Paria Movie Set - Gone, But Not Forgotten
Sign reads: "While the set withstood rain, snow, and the occasional visitor pretending to swagger through the barroom door, the wooden buildings couldn't hold up to vandalism. On August 25, 2006, vandals committed arson, burning down the beloved Paria Movie Set. Dozens of local volunteers labored hundreds of hours, donating time and materials several years ago to build replicas of the buildings once used in several western movies. Today, the future of another replica movie set is uncertain, but travelers can still enjoy the colorful and dramatic views of the surrounding landscape where movies were once filmed.
The colorful, striated cliffs in this section of the Paria River valley have attracted
people for over a hundred years. Today, visitors come to see the remnants of "Old
Pahreah", a 19th century farming community, and the nearby movie set. Four wheel
drive enthusiasts enjoy the wide channel of the Paria and the rugged canyons which
Hollywood has been attracted since the 1940's to this scenic area. The movie set
(right, below) depicting a "western town" was built in 1963 for the film,
"Sergeants Three". The set was last used for Clint Eastwood's
The Outlaw Josey Wales.
Many well known movies and TV shows were shot here and in the general area.
"Greatest Story Ever Told"
was filmed on Lake Powell. Some of the
TV shows were Gunsmoke, Death Valley Days, and Daniel Boone.
The wooden buildings do not depict the true nature of frontier towns in the arid
southwest. Settlers generally did not build with wood, especially finished wood,
because there were few if any trees. Buildings were usually constructed of bricks
which were cut out of the ever present cliffs.
The town of "Pahreah" was established in 1870 by a small number of Mormon pioneers.
They prospered at agriculture until the mid-1880's when flashflooding washed away
much of the arable farmland. A gold mine operation started in 1911 produced little,
and the area was completely abandoned by the 1930's.
The building shown above right and left was probably constructed during the
gold mining era. It is fairly well preserved, and the brickwork has a more modern,
finished look. The remains of the 19th century farm homes generally consist of
scattered bricks and an occasional wall or chimney.
At left, a marker commemorates those resting in the Pahreah cemetary. The majority
of the list consists of children who were born here (after 1870). The deceased adults
had lifespans normal for the era (50's, 60's). This would certainly indicate that
life was anything but easy in this wilderness town.
The ragged remnants of a farmer's root cellar. The underground room preserved
vegetables and meats, and protected the food from animals. During the very cold
winters, meat could be kept for months.
Left, remnants of the gold mining operation. This appears to have been part of a sluice
diverting water from an obvious crevice on the hillside (top left corner in photo)
down a trench heading right.
Pathway to Misadventure
Heading south, the canyon walls close in on the Paria's channel (photo right,
in distance, center) to form a "narrows" section. "Narrows" are almost always
interesting and exciting. It beckoned our host, Tom, to "navigate"
the river in his four wheel drive back to the main highway.
Unfortunately, at 6:30 p.m., the sensible thing to do was return to civilization
on the comfortable dirt road.
After a short section of narrows, the channel opened up, and the winding river
continued for miles without reaching the highway. Two hours of increasingly
treacherous four wheel driving (mud, dropoffs) brought us to an impassable obstacle
at dusk. A local rancher had blocked the channel creating a water tank for
his cattle! We are facing a campout without gear or food.
However this is the night of the full moon! Never-say-die Tom disappears into the
tangle of brush, vines, and trees on the embankment to scout a way around! He soon
returns and now we are all up on the embankment bushwacking with the truck. While Gerry
leads on foot, I am walking adjacent to the truck passing instructions to Tom who is
driving. We actually make it back to the river bed beyond the obstacle!
Soon we find the rancher's private road and are on our way back to the highway.
One last obstacle a few yards short of the main road: the rancher's locked gate.
It turns out the lock and chain are easy to remove if you know how.
And we are quickly on our way again. Just another day in the country...