Above, a cow on the Baca Ranch looks for something to eat, content to find it in a shady spot. Below, the Rio Grande’s proximity to the Baca Ranch can be used for other scenes. The Baca Ranch serves as a backdrop for some scenes in ABC-TV’s “Big Sky,” which is “set” in Montana.
(Courtesy photo)

What was originally purchased as free-roaming ranch land in the 1600s has become one of the most active filming sites in Sandoval County.

The Baca Ranch, on NM 313 in Algodones, has been host to several movies and TV shows, which include “Breaking Bad” and “Terminator Salvation,” and now is being used to film the ABC-TV series “Big Sky”— and it could be the location for yet another blockbuster in the near future.

“We’ve been invited to watch some of the productions as they took place,” said Baca Ranch co-owner Alfred Baca. “The production companies invited us to have lunch with the crew when they have a lunch wagon come through. But for the most part, we don’t get involved with the filming.”

However, he said there have been several times when he has turned on the TV and recognized the location in the film as his family’s ranch.

For example, Alfred Baca said he noticed a mesa on his ranch in the 2008 movie “Appaloosa,” starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zellweger, as the two main characters rode their horses.

“I knew the landscape looked familiar, and sure enough, this scene was shot in the (northeast) corner of our ranch,” he said.

Mary Catherine “Katy” Baca, Alfred Baca’s daughter, said she and her dad have also heard some big explosions they assumed were for special effects during a movie production.

“We hear all kinds of things crash and explode from afar,” she said. “We just assume it has something to do with that production at that time.”

The Baca Ranch consists of 250 acres of land, primarily used for cattle grazing.

Alfred Baca said the ranch used to consist of more than 500 acres that ran on both sides of the Rio Grande.

“Our family ended up selling some of the ranch land to the Santa Ana Pueblo, and now we own up to the center of the riverbed,” he said. “But at one time, we owned both sides of the river and then some.”

According to Alfred Baca, the Baca Ranch was a trust that ran for thousands of acres but was parceled out for trails, rails and roads.

“This 250 acres is the last portion of the land that we own privately,” he said. “This land has gone out of the family and came back in.”

Katy Baca said her family allows about three or four film productions to use the ranch each year.

“We are not promoting the ranch at all right now,” she said. “Most of the production companies that come through to shoot here find us by word of mouth.”

Pricing for using the ranch starts at $500 a day, depending on what the production company requires for shooting, she said.

“Most of the companies that have come in here will pay more and make sure everything is put back to normal when it’s done,” Alfred Baca said.

Besides filming and free-roam grazing for cattle, the Baca Ranch also hosts Quiet Waters Paddling Adventures.

“Quiet Waters is a rafting company located in Bernalillo…that rent kayaks to people who drop into the Rio Grande from various spots and they launch from our ranch,” Katy Baca said. “We also get river rafters from Taos to launch from here.”

The rafting and kayak tours run toward the outlet where the Bosque Brewery on US 550 is, with some rafters going all the way to Alameda, she said.

“It is my understanding that our ranch is the only private property where these tours can launch from,” Alfred Baca said.

Whatever people may be doing at the Baca Ranch, Alfred and Katy Baca are proud to see the land go to good use.

“I think this is a really beautiful place and love that we get to share it,” Katy Baca said. “I think it’s cool that the land gets to be preserved and shared for people to enjoy.”