 1994 earthquake.

The cut in the mountain suffered a partial collapse during the 1994 earthquake. Sierra Highway is now closed. 


Yak Canutt rigged up that gag: John Wayne rides the Stagecoach through the river near Kernville. According to locals, this was accomplished at Tilly Creek.

John Wayne had been to Kernville no less than ten times for B-Westerns between 1933 and 1935. He returned for the scene in Stagecoach, where the coach crosses the river. Yakima Canutt had done countless stunts at the lagoon area, south of the current dam. 


Largest artifact of the Kern Valley museum - and a quite impressive one for film buffs - is the Stagecoach used in the river crossing of John Wayne's classic 1939 western. For this scene, a mud wagon was dressed to look like the regular stagecoach.

The largest artifact of the Kern Valley Museum in Kernville is the "mud wagon" Cannut used to make the river crossing scene work. It is slightly different from the Concord type of stagecoach. Cannut had dressed this wagon to make it look like the stagecoach. 

The Kern River that runs through Kernville has been the location of numerous John Wayne westerns of his early B-western period.

The Kern River was a favorite location for stunt scenes involving jumping horses into the water. One year after the river crossing in Stagecoach, Canutt was back doubling Wayne in Dark Command: he drove a team of horses over the cliff and into the river. 



Old Kernville was covered by the Isabella Lake in 1953. Several of the original buildings used in westerns up to that point were moved to the present location. John Wayne's biggest Kernville film was "In Old California".

Old Kernville was covered by the Isabella Lake in 1953. Several of the original buildings used in westerns up to that point were moved to the present location of Kernville. Wayne's biggest movie in Kernville had been In Old California.  „It was a beautiful little western town close to the Kern River,” he remembered years later, „so it had pleasant vegetation and trees in its square. It is now at the bottom of a man-made lake to keep it from interfering with progress. “


red rock canyon

John Wayne made two films in Red Rock Canyon: CA-14 cuts directly across Red Rock Canyon State Park where countless westerns were shot. The Lawless Frontier in 1934 has an unusual chase scene: Wayne follows the baddie by foot, and because of the extreme heat, they are only able to walk...

...until Wayne finally catches up with the bad guy at a poisoned water hole - which was located right here, in front of this spectacular rock formation, in Hagen Canyon. 

John Wayne and his fellow Mesquiteers on location in Red Rock Canyon: this scene of "Pals of the Saddle" was shot just to the left of CA-14 cutting through Red Rock Canyon State Park.

He was back in Red Rock Canyon five years later forPals of the Saddle. This publicity shot of the three Mesquiteers, Wayne with Max Terhune and Ray Corrigan, was taken...

Red Rock Canyon State Park was used in countless films, including two of John Wayne's: "The Lawless Frontier" and "Pals of the Saddle".

...right here, up in Hagen Canyon. That's the terrain John Wayne location hunters are looking for. From the car park, a hiking trail leads to Hagen Canyon. This Pals of the Saddle location is close to what locals call Cooper's Gulch, the site of Gary Cooper's shoot-out in Man of the West


Movie location for John Wayne's "Pals of the Saddle": the 3 Mesquiteers run up this rock in Hagen Canyon, Red Rock Canyon State Park.

Up in Hagen Canyon, those Pals of the Saddle step down from their horses and run up...

In "Pals of the Saddle", John Wayne and the 3 Mesquiteers run up this rock to get into got firing position against the bad guys.

...this rock right here. All locations of this Three Mesquiteers sagebrusher are in close distance. 

Movie location for John Wayne's "Pals of the Saddle": the 3 Mesquiteers shoot down from this rock in Hagen Canyon, Red Rock Canyon State Park.

The Three Mesquiteers then trade shots with the bad guys, shooting down this rock...

John Wayne and his "Pals of the Saddle" traded shots from this rock to the right with the bad guys down in the flats.

...all in long shot. What is made to appear as the "State Border" in Pals of the Saddle is actually just a gap between these outcroppings.

Movie location for John Wayne's "Pals of the Saddle": the Mesquiteers hide between this rock in Hagen Canyon, Red Rock Canyon State Park.

They just turned the cameras around for this motif: Max Terhune and Ray Corrigan are hiding behind this significant rock...

The Three Mesquiteers were hiding behind this rock in Hagen Canyon in Red Rock State Park to free John Wayne in "Pals of the Saddle".

...which is still to be found in Hagen Canyon. 

san francisco bay

In 1955, China Camp, on the north coast of San Francisco Bay, was turned into a Chinese village for John Wayne's "Blood Alley".

Coming up on the north coast of San Francisco Bay, you will find China Camp, on the shore of San Pablo Bay, now a state park. In 1955, the Chinese American shrimp-fishing village became...

(photo courtesy Friends of China Camp)



The Chinese American shrimp-fishing village on the shore of San Pablo Bay became a Chinese Village in John Wayne's "Blood Alley".

...the Red China town that Wayne must evacuate in Blood Alley.  The art department fabricated the shell of a castle on the hillside above China Camp (seen in this still with Lauren Bacall). Rat Rock, the disctinctive reef, where the villagers lay a trap for the patrol boat, is still visible just off the camp. 






The giant paddlewheel boat used in Blood Alley may have found its final resting place. It makes for a great roadside attraction just a little outside Sacremento, along Garden Highway. Originally named the Putah, it was built in 1942 and put to work by John Wayne's Batjac as the biggest prop in 1955 in the anti-communist movie Blood Alley. The boat's job was a big one: rescue Chinese villagers and get them safely to Hongkong... with a little help from the skipper, John Wayne.  



Imagine John Wayne at the helm. After the river boat did it's duty in Blood Alley, it changed hands several times, sank to the bottom of the river and even burned, then left abandoned on the shores of the Sacremento River. The final faith of the historic vessel is yet to be determined. 


Convict Lake is a beautiful movie location on US-395. It set up "How the West Was Won", when James Stewart arrives in the Indian camp on its shores.

Coming up on US-395, that's Convict Lake on your left. It was the scenic background for the first moments in How the West Was Won, as James Stewart arrives in the Indian camp ...


Convict Lake in the Mammoth Area was a favorite location of director Henry Hathaway, who shot scenes for "How the West Was Won" and "Nevada Smith" on its shores.

...and then paddles off in a canoe from right here. 


toulumne county

"Conflict", John Wayne's only Jack London adaptation, was filmed  Conflict in 1936 in Tuolumne County near Sacramento.

The B-movies in the 30's were usually shot within close range of the Poverty Row Studios. However, his string of Universal pictures had a bigger budget than the other quickies, that's how the lumberjack drama Conflict in 1936 could afford location shooting in Tuolumne County near Sacramento. 

donner lake

In 1953, Donner Lake, six miles from Truckee, became the location for John Wayne's "Island in the Sky".

Donner Lake, the location for Island in the Sky, in production between February 2 to April 1953, was his highest up north in California. The valley, six miles from Truckee in the Sierra Nevadas, served as an airplane runway during the summer. When Wayne’s company acquired the movie rights, they had made tentative plans to shoot on location in Canada. Wayne also considered filming in the San Bernardino Mountains, a place he knew well. Lack of snow that year forced them to move to Northern California.

san bernardino mountains

The Shepherd of the Hills was John Wayne's first film in color and his first in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The Shepherd of the Hills was his first film in the San Bernardino Mountains. During production from September 9 till November 14 1940. Wayne crashed his car one morning coming up in a hurry from Arrowhead where he had spent the night with Marlene Dietrich. 


Henry Hathaway shot "The Shepherd of the Hills", his first film with John Wayne, near Big Bear Lake, at Moon Ridge, Cedar Lake and Bartlett Lake.

The Shepherd of the Hills, also his first Technicolor film, was shot near Big Bear Lake, at Moon Ridge, Cedar Lake and Bartlett Lake

John Wayne used to hunt in the San Bernardino mountains but it took him 20 years to come back to Cedar Lake after "The Shepherd of the Hills": a portion of "North to Alaska" was filmed there.

He made his comeback to San Bernardino 20 years later: In the luberjack scene of North to Alaska, the mill set that was built for Shepherd of the Hills on the Cedar Lake can be spotted in the background. The log structures were standing for decades unteil they were removed.



Almost forgotten now, but the historic site of Sutter's Mill, at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Parc in Coloma, was one of the very last filming locations for John Wayne.

John Wayne was at Sutter’s Mill, in Coloma, California, to do a commercial for Great Western Bank, on October 28, 1977. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park marks the location of the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848. 

sequoia national park

The final clinch in "The Big Trail": John Wayne shot his very first happy end in the Big Tree Cove in Sequioa National Park.

The happy ending of The Big Trail was shot in California's Sequoia National Park, home of giant sequoias. The actual location was south of Kings Canyon. Director Raoul Walsh chose the Big Tree Grove because it seemed to him that nature hat there provided the movie with a cathedral of all ages. 

Over half a century after "The Big Trail", John Wayne returned to Sequoia National Park to do a commercial for Great Western Savings. He picked the locations himself.

At the end of his career, 53 years after The Big Trail, John Wayne returned to the Sequoia National Park. He picked the location for one of the Great Western Savings commercials himself. When he looked up to the largest trees in the world, he said in awe it's "like being in a giant cathedral."