Where was The Outlaw Josey Wales filmed?
Paria, Kanab, Patagonia, Oroville
Ranch, Naturescapes, Studios
Americana/Anywhere America, Ranch-Style
About The Outlaw Josey Wales
Starring in a series of Westerns released between the ‘70s and ‘80s made Clint Eastwood a cultural icon. Even more impressive, he directed and starred in several of these productions including the 1976 Revisionist Western The Outlaw Josey Wales.
The film is an adaptation of Asa Earl Carter1972 publication The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales, which was later republished as Gone to Texas. Philip Kaufman and Sonia Chernus penned the screenplay while Robert Daley produced the film.
Set in the midst of the American Civil War, Eastwood portrays Josey Wales who loses his wife and toddler to cold-blooded murder. A pro-Union unit of the Jayhawkers, known as the Redlegs, is responsible for the senseless act, and it pushes the Missouri farmer to seek revenge.
After grieving and giving his son and wife their final respects, Wales starts practicing how to handle firearms. In retaliation, he bands with a Confederate guerrilla group known as the bushwhackers. Taking part in the group’s attacks against the Union soldiers and their sympathizers, it isn’t long before Wales gains a reputation as a feared gunslinger.
Post War, Captain Fletcher (John Vernon), who is also Josey’s friend, convinces the members of the guerrilla group to surrender. They all do except for Wales, and sadly they are massacred soon after. As he tries to forge a new life, Wales becomes a much-sought-after outlaw pursued by the Union soldiers and bounty hunters.
The film performed exceptionally well at the box office and raked in $31.8million against its $3.7 million production budget. Two decades after its release, the National Film Registry selected the Civil War movie for preservation on the grounds of being aesthetically or historically significant.
The Outlaw Josey Wales Locations
The production process for “The Outlaw Josey Wales” kicked off in late autumn, which also happens to be Eastwood’s favorite time to film Westerns. According to the four-time Oscar winner, the cool weather and ding leaves create the perfect backdrop for filming somber-themed Westerns.
The Outlaw Josey Wales production team descended upon Lake Powell in October 1975 to commence filming. The production process took eight and a half weeks with various scenes filmed in other locations around Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, and Oroville, California.
The production was marred by several challenges, starting with the initial director, Philip Kaufman, getting the boot. A rift developed between Kaufman, who is also known for directing Rising Sun, and the lead mostly to do with the filming approach.
In the end, Eastwood fired Kaufman 10 days into filming, and the Director’s Guild fined Warner Bros when they wouldn’t budge on rehiring him. It resulted in “the Eastwood Rule,” initiated by the Guild to prohibit a producer or actor from firing a director.
There are lots of other tidbits about the film to explore, and here’s a breakdown of some of the best scenes in The Outlaw Josey Wales and details about where they were recorded.
Kyle Eastwood, who was six years old at the time, shared the screen with his old man in the film. He portrayed Josey’s son who is murdered by the Redlegs.
Wales and his son in the mountains scene in The Outlaw Josey Wales
Patagonia Mountains, Arizona
The opening scene introduces us to Wales and his son on their way back home. They cut through a field from the mountains, and Wales, who is a distance behind, watches as his son struggles to lift a stone and remove it from their mule’s path.
A woman’s voice bellows calling out to Josey, “Jooosie.” Wales signals his son to go ahead and find out what his mother wants.
The Patagonia Mountains, located within the Coronado National Forest, are a 15-mile-long range. Visitors enjoy visiting the ghost towns located around the area, including Duquesne and Harshaw which remain in relatively great shape.
Some of the popular trails include the Clear Creek Canyon, Mokaac Mountain, and the Porter Mountain Loop. The Patagonia area is also a renowned birdwatchers' haven, and birdwatchers should also visit the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area.
The Patagonia Lake State Park is located just about eight miles from the town of Patagonia. It is a hotspot for various recreational activities ranging from hiking to camping. From Tucson, you can get to The Outlaw Josey Wales location via Highway 83 and connect through Highway 82 in Sonoita.
Wales buries his wife and son scene in The Outlaw Josey Wales
Empire Ranch, Arizona
One of the most moving scenes from the film is when Wales buries his wife. We see him dragging a sack containing his wife’s deceased body. He stops at a grave site under a tree, and beside the fresh dug-out hole is a much smaller grave, his son’s.
The shell of their burnt-out house is visible in the backdrop. Patting the dirt above the grave, he stammers what foreshadows his subsequent actions. “Ashes to ashes…The Lord gives and the Lord takes away…An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
The Empire Ranch provided a backdrop for some of The Outlaw Josey Wales scenes. Its history is rooted in 1876 and it stands as one of southeastern Arizona’s largest cattle ranches. The grounds operate as a working cattle ranch overseen by the Empire Ranch Foundation.
The owner, Walter L. Vail, is also credited for establishing the cattle industry in the area. When Frank Boice’s family assumed ownership of the property in 1951, the Ranch started hosting Hollywood Western productions.
As of 1988, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers the ranch as public land. Established in 1997, the Empire Ranch Foundation stepped in to preserve the buildings found on the land in collaboration with the BLM. In 1976, the Ranch earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fletcher convinces the bushwhackers to surrender scene in The Outlaw Josey Wales
Old Tucson Studios
After joining the bushwhackers and the War ends, Fletcher convinces members of the guerilla group to surrender to the Union soldiers. He tells the group, “All a feller has to do is ride into that Union Camp down there, raise his right hand and swear as such as he’ll be loyal to the United States.”
They all decide to surrender except for Wales, even after Fletcher tells him that he’ll essentially become an outlaw with nowhere to hide.
Also known as Old Tucson, Arizona, the Old Tucson Studios welcomed members of the public to traverse through the filming locations of The Outlaw Josey Wales. The Studios also provided a setting for other productions including The Three Amigos, Gunsmoke, and Seven Mummies.
Chosen out of several other sites in Pima County, the Studio came about in 1939. Columbia Pictures greenlit the location as the perfect site to construct an 1860s replica of Tucson for the film Arizona. Comprising 50 buildings, it took 40 days for the local carpenters and technicians to build the film town from scratch.
Visitors could explore the sprawling grounds of the old Western town and even make a day out of it by setting up picnics on site. The official website indicates that the park is currently closed and it isn’t clear if it will reopen soon.
Jamie is shot by a bounty hunter scene in The Outlaw Josey Wales
Kanab Canyon Movie Ranch
After surrendering, the bushwhackers soon find out that Fletcher double-crossed them. Wales, who is keeping a watchful eye nearby, reigns terror on the Union’s camp with a Gatling gun. He isn’t able to defeat them all but makes away with Jamie (Sam Bottoms), a young bushwhacker.
While fleeing from the camp, Jamie is shot by one of the two pursuing bounty hunters. He tells Wales, “Josey, I got to tell you something… I’m scared of dying…”
Also known as Angel Canyon, the Kanab Canyon Movie Ranch is located at 5001 Angel Canyon Rd, Utah. Even though the Ranch ceased operations in 1985, semblances of the old movie sets remain at the site. That includes one of The Outlaw Josey Wales film sets.
Most movie sets were removed from the Canyon, and in 1998 a flash flood destroyed some of the remaining buildings. While some were rebuilt, a fire razed them down in 2006.
Billy the Kid, The Lone Ranger, and Red Canyon are some of the other productions that were filmed at the Kanab Canyon Movie Ranch. The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary owns the grounds, and visitors are welcomed to explore the winding canyon road.
It now operates as a working ranch complete with horses, cattle, and other fascinating animals. The grounds also house the largest cookout cave in the world as well as the Crocodile Guest Ranch.
Wales leads Jamie away from the Redlegs scene in The Outlaw Josey Wales
Lake Powell, Arizona
After getting shot, Wales guides Jamie who is riding on a horse away from the Redlegs pursuing them. They get to a stream and the young boy bravely tells Wales that he shouldn’t hold him back. Wales responds, “I am not holding back because of you thick-headed grasshopper...you try running instead of thing and they’ll swing us on a rope by dark.”
Lake Powell and the surrounding area reportedly host two million vacationers annually. The artificial reservoir spans originate from the Colorado River and run along the river’s stretch to Arizona.
The surrounding area has welcomed several production teams through the years including the film crews who worked on Planet of the Apes, Point Break, and The Hulk.
If you are planning a visit of your own to The Outlaw Josey Wales filming location, your itinerary should include water skiing, waterboarding, or fishing. The southern Utah canyons also provide plenty of opportunities to rappel, hike, or set up an overnight camp.
Worth noting is that the access to Lake Powell from different points varies dramatically depending on the water level. It’s always best to consult the National Park Service on the exact conditions of the area when planning your visit.
Wales and Fletcher’s final showdown scene in The Outlaw Josey Wales
Marble Canyon, Arizona
In the end, Wales hoodwinks the Redlegs who think that he was killed in Monterrey. Fletcher, who is with the Rangers at the Santa Rio saloon talking to the locals, recognizes Wales as he walks into the establishment.
He pretends not to recognize Wales and tells the Rangers that he’ll head down to Mexico in search of the outlaw, just in case. The two face off outside the establishment, and Wales delivers the memorable closing line, "I reckon so. I guess we all died a little in that damned war.”
Marble Canyon is found in Coconino County, and it is also one of Arizona’s popular tourist spots. The colorful purple cliffs and rocks found in the area gave the region its name. Alongside Lee’s Ferry, the Marble Canyon marks where the Grand Canyon’s western end begins.
Driving to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim from the Arizona Strip, the scenic highway is where the adventure truly starts. Crossing the Navajo Bridge is among the highlights, and it provides a vantage of the majestic cliffs alongside where the Canyon is carved out by the Colorado River.
Besides The Outlaw Josey Wales production team, Marble Canyon has welcomed several other film crews working on Vacation, Maverick, and The Manhunt.
The rundown of The Outlaw Josey Wales filming locations should provide a reference to some of the places worth visiting. If you haven’t already, also watch the film’s 1986 sequel.
Michael Parks took over the mantle from Eastwood to direct and star in The Return of Josey Wales. He shared the screen with his better half, Laura Lee, who portrays Mary Ann Averett in the film.