Rooster Cogburn Locations
The critics generally agreed that while the movie’s co-stars weren’t given great dialogue to work with, their stellar acting talents still shone through in every scene they shared. Of course, Rooster Cogburn also featured a third star: the beautiful terrain the protagonists travel through to track down the outlaws.
If you want to visit the filming location of Rooster Cogburn, you’ll need to head for the state of Oregon. The cast and crew were based in the city of Bend, found about 125 miles east of Eugene, with mountain scenes filmed to the west of the city in Deschutes County.
The Deschutes River also features in scenes where Cogburn, Eula, and Wolf must navigate some treacherous whitewater rapids, with other river scenes shot on the Rogue River west of the city of Grants Pass.
And while some of the best scenes in Rooster Cogburn were filmed in the studio on a sound stage, the production crew also built a set to use as Kate’s Saloon at the entrance to Smith Rock State Park. Even better, this building is still standing to this day.
So if you want to check out some memorable Rooster Cogburn locations, we’ve gathered together the settings of some of the film’s best scenes below (spoiler alert!). Keep reading to check them out.
John Wayne won his first and only Oscar for his role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, the prequel to the film featured here.
Hawk scopes out the bank in Goldstrike City scene in Rooster Cogburn
Smith Rock State Park
Hawk and his gang have one plan in mind: use the nitroglycerin they’ve stolen to rob a bank in Goldstrike City. But when the wagon carrying the nitro suffers a broken axle, Hawk refuses to be delayed. The man has a surefire case of gold fever, and he’s not going to let anything stand between him and the riches that lie in wait.
Leaving most of his gang behind to fix the axle, Hawk and Breed ride ahead to the town, stealing furtive glances at the Federal Depository as they pass. They then head to Kate’s Saloon on horseback, and Hawk then climbs out of the saddle and instructs Breed to wait outside while he heads inside for a drink. “I could use a drink myself,” Breed says, but Hawk quickly shuts him down. “I only drink with friends,” he replies.
The building that featured as Kate’s Saloon in Rooster Cogburn was built as a film set by the production crew and is still standing today. You can find it near the entrance to Smith Rock State Park in Oregon, 25 miles north of Bend, with the park well known as a popular rock climbing location.
Rooster takes the river scene in Rooster Cogburn
Having spent much of the movie in pursuit of Hawk and his gang on horseback, Rooster realizes it’s time to try a different tactic. As the trio arrive at the river, they’re greeted by a cantankerous old ferryman. “You folks runnin’ from something or to something?” he chuckles. “Both,” Rooster replies gruffly.
Rooster asks the man to give sanctuary to Eula and Wolf, but the man refuses, saying he doesn’t want to be saddled with Cogburn’s discards. Realizing he has no choice but to take his companions with him and let them ashore before any gunfights occur, Rooster clarifies with the ferryman that they won’t just be using the raft to cross the river. “We’re gonna go downriver. We’re loaning the raft off you,” he says.
The old man warns them of rough water downriver, and the trio of travelers will soon find out exactly what he means. As they load the raft and set off the river looks calm, but that’s about to change very quickly.
River scenes from Rooster Cogburn were filmed on the Rogue River, to the west of Grants Pass in southern Oregon. This Rooster Cogburn filming location is found over 200 miles from Bend, however, so you’re looking at a bit of a drive if you want to check it out in person.
Whitewater rapids scene in Rooster Cogburn
Rooster, Eula, and Wolf have already survived many close scrapes, but the worst is yet to come. Following violent shootouts and Rooster’s former scout Breed (Anthony Zerbe) double-crossing Hawk’s gang, the trio are forced to fend off Hawk’s gang with a Gatling gun.
But just when it looks like the danger has passed and they continue downriver, they soon spot imposing whitewater rapids ahead. Despite the thunderous stretch of river that awaits them, the trio have no choice but to keep going with the flow. “Alright, brace yourself,” Rooster says.
“God help us,” says Eula. “If He does, I’ll give up drinkin’,” Rooster mutters. They plunge into the rapids, and while they somehow manage to make it through relatively unscathed, the Gatling gun is lost.
These Rooster Cogburn action scenes were shot on the Deschutes River at Benham Falls. With its class 5 rapids, it’s a popular spot for whitewater enthusiasts hunting a white-knuckle adventure ride.
Seeing John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn on-screen together should be enough to ensure that every film buff has a soft spot for Rooster Cogburn. But if that’s not enough, the gorgeous Oregon scenery should be enough to have you reaching for the popcorn and settling in for some entertaining viewing.
The good news is that it’s easy to check out some of the best Rooster Cogburn locations for yourself, with plenty of the film’s best sites easily accessible throughout Oregon. So why not start planning your dream Rooster Cogburn road trip today?