Bonanza - Ponderosa Ranch

USA, Nevada, Lake Tahoe, Incline Village, Sign for 'Ponderosa Ranch'
••• Old Sign for Ponderosa Ranch. Walter Bibikow / Getty Images
  • 01 of 06

    Ponderosa Ranch

    Ponderosa Ranch was the fictional home of the Cartwright family on the NBC television show, which aired from 1959 to 1973. It was built near Lake Tahoe and for a time afterward, it was open to the public.

    On September 27, 2004, Sacramento, California's Channel 10 News reported that the Ponderosa Ranch's gates had closed permanently after the land was sold to Incline Village developer David Duffield. For fans of the television program who wish they could have seen it, the following describes what visitors could see when the ranch was open to the public.

    In 2016, the Ponderosa Ranch, LLC website said they had initiated discussions with governmental agencies to donate an 18.5-acre parcel of the ranch.

    You can't visit Ponderosa Ranch now, but you can click through above for a photo tour of the Ponderosa Ranch from 2001.

    Ponderosa Ranch As a Filming Site

    For fourteen seasons in the 1950s and 60s fans watched the adventures of Pa, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe on the program Bonanza. For...MORE three consecutive seasons from 1965 through 1967, it was America's highest-rated show.

    The fictitious Cartwright family lived on the Ponderosa Ranch near Lake Tahoe and parts of Bonanza were filmed on its shores.

    The famous opening scene of Bonanza was filmed on location at North Lake Tahoe near Incline Village. Lake Tahoe was among the outdoor locations used to film the weekly episodes. The house, both interior and exterior, was located on a Hollywood sound stage.

    Lake Tahoe contractor Bill Anderson worked with the film crews on location, cutting roads and building fake outbuildings. In 1967, he approached the show's producers and NBC with a proposal to build a replica of the house exterior in Hollywood. He would make a copy of the sound stage interior inside, creating a detailed copy of the fictional ranch house. Anderson's Ponderosa Ranch opened in 1967. The recreated Ponderosa became the centerpiece of a western-themed tourist attraction, creating a bonanza of a different type for its owner.

    Visiting the Bonanza Set at the Ponderosa

    Attractions at Ponderosa Ranch included souvenir shops and vintage car exhibits and a Wild West show, but the Holy Grail for Bonanza fans was the recreated ranch house.

    Outside, many visitors found the house smaller than they remembered from watching Bonanza on a small television. Inside were all the familiar Bonanza settings: the stone fireplace, Pa's desk, the dining table and the stairs. However, a short video revealed that those stairs didn't go anywhere (the upstairs rooms for Bonanza were on a separate sound stage). Visitors could see hidden panels for lighting and found that one side wall slid away for long shots inside the living room.

    Perhaps the most interesting thing visitors learned (and the most disturbing to idyllic childhood memories) was that Bonanza was created to sell a commercial product. Hours spent watching Bonanza, dreaming of the Wild West and swooning over Little Joe came about because RCA, NBC's parent company, wanted to sell more color televisions!

    After learning more about Bonanza on the Ponderosa house tour, a walk up to the photo platform gave a good view of the house and town. Other attractions in the town included a small chapel where weddings were held and an optical illusion called Hoss' Mystery Mine where water appeared to run uphill.

    You can find the show's history at IMDB and Wikipedia.

    Find out the best places to stay in Lake Tahoe during your visit to the area. 

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  • 02 of 06

    Ponderosa Ranch House

    This photo tour takes you through a bit of nostalgia if you love that old television show Bonanza. For a time, the small theme park near Lake Tahoe recreated much of the old show's sets and ambiance, but now it's closed. That doesn't keep these photos from being pretty popular.

    C'mon, let's go see the places where you've seen Hoss and Little Joe and Pa, Adam and Hop Sing.

    The Ranch House

    The ranch house wasn't just an exterior. It's a completed house inside, too. At least on the first floor. The upstairs was just a facade. Fans of the show will remember upstairs bedrooms, but those scenes were actually filmed at Burbank Studios in Los Angeles.

    According to the television show's story line, the sprawling ranch house was designed by the family's oldest son, Adam Cartwright.

    Actor Lorne Greene (who played Ben Cartwright), built a home that was a replica of the original. It sits between the first and ninth fairways of the Arizona Golf Resort in Mesa,...MORE Arizona. It is open to groups through the Arizona Golf Resort. See a photo at the Ponderosa II website.

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  • 03 of 06

    Carwright Family Cemetery

    Two sequels revisited the popular television show, made in 1988 and 1993. By then, Pernell Roberts was the only surviving member of the original cast. Lorne Green died shortly before production began. These tombstones were put up for one of the sequels, memorializing Hoss as "Gentle giant" and Little Joe: "Larger than life."

    Michael Landon, Jr. and Dirk Blocker, sons of the original series' stars appeared in the 1993 Bonanza: The Return.

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  • 04 of 06

    Lake Tahoe View

    This view of Lake Tahoe was a common sight in the show, making it appear as if much of it was filmed on the Lake Tahoe site. In fact, most of the filming happened in southern California at the Burbank Studios and later at Warner Bros. However, the later sequels did much of their filming at the theme park.

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  • 05 of 06

    Viriginia City Set

    Taken from the trail that went uphill about the house, this is a view of the replica of Virginia City built at the ranch. Activities there included a visit to Hoss' Mystery Mine panning for gold and a Wild West show.

    The real Virginia City is approximately 60 miles from the ranch site. On the television show, it took about two hours to get there on horseback. 

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  • 06 of 06

    Bonanza - Television's Ponderosa Revives the Old West

    If you love the show, you may remember this map. It burst into flames at the beginning of every show.