After riding for two days in the Kaibab Forest and along the Vermillion Cliffs to White Pocket, we decided to go home via Kanab. We had heard that the Paria Movie Set was nearby and it piqued our interest.
However, our adventure began on the way to the movie set. We drove through Hurricane and into Zion National Park on our way to Kanab.
Before reaching the park, we passed through Springdale. Normally I wouldn’t comment on the route to the trailhead, but I couldn’t pass up mentioning the sign advertising firewood beside the highway in town.
It read, “Organic Firewood for Sale.” Not knowing the difference between organic and regular firewood, I wondered if this creative sales pitch worked. As I remember, the price was $7 a bundle, twice the going rate. I was more curious about the person who would buy “organic firewood.”
The park was closed, but access through the tunnel to the Mount Carmel Junction was open. We enjoyed a spectacular drive in that small section of the park that took us up the side of the mountain and through the tunnel.
Upon reaching Mount Carmel Junction, we turned south to Kanab. Instead of taking Highway 89A, we took Highway 89 east. We were surprised to learn that the movie set is 35 miles east of Kanab instead of being just outside of town.
Undaunted, we made our way to the turnout. It was well marked and easy to find. Unloading my four-place Kawasaki Teryx, we headed out to see what we could find.
We had not traveled far when we came upon a beautiful field of wildflowers. Becky Newton is a florist. She and her husband, Fred, were with us on this ride. She had me stop for a closer look.
She said that she uses these flowers in her arrangements. Being an orange flower with a yellow center, they made for a very colorful field.
Later, we got out the wildflower books. As near as we could tell, it was a globe mallow. The book stated, “Globe mallow, Mohave — a favorite snack of bighorn sheep.”
As we made our way to the Paria River, we could see why movie producers made so many movies here. At the risk of being booed, I would say that the place looked like something right out of a movie. The colorful sandstone cliffs were rich in lavenders, reds, whites, browns and blacks.
Although more Westerns were filmed in this area than anywhere outside of California, we were disappointed not to find a movie set. Apparently, the set suffered from the same problems early settlers faced — the flooding of the Paria River.
According to Wikipedia, a town was settled here in 1865 by the name of Rockhouse. Irrigation problems split the population and half of the town moved upstream and built the town of Pahreah.
The town grew to 47 families and then Pahreah fell on hard times. The river flooded every year between 1883 and 1888, washing out buildings and crops and people began to leave.
In 1892, there were only eight families left, but that was enough to be granted a post office under the name Paria. Within a year, however, even that was washed away in a flood. The last man, a bachelor prospector, held out until 1929 and then the town was empty.
Then it was discovered by movie producers and the people came back, not to live, but to look. A long string of movies were made at this location, but the movie crews were in a constant struggle with the flooding Paria River.
The movie set was often mistaken for the town of Paria. It fell into disrepair after the filming of “The Outlaw Josie Wales” in 1976. Severe flooding damaged the set in 1998 and vandals burned the rebuilt set to the ground in 2006, which is why there was nothing left for us to see.
That did not stop us from enjoying the beautiful canyons where those movies were filmed, and it didn’t stop me from thinking about slapping leather and coming up with a “shootin’ arn” like I did as a boy completely immersed in an episode of “The Lone Ranger.”
It was a short ride that brought back long memories of a place I had only visited vicariously on the big screen. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and revisit a place you have seen before but have never visited.