Indian Dunes was home to the Dukes of Hazzard's greatest jump, and The Twilight Zone's greatest tragedy
This Southern California ranch was the site of record-breaking stunts and helicopter disasters.
If you owned a car junking business in California's Santa Clarita Valley circa 1980, you were a big fan of The Dukes of Hazzard. Sure, for starters, it was loaded with thrilling car chases and stunts. But the CBS action series also chewed through 1969 Dodge Chargers like Hubba Bubba chewing gum.
The General Lee might have had the number "01" painted on its side, but Warner Bros. studios used upwards of 300 bright orange Chargers during the production of the seven seasons. There were 147 episodes in total, so it's pretty easy to do the math. Basically, each episode sacrificed two General Lees in the name of insane jumps — and rough landings. After a big stunt, the cars were totaled. Some parts and panels could be recycled, but many vehicles were trashed. An estimated 75 to 220 Chargers used on the show ended up crumbled and crushed into cubes in some junkyard.
The show pulled off its craziest, and most dangerous, jump in the season one finale, "Double Sting." Bo and Duke Luke, with a passenger in the back seat, shoot off a dirt ramp, soaring over the "Styx River" some 230 feet, and landing in the soft(ish) silt across the water. That's the car in midair in the image above. Yeeeeeeeee-haw!
At the time, the jump was record-setting for the industry. The Dukes of Hazzard milked the stunt for all it was worth, including it in the opening credits in the subsequent seasons and recycling the footage here and there. It's no wonder the General Lee — yes, the car — received more than 35,000 fan letter a month.
The stunt was not filmed in the Georgia backwoods, rather just up the road from Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, California, on the banks of the Santa Clara River. The property belonged to Indian Dunes, a 600-acre ranch.
Hollywood tends to grow fond of particular picturesque locations close to the studios. Malibu Creek State Park served as the setting for M*A*S*H and countless Westerns. The RKO Forty Acres lot, home to the fictional town of Mayberry, served as a backdrop in everything from Star Trek to Hogan's Heroes. Likewise, the Indian Dunes location served as a setting for dozens of 1980s action shows. MacGyver used the site to stand in for "Afghanistan," "Colorado" and "Burma." It was a Brazilian rain forest in The Wizard. The Fall Guy used locations there for "almost every other show."
Unfortunately, Indian Dunes was also the site of one of Hollywood's most infamous tragedies. Warner Bros. adapted The Twilight Zone to the big screen in the early 1980s, with esteemed directors like Steven Spielberg and George Miller remaking some of the most famous episodes.
A stunt helicopter crashed at Indian Dunes, killed an actor and two child actors. Vic Morrow, the erstwhile star of Combat! and father of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, perished in the disaster. John Landis, the director of that sequence, was charged with involuntary manslaughter. After a nine month trial, a jury acquitted Landis in 1987. The director settled with the families of the deceased out of court.
As action-adventure television fell out of fashion, so too did the Indian Dunes ranch. "If you're doing a Hill Street Blues, you're not going to go to Indian Dunes, you'll go to downtown L.A.," the location manager told The Los Angeles Times in 1987.