Western RoundUp: Corriganville

Western RoundUp: Corriganville

Some of the best-known Western movie locations are beyond Southern California… places like Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills, further north in California, or Monument Valley, where John Ford shot Westerns on the Arizona-Utah border.

However, hundreds of Westerns, typically those with lower budgets, were filmed at Southern California “movie ranches.”  Some of these ranches were owned by the studios, serving as an additional “backlot,” while other ranches, such as Iverson or Jauregui, were independently owned entities that made money allowing studios to film on a film-by-film basis.

Corriganville Ranch in Simi Valley, California

One of the best-known Southern California movie ranches was Corriganville in Simi Valley.  The ranch was owned by actor Ray “Crash” Corrigan, who purchased the land in 1937.  

Corrigan was known for playing Tucson Smith in Republic’s Three Mesquiteers Western movie series alongside John Wayne and others; later he appeared in Monogram’s Range Busters films, where his character went by his offscreen nickname, Crash Corrigan.

Ray "Crash" Corrigan Headshot
Ray “Crash” Corrigan

Corriganville was not only a busy movie ranch, it was also a theme park from the years 1949 to 1965, when Corrigan sold the property to Bob Hope.  It was something of a forerunner to Universal Studios in Universal City, which opened to the public in 1964, just as Corriganville was close to winding down operations.  It also had some similarities to the Knott’s Berry Farm Ghost Town in Buena Park.

During its years as a Western movie attraction, visitors could tour the fort built for John Ford’s Fort Apache (1948), explore Western town sets, watch stuntman shows, enjoy live music, and more.

Corriganville Movie Ranch Attraction Map
Corriganville Movie Ranch Attraction Map

Major brush fires swept through the property in the ’70s, destroying the buildings; all that remains of Corriganville today are concrete slabs, stonework, and a lake used for filming water scenes.  The property was bought by the City of Simi Valley in 1988 and is now a regional park open to the public, with multiple hiking trails and picnic areas.

Corriganville Movie Ranch Park Entrance Sign
Corriganville Movie Ranch Park Entrance Sign

I recently visited Corriganville for the first time and found it quite interesting.  As I share some photos from my visit I’ll also discuss a few of the movies filmed when Corriganville was in its heyday.

Set for Fort Apache (1948) Corriganville Ranch
Set for Fort Apache (1948)

Above is a photo of the Fort Apache set, which was later reused in Ambush (1950) and many other films and TV series.  If you look at my photo below, the rocks in the background exactly line up with those seen behind the fort set.  It was quite exciting to know that I was standing where John Wayne, Henry Fonda, George O’Brien, and Ward Bond once walked.

Corriganville Ranch Film location for Fort Apache (1948)
Film location for Fort Apache (1948)

Here’s more scenery from the general area where Fort Apache filmed:

Corriganville Ranch Another location for the filming of Fort Apache (1948)
Another location for the filming of Fort Apache (1948)

One of the most interesting things at Corriganville is the remains of a small “lake” where movies including Columbia Pictures’ Jungle Jim series were once filmed.  

Corriganville Ranch Pool used for the Jungle Jim series
Pool used for the Jungle Jim series sometimes called “Robin Hood Lake,” “Sherwood Lake,” or “Jungle Jim Lake”

The lake is sometimes known as “Robin Hood Lake,” “Sherwood Lake,” or “Jungle Jim Lake.”  A room with thick windows allowed for underwater photography; the building remains but the glass from the windows is gone.

Corriganville Ranch Pool with camera windows
Camera windows used for underwater filming

A door could be slid down into place to dam the lake and raise the water level as needed:

Corriganville Ranch "Sherwood Lake" dam used to hold water levels
“Sherwood Lake” dam used to hold water levels

Another look from a different angle.  Some sources indicate that scenes for The African Queen (1951) and Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) were among the films which shot here; if that information is accurate, my best guess is that they were brief insert shots needed to supplement the extensive location filming which took place out of state.

Corriganville Ranch "lake" used for films such as The African Queen (1951) and Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
Corriganville Ranch “lake” used for films such as The African Queen (1951) and Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

This view looks across the lake to “Stunt Rock,” from which Jungle Jim (Johnny Weissmuller) would dive into the water:

Corriganville Ranch Robin Hood Lake sign
Robin Hood Lake sign

At the end of the lake was the Susana Pass Bridge, seen in The Three Musketeers (1948), The Swordsman (1948), and the Roy Rogers Westerns Susanna Pass (1949) and Twilight in the Sierras (1950).

Corriganville Ranch "Susanna Pass Bridge" sign
“Susana Pass Bridge”

Trail Blazer Cave was a man-made cave located here; it’s named for its appearance in Arizona Whirlwind (1944), part of the Trail Blazers movie series which starred Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, and Bob Steele.  The cave also appeared in Corrigan’s own The Range Busters (1940) and later in Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966) with John Carradine.  The Fugitive TV series starring David Janssen also filmed here.

Corriganville Ranch Trail Blazer Cave sign
Trail Blazer Cave

Today visitors can still see concrete slabs where Western town buildings once stood.  In the distance is stonework from a one-time horse barn.

Corriganville Ranch location where buildings and stables once stood before a fire in the '70s
A location where buildings and stables once stood before a fire in the ’70s

A closer look at the old barn site. Snowfire (1958) with Don Megowan was one of the Westerns filmed here.

Corriganville Ranch stables used in films like Snowfire (1958)
What’s left of stables used in films like Snowfire (1958)

Another area where what’s left of set construction has been overgrown in the decades since the last fire:

Corriganville Ranch Overgrown remains of what's left of the ranch locations after the fire
Overgrown remains of what’s left of the ranch locations after the fire

Western TV series filmed at Corriganville in its heyday included The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Sky King, and The Lone Ranger.

Today Corriganville is a Ventura County Historical Landmark which is open to the public free of charge, and visitors can walk the trails where cowboy heroes once rode.

Corriganville Ranch Park Map

For those considering a visit to Corriganville Park, it is open from dawn to dusk.  There is free parking, with portable bathroom facilities provided next to the parking lot.  Picnic tables are provided in multiple areas.  Leashed dogs are allowed.  I spent just under three hours walking multiple trails and pausing to take pictures; most of the ground is fairly flat but the Fort Apache area is hilly.

— Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub

Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns.  She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals.  Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.

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11 Responses to Western RoundUp: Corriganville

  1. Scott J Lovrine says:

    There is an inexpensive DVD from Alpha called Corriganville. It’s less than a half hour, unrestored and looks like a home movie, but it’s still interesting.

  2. Walter says:

    Laura, thank you for taking us along to Corriganville with you on you’re travel log. These sites bring back a lot of fond memories of movies and TV shows that I viewed as a youngster, and later on. Fact is, I still enjoy viewing them today. I’m so glad that the area is a park, and not a development of some kind.

    Look forward to your next write-up.

  3. Laura Grieve says:

    Scott, thank you for sharing that DVD information. I found a listing for it and have bookmarked it for future consideration.

    Walter, thank you for coming along to Corriganville via my column! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and that it sparked good memories. It really is nice that the area remains undeveloped, especially as a portion of another significant movie ranch I’ve visited, Iverson, has been lost to housing.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

  4. Oh, this was such fun to read through! Maybe I missed it, but… why was it called Robin Hood Lake?

  5. Laura Grieve says:

    Hi Rachel!

    Good question. There was apparently a ROBIN HOOD TV series which filmed there, but I have thus far been unable to track down what it was. As far as I could tell from my research, a Richard Greene ROBIN HOOD series in the ’50s was only filmed in England, and I couldn’t find an additional show which fit. If anyone can fill in this part of Corriganville’s history I’d be most appreciative!

    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

  6. Jerry Entract says:

    Late to the party again! Really interesting pictures, comparisons and general information here, Laura, about a movie property that played such a big part for many years. My good buddy, John Brooker, is always a good source of tidbits for me as he made two extensive trips to California probably in the late 1960s or thereabouts. I know he visited the movie ranches which would have still existed in the form we are familiar with. John also met many of his heroes – Charles Starrett, Bob Steele and many more!

  7. Walter says:

    Laura and Rachel, part of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD(filmed 1937-38, released 1938) was filmed there. Here are some listings of the locations used in the filming of the movie. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0029843/locations?ref_=tt_dt_loc

    Laura, did you get to see the “Gene Autry Tree”?

    Keep up the posting, because I’m really enjoying it.

    • TSG says:

      Hello ~ If U like this sort of film or TV production location’s archaeology, I would like to recommend U contact online the local Simi Parks and recreation dept ONLINE. They had special escorted walking tours with two western costumed very knowledgeable film & tv guides which for a small charge in order to set guided appointment times to the public. It’s well worth it and fun. Hear the many stories about your favorite film and TV shows.

      • Laura says:

        Thank you, TSG. When we were planning our trip we were told that tours had been discontinued due to COVID, but my husband just recently spoke with someone who said they have restarted. We will definitely consider going back and taking a guided tour in the future.

        Best wishes,
        Laura

    • Thank you, Walter! My kids and I love that movie, so that’s a really fun bit of trivia for me 🙂

  8. Laura Grieve says:

    You’re never late, Jerry! Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m delighted to know you enjoyed the post. (Wish I could meet John some day, he sounds fascinating!)

    Walter, thank you for very much for that info. I’m going to have to search for Corriganville onscreen next time I watch ROBIN HOOD. No Gene Autry Tree that I recall! I appreciate the kind words, thank you for reading!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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