How Star Wars Transformed the Northern California Redwoods into Endor for ‘Return of the Jedi’

In the early 1980’s, the third installment of the wildly popular Star Wars franchise was in production, and creator George Lucas was looking to create a forested moon named Endor for his action-packed movie. Lucas found the perfect location just north of where he grew up in Modesto, California, in a beautiful place called the Redwood National Park.

In April of 1982, the Star Wars filming crew descended on the northwest corner of California to create a world in which the Star Wars fans had never experienced for Return of the Jedi. The NorCal redwoods would provide the stage for the home of the Ewoks, an epic speeder bike chase and a battle that would spark the end of the Empire.

The battle scene and much of the Ewok scenes were filmed on the private property owned by a logging company in the town of Smith River, near the Avenue of the Giants. Unfortunately, much of the area you see in the film was eventually clearcut. Here are a couple scenes from that area:

But there is an area that remains full intact since the shooting of the film, and that is located in the Chetham Grove section of Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park, where the speed chaser scene was filmed. If you go visit the area today, you’ll see much of the same trees as in these scenes:

It’s no surprise that Lucas chose to film the forested Endor moon in the beautiful redwood forest of NorCal. When you look at the scenes, the trees look so big that it’s hard to imagine they could grow on planet Earth. But they can, and for anyone lucky enough to visit the Redwood National and State Parks, it’s like traveling to another world. Maybe a Star Wars world?

May the Force be with you, NorCal.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. “The battle scene and much of the Ewok scenes were filmed on the private property owned by a logging company in the town of Smith River, near the Avenue of the Giants. ” Say what?? Not hardly! Smith River is in Del Norte County about 15 miles north of Crescent City and the Avenue of the Giants is in Humboldt County some 100 miles south of Smith River. Might want to consider some fact checking before publishing.

    1. It is a poorly constructed sentence. The logging company was based in Del Norte county, but the property they owned was in Humbolt county.

    2. Fact checking only applies to Republicans and conservatives, anyone else can say whatever they want.
      Sadly true.

    3. George, they got their geography wrong (Smith River is also not “just north” of Modesto), but RotJ was filmed in Smith River, not Humboldt. I grew up in SR and remember it very distinctly when the crew stayed at the Ship Ashore hotel during filming. Anthony Daniels came to our school and gave a little speech.

  2. I worked on the film it was north of crescent city and I have pictures of the bunker under construction

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