Copyright 2004 Ronda Moll

Lake Tahoe Lodging


It was a time when families would gather around the television set every Sunday evening to watch the exciting lives of Hoss, Little Joe, Adam and Ben Cartwright on their 600,000 acre ranch known as the Ponderosa in post civil-war Virginia City, Nevada.

With a theme song that anyone could hum, the hit NBC western series Bonanza enjoyed a successful fourteen-year run from 1959 to 1973, and was second only to Gunsmoke as the longest running and most successful western on the air.  As the first western in television history to be broadcast in color, it was eventually dubbed into twelve languages for international broadcast and reruns for generations to follow.

The show and its cast sadly may be gone, but the world of Bonanza still remains nestled in the tall Ponderosa trees of Incline Village, Nevada.  But as all good things must end, the world-famous Ponderosa Ranch will also fade into the sunset, when it is sold to private ownership next month.

The Ponderosa Ranch is a trip back in nostalgia for older folks and is a good history lesson for the younger generation, said David Geddes, who is part owner/operator of the family business.

The real story of the Ponderosa Ranch began in 1964 when Bill & Joyce Anderson purchased 548 acres of pristine property in Incline Village and opened the Incline Stables.  Soon thereafter NBC approached the Andersons to let the land be used as the setting for the already popular western television series, based on the life of widowed Ben Cartwright and his three sons.

The Andersons not only had the right location, they had the horses, buggies and other Western accessories needed to authenticate the theme of the program.  When the cast came to shoot on location, the Andersons started taking pictures of The Cartwrights and sold them as postcards.  NBC politely told them that they could not capitalize on already one of the most popular TV series ever produced, without a merchandizing agreement, which Bill Anderson promptly sought.

It always bothered me that tourists here at the lake were forever hunting around for a place where the Ponderosa Ranch might have been, and they couldn't find it, Bill Anderson said.  They wanted to see, in person, the beautiful sprawling ranch they saw weekly on their television screens.  It had to be somewhere nearby, because they had seen its location on the famous 'burning map' each Sunday evening.

Thus began the establishment of the Ranch at the lake and Anderson's alliance with the National Broadcasting Company and then the stars of production, Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon.  The three stars became partners with Anderson and The Ponderosa Ranch opened its doors to the public in 1967.  After 40 years of gunfights, haywagon breakfasts and tours of the famous ranchhouse, The Andersons and their family members, Royce Anderson, and David & Jillaine Geddes who now operate the ranch, are hanging up their spurs.

It's always been a family business and we have had a lot of fun running it and keeping the legacy alive, Geddes said.  As the second generation of owners we are always looking for the highest and best use of the land.  When the value of the land far exceeds the business, it's time to let go.

With more than 250,000 guests that visit The Ponderosa each year, the business has enjoyed a successful run and has kept locals and tourist alike returning each season.  The revenues have not been strong enough however to compete with the estimated price tag of $50,000,000 for the land.

In the meantime it is still bittersweet for a family that has brought back the memories visitors hold dear of a time and place that America can now only reflect on.  Like the television show it was the backdrop to, The Ponderosa Ranch will remain in the hearts of generations and cultures worldwide, who came to find the burning spot on the map where their heroes will always live on.

The last chance to come and revisit a part of American television history will be on September 27.  Lake Tahoe Lodging is offering special packages for this last-chance opportunity.  Please call 800-654-5253 or visit for more information.


Travel writer, Ronda Moll has experience as a business editor, staff reporter and licensed Realtor in the Lake Tahoe Area.  If you're planning your next vacation or want to learn more about things to do and places to go in Lake Tahoe, please visit  to get vacation planning and vacation rental information and tips.


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