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Visit Famous Filming Locations

Deb’s Meadow – Natalie Heller

The Ridgway area is a favorite among film buffs, especially Western lovers. The rugged peaks, steep canyons, rustic mine buildings, and historic landmarks make you feel as though you are still in the Old West. Many film sites, buildings, props, and embellishments may still be seen around the area today.

Our iconic mountains and charming small towns have been the backdrop for more than 100 films over the years, including Tribute to a Bad Man (1956), How the West Was Won (1962), Over the Top (1987), and Warren Miller’s Flow State (2012). Ridgway is best known for the original production of the classic Western True Grit starring John Wayne. For that illustrious film, the town was turned into Fort Smith, Arkansas, where Judge Isaac Parker, the famous “hanging judge” held court. Ouray’s historic courthouse, the meadows on Owl Creek Pass, and a homestead on Dallas Divide were also featured.

The biggest Hollywood name to make Ridgway his home was Billy Dennis Weaver. The late, Emmy Award-winning actor was best known for his television roles in Gunsmoke and McCloud and as the lead in Steven Spielberg’s movie, Duel. The Weaver family contributed greatly to the community, building the big barn live entertainment venue (now the Ridgway Christian Center), an energy-efficient Earthship home, and the 80-acre Dennis Weaver Memorial Park.

Historic Experiences Further Afield

  • Discover yesteryear at the Ouray County Museum and Ouray Alchemist Pharmaceutical Museum
  • Venture out to the realistic old west town at the Museum of the Mountain West in Montrose
  • Tour the historic Bachelor Syracuse Mine in Ouray
  • Photograph historic buildings around the Red Mountain Mining District including the Ironton buildings, Yankee Girl mine headframe, and the Idarado homes

Town Park of Ridgway

Spectacular scenery around our charming Colorado town, at the foot of the San Juan Mountains, caught the attention of the director of the film True Grit, starring John Wayne as the one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. In 6 weeks in 1969, the film crew turned 5 blocks of the center of this old railroad town into 1880’s Fort Smith, Arkansas. 

Hanging Judge Parker’s 3 man gallows were erected in the town’s beautiful park, where trees were planted by school children more than a hundred years ago , and the park was the location for the triple hanging scene.

On the western edge of the park, the firehouse, which was the original town hall, got an added cupola and new coat of red paint for the occasion. It now survives as an artist studio. Next door to the firehouse, the film company built a beautiful courthouse but this was just a shell: the interior courtroom scenes were filmed in the Ouray County Courthouse, in Ouray, 10 miles to the south.

Be sure to visit the John Wayne themed True Grit Cafe, also on the West side of the Park. Don’t miss the actor and movie memorabilia and a sign painted for the film, which reads “Chamber’s Staple & Fancy Groceries – Fruits & vegetables”. This was an exterior wall that was preserved when the restaurant was built around it!

A short walk up Clinton Street, past the Sherbino Theater, leads you past the building where Rooster Cogburn lived with the Chinaman and his cat.

On the North side of the park, the post office now sits in place of the movie livery stable. The Paddy Wagon, used by Rooster to bring his prisoners for trial, is displayed in Heritage Park on the southwest corner of Hwy 550 and 62. 

This location is adjacent to the Ridgway railroad museum, which is an excellent source of information on the world-famous narrow-gauge railroad heritage of the San Juans. The Old Rio Grande Southern Railroad depot is now a private residence located on Railroad Street across from the tennis courts. It starred as the Independence Hotel in How the West Was Won.

Other Local Historic Activities

  • Celebrate Ridgway’s movie, ranching and railroad heritage at the Ridgway Old West Fest every autumn

  • Take a self-guided historic walking tour of downtown Ridgway 

  • Investigate the historical grave markers of Ouray County’s most famous residents at Cedar Hill, Dallas Park and Colona Cemeteries

How to Enjoy Ridgway Like a Local

Residents and businesses take great pride in our community and surrounding open spaces. We invite visitors to consider ways to minimize impacts and maximize local benefits. Traveling responsibly means educating yourself on outdoor recreation best practices, local ethics and community expectations.
  • Know Before You Go
    Be prepared and be informed about your destination.
  • Stick to the Trails
    Protect our natural land￾scapes by staying on the trails and roads.
  • Trash the Trash
    If you pack it in, pack it out.
  • Leave It as You Find It
    Camp in designated areas only.
  • Be Careful with Fire
    Follow seasonal restrictions, and keep campfires small and manageable.
  • Keep Wildlife Wild
    Leash your dogs, pack out waste, and don’t feed wildlife.
  • Share Our Parks & Trails
    Try out the lesser-known paths and sites, and minimize noise.

Be Prepared for Adventure

The San Juan Mountains are a rugged, steep mountain range rising to just over 14,000 feet. These beautiful public lands offer adventures year round. If you are interested in exploring the San Juans, be prepared for challenging terrain that sometimes requires technical expertise and knowledge of the area.

Come prepared by doing research online to find maps, rules and helpful guidance from public agencies and user-generated websites. Utilize local expertise when you get into town by stopping in at our local gear stores. We highly recommend working with our local guide services that employ experts who can help you achieve your goals for world-class recreation. You can also take a course in: backcountry skiing, avalanche safety, rock climbing, ice climbing, and other valuable outdoor skills.