Where Was Bonanza Filmed
Western Movies
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Where Was Bonanza Filmed? Check It Out

Looking for the right location is very important to the success of every film or television show. Sometimes, one of the things that the viewers remember more is the location where the film or show was taken. In this post, you’ll know where the American Western television series Bonanza was filmed.

Besides the fantastic characters, several other factors made Bonanza a must-watch series. The Western TV series was the talk of the town in the 60s, with millions of people glued to their devices whenever it came on. 

Bonanza‘s first episode was released in September 1959, while the final episode was in January 1973. The program made history by becoming the second longest-running TV series on NBC, with 14 seasons consisting of 431 episodes.

Additionally, Bonanza ranks as the first Western show broadcasted in color. Yet, one thing about the show that some fans were still confused about was its location. 

Now, let’s get to the question. 

Where was Bonanza Filmed?

In the beginning, Bonanza was set in the Ponderosa Ranch, near Lake Tahoe, in Nevada’s gorgeous city, Virginia City.

The first scene of the opening season took place on Lake Hemet in Mountain Center, California. You’ll find the cast riding on horseback beside the famous San Jacinto Mountains. The ranch where the producers shot the show’s best scenes was at Lake Tahoe, in Nevada. On the other hand, Bonanza’s producers filmed some parts of the series on the Ponderosa Ranch near Lake Tahoe. 

That’s not all. The production filmed most of the scenes at the back lots of Paramount Studios in Hollywood. That means the Western streets you see in the movie aren’t real, as the producers created the interior and exterior you see in the program. The producers included some of the location shots taken from the Ponderosa Ranch in Nevada. The reason—to give the series a realistic touch.

Where was Bonanza filmed? There was an actual location and one crafted in Paramount Studios, Hollywood.

Keep reading to learn more about this classic Western TV series. 

Is Bonanza Ponderosa Ranch Real?

In Hollywood, nothing is impossible for producers to create. They can create scenes out of nothing, as seen in Bonanza

Now the question lives, is Bonanza‘s Ponderosa Ranch real? Yes, it is. The ranch is 640,000 acres wide and situated near Lake Tahoe’s shores, where you’ll find a gigantic ranch house planted in the middle of this incredible location. 

That said, not all the locations displayed in the show were real. The Cartwrights rode their horses across TV sets against picturesque mountains and pine trees on the ranch. They were handmade sites; meant to make the audience believe they were filming on the actual property.

It was apparent that the team behind Bonanza‘s production was at the top of their game. They did everything humanly possible to make the scenes shot outside the Ponderosa unique, which went well. 

The production team collected and shipped pines to Hollywood to help make the movie sites as realistic as possible—even planting pines every season to achieve that.

They didn’t shoot the whole show at the Ponderosa. Instead, they used painted backdrops and fake mountains in the Paramount studio to replicate the Ponderosa Ranch. 

In 1970, the team finally took Bonanza‘s production to the Warner Bros Studio for the show’s final few seasons. 

So yes, the Bonanza‘s Ponderosa Ranch is real. However, the entire program didn’t film on the ranch.

Is The Ponderosa Ranch Still Open? 

The Ponderosa Ranch, situated near Lake Tahoe, is an excellent place to be. The atmosphere and everything in it is electrifying—just as it is in the movie itself.

Now, the question is, can people still visit the Ponderosa Ranch today? Unfortunately, it’s not open to the public, though it used to be some years ago. 

The Bonanza‘s Cartwright family’s fictional home has been closed permanently. It happened several years after the final episode of the movie.    

Why was the famous Ponderosa Ranch shut down? Well, the highest bidder, David Duffield, a real estate developer, bought the ranch. He got it for a record of $38 million, making the Ponderosa the most expensive waterfront home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. 

Did Anyone Build A Replica Of The Ponderosa Ranch In Bonanza?

Yes, an actor did. It was the actor Benjamin Cartwright, whose real name is Lorne Greene. Though Ben, as fondly called, is no more, he was worth $10 million before his demise. That means he had the financial muscle to create a replica without going bankrupt. 

Lorne Greene’s admiration for the Ponderosa Ranch, Bonanza’s fictional setting, was unmatched. It was evident that the actor felt very much at home on the ranch and wanted to relive the experience even after the show.     

In 1963, Lorne Greene built a house similar to the Ponderosa Ranch in Mesa, Arizona. He designed the home to look exactly like the Ponderosa Ranch, which was nothing but a work of fiction created at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. 

Upon completion, the new ranch was named Ponderosa II by Lorne Greene, who passed away in 1987.

Bonanza’s Production Company

The characters, sets, storyline, and creative work put into Bonanza were massive. Fans adored the show back then and didn’t want it to stop. 

It’s only logical that we idolize the people behind the Western masterpiece. Bonanza was the first produced and broadcasted Western colored TV series, a massive evolution in show business. 

Who owns Bonanza? NBC was the production company behind the TV program. Other producers were Fred Hamilton, Richard Collins, and Robert Blees. However, Bonanza‘s executive producers are Mark Roberts and David Dortort.

Facts That Indicates Why Bonanza Is A Top Show 

It’s been many decades since Bonanza‘s final episode aired on-screen. Yet, that hasn’t stopped the entertainment industry from acknowledging the great work done in the movie. All the recognitions and awards the film has accumulated are a clear indication of its high rating.

Only the best series get into ratings, such as the “TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.” Impressively, Bonanza got on the list in 2002 and sat at No. 43.

In 2013, Bonanza was again included in “The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time” by TV Guide. In 2011, it got into the OFTA Hall of Fame Television Programs. 

Furthermore, Bonanza had a range of awards in the 1960s. Some of those awards include the TV Week Logie Award in 1964, in Australia for the Most Popular Overseas show. In 1970, the episode “The Wish” won the Bronze Wrangler Award for True Television Drama.

Things You Didn’t Know About Bonanza

Back then, almost everyone enjoyed watching Bonanza, and the TV show’s rating was eye-catching. Yet, there were things about the show many didn’t know. Let’s discuss some of them.

  • Did you know that Bonanza shouldn’t have premiered? Yes, the executives behind the show wanted to cancel it because of the high cost. They only decided to continue with the project because it was the first TV show in color.
  • RCA, Radio Corporation of America, and NBC’s parent company was Bonanza‘s primary sponsor. They sponsored the show’s first two seasons.
  • RCA used the show Bonanza to boost the sales of colored television sets they were manufacturing back then.
  • By 1970, Bonanza had appeared in the top five lists for approximately nine consecutive seasons, making it a strong performer in the entertainment industry.

Conclusion to Where was Bonanza Filmed

By now, you might have understood Bonanza‘s actual location, including what the producers did to make it appear as they filmed at a real ranch all through the show. 

In a nutshell, where or how Bonanza came to life doesn’t matter. What matters most is the output. Despite being super expensive, the executives behind Bonanza would have looked back and concluded that their decision to continue the movie was a wise choice. If the executive had stopped the program before it premiered, they wouldn’t have known its true worth. 


Did you enjoy reading Where Was Bonanza Filmed? If you are looking for other great western books, check out these authors.

1 Comment

  1. Peter Mickus

    I’ve heard from different sources that some episodes of Bonanza were filmed on the infamous Spahn Ranch which was the home base of the Manson Family at the time of the Tate/Labianca murders of 1969!

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