Saturday, October 3, 2009

Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley - Part 4: Vasquez Rocks

My first post in this series briefly talked about Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce and listed a short filmography. The more I research this area, the more I realize that the filmography I gave you was probably the most incomplete list ever compiled. It was like giving you a list of the number of films about Los Angeles and the only movies on it were "Chinatown" and "L.A. Confidential." (Great movies both by the way, but you already knew that.)
Besides the list in that previous post, other films and numerous television shows have been shot there. Besides the numerous Westerns filmed there during the 1930s, later, television shows such as "Bonanza," "Big Valley," "High Chaparral," "The Lone Ranger," and "Gunsmoke" (they must have been commuting between the rocks and Melody Ranch.) used the area.

The topography of the land and the other-worldly shape of the rocks make them an ideal place to shoot space and science-fiction shows. Other non-Western shows filmed there included "Star Trek" and "Battle Star Galactica."

Indeed, as soon as I show you a photo of the place, you're going to say, "Oh, that place."

"Blazing Saddles" used the area extensively, and even the fake Rock Ridge was constructed in the valley.
The rocks are named after Tiburco Vasquez, a bandit that roamed California for 23 years and was rumored to have used a cave near the rocks as a hiding place. Vasquez was finally captured and hung in 1875.

In 1909 Henry Kreig moved to the area and decided to homestead Vasquez Rocks. Because homesteaders were required to plant five acres for three years to keep their homesteads valid, Kreig's neighbors thought he was a bit crazy for homesteading such a rocky, inhospitable area. "What are you going to grow there, Henry? Rocks?" He was enterprising enough to build a small dam that doubled as a swimming hole and then drilled through solid rock in one mountain and intercepted several water sources. He then planted apple and pear trees. He also rented out cabins to travelers.

During the depression, Kreig managed to bring in income by bootlegging, leasing the property to movie studios for shoots, renting out cabins, and even some occasional gold mining.

Vasquez Rocks is now known as the Vasquez Rocks Nature Park and is part of the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation District. You can get more information on visiting the park here. The park is located at 10700 W. Escondido Canyon Road in Agua Dulce and is off the 14 Freeway.

One of the early cowboy stars that was in films shot at Vasquez Rocks was Ken Maynard. He is the subject of our next post.


Evan Lewis said...

"That place" looks like where Captain Kirk fought the Gorn.

sage said...

Those rocks look familar! I like the name and the subject of your blog... Having lived in the intermountain West for many years (Utah and Nevada), I've been around a lot of old movie sites. One of my interests is the social history of mining camps.

Charles Gramlich said...

I have definitely seen that rock. I remember the scenery from Blazing saddles too.

Lana Gramlich said...

I see epic Star Trek battles in my mind's eye. *L*