Not a day goes by without a visitor asking us how to find the Bonanza.
This beloved TV series, that ran between 1959-1973, was such a national and international hit and so loved by all generations that many come to our city to see where Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe might have hung out.
As most may know, there was a Bonanza theme park in Incline Village opening in 1967, closing in 2004. When the original owners sold the land to a California billionaire who closed the property upon the execution of the Deed of Sale, the world lost a beloved landmark, even though only 15 episodes were shot at the site.
The exterior opening shots were, indeed, shot in our region, but the inside shots were all executed on the back lot of Paramount Studios. And, if there was a need for the cast to ride in the outdoors, those shots were filmed at Big Bear Lake, Red Rock Canyon, Mojave or eastern Kern Country, Calif. The Incline Village attraction did feature a replica of the house for visitors to enjoy.
The series made the ride between the Ponderosa Ranch and Virginia City seem as though it were just a hop and a jump. The fictional ranch was said to be almost 1,000 square miles. There was a bridge at the time that connected Washoe Lake to Virginia City, so the route was a bit shorter than the one we know today and the journey took approximately two hours via horseback. If one were to travel via auto today, the journey between Incline Village and Virginia City takes approximately just a little over one hour. Those were some fast horses! Perhaps some of today’s sturdy wild horses found in the Comstock were “descendants” of the hardy horses ridden by the Cartwrights.
The series changed Virginia City creating the tourism mecca it is today, though the Cartwrights would not have recognized much of C Street, now full of T-shirt and souvenir vendors.
Bonanza is still watched faithfully throughout the world and lives in the hearts and minds of many who loved the characters and the stories of the early years on the Comstock. It is amazing Carson City is still benefitting touristically from a show that went off the air 44 years ago!