Aug 272014
River of No Return location

If you’ve been following the BIGDoer blog, you have no doubt seen some of our trademark “then and now” posts. For these, we take an old photo, postcard or scene from a film and visit the location seen to document how things look today and then post it all here for you to view. Most of the time we go one step further and duplicate the angle and composition of our now shot so that it matches that of the original. That won’t happen here and instead we’ll just have to settle for getting close.

We hope you won’t mind though.

For this then and now we pull a scene from the 1954 movie, River of No Return, starring Robert Mitchum and the incomparable Marilyn Monroe. We see a raft (barely – bottom right) floating past a series of rocky cliffs and outcroppings while a band of hostile natives attack from above.

Our job is to find that spot. We know roughly where it is and that it’ll take a hike to get there. No problem, neither is a huge challenge for us. Channelling Marilyn, we head out into the wilderness with our goal in mind. At a bend in the river, in the proverbial middle of nowhere we come to the rock ledges seen in the film. They are instantly recognizable and everything looks much as it did back then.

We were unable to duplicate the perspective seen in the movie. I can only guess they used some sort of scaffolding or crane to get their shot. It was filmed from a much loftier position. We had to settle for a different angle, one that’s lower, taken from a narrow and precipitous rock ledge not far away – it was a long drop down to the river! Even if we did not line things up well, we couldn’t, our photo confirms we are at the correct location.

While the movie is supposedly set in the US, this scene was shot along the Bow River in Western Alberta where the prairies and foothills meet. At this point, which is known officially as the east end of Horseshoe Canyon, the river is squeezed between a series of massive rock ledges and angled cliffs. The water boils and the current is powerful and most certainly it’s an incredibly dangerous place. You would not want to fall into the river here.

I understand the actors did their own stunts and Monroe and Mitchum and the boy playing his son were all actually on the raft seen. Wow!

Be sure to comment on this post (below pictures).

If you wish to visit the Marilyn Rapids as we’ll affectionately call them, keep in mind there are no roads leading to the site (they must have used horses in 1954). You can hike in as we did, it’s an 8km round trip, or if you lack the energy and have a few dollars to burn, you can take a helicopter. For a tidy sum, you can be flown to this spot to enjoy a picnic. How do we know that? One of these excursions landed while we shot our pictures.

A river raft tour passed by too. I wonder if they knew they were following in the footsteps (raftsteps?) of Marilyn Monroe?

The Bow River here is a scenic wonder. The waters are a lovely deep blue/green and the surrounding cliffs and bluffs are amazing to see. No doubt this rugged beauty is what impressed the producers of the movie and I can see why they picked this spot.

The River of No Return was one of Marilyn Monroe’s earlier starring features and was released around the time her fame was on the rise.

In addition to the location seen in this report, they also filmed the movie near Banff and in Jasper National Park. The Bow River eventually makes it way into Calgary, where we live.

The movie image is copyright 20th Century Fox.

To see more wonderful photos showing the area, go here…
Horseshoe Canyon

To see some other movie then and now posts, follow these links…
Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge – then and now (filmed not far away).
Superman 1978 cemetery scenes – then and now.
Superman 3 then and now – Smallville.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: August, 2014.
Location: Bow River Valley, AB.

River of No Return raft

A scene from the 1954 film, River of No Return.

River of No Return location

The same rock outcroppings. Sadly, we could not duplicate the movie angle.


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8 Comments on "River of No Return"

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Connie Biggart
Connie Biggart

The colours are so beautiful!

Brain Richards
Brain Richards

I loved that movie! Never knew some filming took place so close to home.

Carol Lee

Remarkable! Thank You for sharing this historic clip and your fabulous adventure! Wonderful read and I definitely don’t mind the change in angle!
Cheers! Carol

e lyons
e lyons

Wow this is so interesting, I am sorry I took so long to run into this blog, so neat that you show then and now. I have a friend I went to art school with, and he does painted backdrops for the movies. He did The Edge, Hell on Wheels (tv series) and a few more I forget!! Pretty cool. And Marilyn Monroe appeared in Banff. She was incredibly appealing!