Ponderosa gates close
September 27, 2004
INCLINE VILLAGE – The Ponderosa Ranch has become a part of history, as the gates of the fabled tourist attraction closed for the last time on Sunday.
“It was weird. At the end of the day, people were hanging around – they wanted to be the last ones out the gate,” said Royce Anderson, one of the owners of the ranch.
Anderson said the final customers literally had to be shooed out of the ranch so the gate could be closed for the final time.
The Ponderosa set a record for attendance each of its last two days in operation, with 2,146 visitors on Saturday and 2,350 on Sunday.
The ranch was sold to Incline Village businessman David Duffield in June for an estimated $55 million.
He has not announced his plans for the 550-acre property.
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The ranch’s history parallels that of the present day village, which began its development in the mid-1960s.
Bill Anderson, a heavy-equipment construction operator from the Bay Area, became part of a group of visionaries and with his help and the leasing of his equipment, many of the roads in the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area were constructed.
When Anderson was able to obtain the land that became the Ponderosa, he opened Incline Stables.
“I knew tourists from Reno and Sparks, as well as daytrippers, would pay to go horseback riding in Tahoe, so I bought a dozen horses and opened for business,” Anderson wrote in his book “Bill’s Big Bonanza.”
Anderson also noticed that the production company from Paramount Studios and NBC were spending time in the area, filming exterior and “stock footage” for the television show “Bonanza.”
“Bill told the company that he could board their horses for them,” his wife, Joyce Anderson, said. “After a while, we noticed that people were coming up to watch the filming, so we started charging 50 cents apiece. The next year, we raised the price to 75 cents.”
Bill Anderson decided to build a replica of the Cartwright house. As the TV show took off, so did his theme park. Millions have visited since its opening in 1967.
After years of struggle and success, the Anderson children, who were given the ranch a decade ago, decided that it’s time to move on. Despite pleadings from around the world, that’s just what they’re going to do.
“It was really great,” Royce Anderson said of the last day, even though the ranch ran out of everything, including beer.