The wild and natural beauty of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho are perfect locations for filming a western movie – the Cascade Mountains, the high desert of the central Oregon, rocky cliffs, raging rivers, gently flowing streams, wide open ranches, the Northwest seems to have it all and perfect for the wide ranging westerns filmed here. From musicals, to comedy, to heavy drama and everything in between.
Paint Your Wagon (1969)
Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin, Jean Seberg,
Filmed in Eagle Creek and Holcomb Valley, Oregon. One identifiable location is the Anthony Lakes Lodge. In the movie, the Starbottle’s Hotel was created. Built of wood from a 19th-century miner’s cabin, the fictional hotel was eventually dismantled, but the “Starbottle Saloon” sign still sits on a wall within the small ski area’s main watering hole. The Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness are the beautiful backdrops.
One of the few musical westerns, the story is set in a fictitious No-Name mining camp in Gold Rush-era California. Two unlikely prospector partners share the same wife and the town is filled with bumbling drunks. It was adapted from a stage play of the same name. Not many westerns have Clint Eastwood singing “I talk to the trees.”
The Way West (1967)
Starring Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Richard Widmark
In 1843, a former U.S. Senator leads a wagon train of settlers to Oregon, but his megalomania leads to growing dissatisfaction with his leadership.
The Northwest Passage (1940)
Starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, Walter Brennan
Two men join Major Rogers’ Rangers as they wipe out an Indian village. They set out for Fort Wentworth, but when they arrive they find no soldiers and none of the supplies they expected. Set during the French-Indian Wars.
Rooster Coburn (1974)
Starring John Wayne and Kathryn Hepburn
The film was shot in Oregon in autumn 1974, in Deschutes County west of Bend for the mountain scenes, on the Deschutes River for the whitewater rapids, and on the Deschutes River in the counties of Josephine and Curry, west of Grants Pass for the river scenes. Smith Rock is also found in the movie. A building at the park entrance, a longtime home to the Smith Rock Climbing Guides, was built for the movie as Kate’s Saloon. John Wayne stayed at the Tall Timber Ranch near the Rogue River while filming there.
This western with bits of humor had Marshal Rooster Cogburn unwillingly team up with Eula Goodnight to track down the killers of her father.
The Hanging Tree (1959)
Starring Gary Cooper, Karl Malden
Principal photography was shot on location in the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, in the mountains west of Yakima, Washington. The opening scene was filmed in Goose Prairie, Washington. The gold mining town was set in Nile, Washington.
This drama is a character study of a doctor who saves a local criminal from a mob who are trying to hang him, but then tries to control the life of the young man, realizing that he can exploit his secret.
The Oregon Passage (1957)
Starring John Ericson, Lola Albright
Filmed on location at Fort Benham in Madras Oregon
An army officer tries to help the Indians placed in his charge, but finds himself interfering with their way of life.
Starring Mel Gibson, James Garner, Jodie Foster
Filming on the Columbia River Gorge
In this humorous western, Bret Maverick, needing money for a poker tournament, faces various comic mishaps and challenges, including a charming woman thief. A big poker match takes place aboard a paddle boat on the Columbia River.
How the West Was Won
Starring James Stewart, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Lee J Cobb, Henry Fonda, Debbie Reynolds, George Peppard
Location filming in Grants Pass, Oregon
This epic saga follows a family as it slowly migrates from the east coast to the west coast over four generations. The story is separated into segments including “the Rivers,” “the Plains,” “the Railroad,” “the Civil War,” and “the Outlaws.” Spanning the full width of the United States, it was thus was filmed in multiple locations including the Rogue River.
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
Starring Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Bill Bixby, Harry Morgan
Filmed in Bend, Oregon
This comedy western story involves three orphaned siblings who are are forced upon confirmed bachelor Donovan (Bill Bixby) in a nineteenth century boom town of Quake City, California. After an earthquake shakes the area, the children find a large gold nugget worth tens of thousands of dollars. But their newfound wealth is causing more problems than it’s solving, so they agree to “give” the gold to two bumbling outlaws (Tim Conway and Don Knotts).
Bend of the River (1952)
Starring James Stewart, Rock Hudson, Julie Adams, Harry Morgan, Frances Bavier
Filmed in the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, and Sandy River
A wagon-train load of homesteaders are led from Missouri to the Oregon territory. They establish a settlement outside of Portland and as winter nears, it becomes necessary to rescue and deliver food and supplies being held in Portland by corrupt officials. On the trip back to the settlement, up river and over a mountain, a mutiny develops to divert the supplies to a gold mining camp for a handsome profit.
The Indian Fighter (1956)
Starring Kirk Douglas and Walter Matthau
Filmed in the Bend area at Fort Benham. This fort was built for the making of the movie. The fort was built under a Special Use Permit from the Deschutes National Forest to the Bend Chamber of Commerce.
A scout leading a wagon train through hostile Indian country unwittingly gets involved with a Sioux chief’s daughter.
Starring James Stewart, Katharine Ross, and Doug McClure
Filmed near Eugene and Marcola in various places around the Willamette-McKenzie-Mohawk delta, roughly centered on Springfield
Described as a “semi-western,” Shenandoah is set during the Civil War. James Stewart is a Virginia farmer who has vowed to remain neutral, but one of the sons is captured by Union soldiers, sending the farmer to his rescue.near Eugene and Marcola. Starring James Stewart, Doug McClure, Glenn Corbett, Katharine Ross. This remarkable Civil War movie was shotin various places around the Willamette-McKenzie-Mohawk delta, roughly centered on Springfield
The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)
Starring Cliff Robertson and Robert Duvall as Jesse James
Filmed in the old gold-rush town of Jacksonville, Oregon. The Jacksonville Inn and Bella Union Restaurant & Saloon are easily recognizable.
The gangs of Jesse James and Cole Younger join forces for a bungled robbery of the bank in Northfield, Minnesota
The Big Trail (1930)
Starring John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill, El Brendel, Tully Marshall, Tyrone Power Sr
A young John Wayne, in his first move and in a part originally offered to Gary Cooper, leads a wagon train of pioneers through Indian attack, storms, deserts, swollen rivers, down cliffs and so on while looking for the murder of a trapper and falling in love along the way. The epic wagon train shots were well done. While filming primarily was in Wyoming, Oregon is credited with being a shooting location, so watch the movie and see if you can spot where…
Starring Sal Mineo, Phllip Carey, John War Eagle
Walt Disney’s move, Tonka was partially filmed on location at Fort Benham in Madras, Oregon and scenes from the indian village were filmed along the Deschutes River.
In Dakota territory in the 1870s, a young Sioux proves his manhood by catching and training a wild colt he names Tonka. Forced to let the horse go, it ends up in the hands of a captain in the US cavalry right around the time Sitting Bull and General Custer will clash at Little Big Horn.
Bronco Billy (1980)
Starring Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Scatman Crothers
Filmed in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Garden City, and Nampa Idaho, and Ontario, Oregon
An idealistic, modern-day cowboy struggles to keep his Wild West show afloat in the face of hard luck and waning interest.