Contrabando Movie Set, at Big Bend Ranch State Park

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One particular part of Big Bend Ranch State Park might look familiar, even if you’ve never been here before.  Hollywood has come to the northern bank of the Rio Grande several times, using the colorful landscape as the perfect backdrop for a tiny, Wild West town.

The Contrabando Movie Set is what remains, from the production of movies like Streets of Laredo.  At first glance, you’d swear that this is a real ghost town, but once you walk inside any of the buildings, it’s obvious that these were only façades.

Park at the side of FM-170 and wander down the dirt road into the heart of “town”.

All of the buildings in the Contrabando Movie Set were built in 1985, for the filming of the comedy Uphill All The Way.  That was just the first of nine movies made here.  The cantina, with its shaded porch, served as a trading post in Uphill, and was the scene of a shoot-out in the movie.

In addition to Uphill All The Way, the Contrabando Movie Set also appeared in:

Rio Diablo (1993)
Gambler V: Playing For Keeps (1994)
Streets of Laredo (1995)
Dead Man’s Walk (1996)
Journeyman (2000)

It’s also featured in the Brooks & Dunn music video for My Maria, which won Music Video of the Year in 1996.  You can watch it here.

You can walk into any of these buildings, or admire them from the outside. It’s obvious why this location was so appealing to movie producers.  The jagged peaks and red rocks make for a beautiful village, even if it is all fake.

The church is farthest down the hill, and nearest the river.  Thanks to its location, it has flooded before…

… but that hasn’t made it less beautiful.

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