Is ‘Yellowstone’ Based on a True Story?


  • Yellowstone comes from the mind of former Sons of Anarchy star Taylor Sheridan.
  • The show is fiction, but it has some real-life counterparts.
  • The new Yellowstone spinoff 6666 is based on a very real ranch.
Yellowstone Kevin Costner as John Dutton in an image from season 3
Kevin Costner on ‘Yellowstone’ | Paramount

Yellowstone ended season 4 on the Paramount Network as the most-watched drama on cable television. Taylor Sheridan’s neo-western pulled in an average of seven million same-day viewers per episode. If you add in a week’s worth of delayed viewing, that number goes up to 11 million. Which is way more than most network dramas.

It’s very clear that fans can’t get enough of John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and the Yellowstone Ranch. As more and more continue to discover the series, they want to know — is it all just fiction? Or, is Yellowstone based on a true story?

‘Yellowstone’ comes from the mind of Taylor Sheridan

Yellowstone tells the fictional story of sixth-generation rancher John Dutton and the fight to save his beloved ranch. Which, according to Yellowstone canon, is the largest ranch in the United States.

The series comes from the minds of Taylor Sheridan and co-creator John Linson. With Sheridan being the series showrunner, who often writes and directs episodes. Even though Yellowstone is a work of fiction, Sheridan and Linson likely found inspiration from real life to tell the Duttons’ story.

John Dutton and his ranch have some real-life counterparts

The Dutton Ranch’s current real-life counterpart is the King Ranch in Texas. It’s actually the largest ranch in the United States, and it covers a whopping 825,000 acres. Texas ranching legend W.T. Waggoner may have been the inspiration for John Dutton and his ancestors, as he owned the 525,000-acre North Texas Waggoner Ranch.

Established in 1849, the Waggoner Ranch held the title of America’s largest ranch for decades. And, ownership of the massive estate was passed through multiple generations of the Waggoner family.

It wasn’t sold until 2015, when Los Angeles Rams and Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke bought it for approximately $725 million. Which gives Yellowstone fans an idea of what Dutton’s land could be worth.

‘Yellowstone’ is filmed on a real-life ranch

Yellowstone season 4 was filmed entirely in the state of Montana, in and around the city of Missoula. The Dutton lodge on the series is a real-life 5,000-square foot mansion that is located at the Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby, Montana.

Filming locations inside the main house include the lodge’s great room, back porch, front porch, heli pad, and kitchen. On the outside, they’ve filmed at the bunkhouse, barns, armory, cabins, corrals, and arena.

That property isn’t just a Yellowstone filming location, though. The Chief Joseph Ranch is a real-life working cattle ranch, and that lodge is a family home. When Yellowstone isn’t in production, the ranch doubles as a vacation spot with cabins for rent.

The Four-Sixes Ranch is very real

Another real location that fans have seen on Yellowstone is the Four Sixes Ranch in Texas. The 350,000-acre ranch has been in operation since the late 19th century. Sheridan bought the sprawling property in May 2021, and it will be the filming location for the Yellowstone spinoff 6666.

The Four Sixes Ranch was featured in season 4 of Yellowstone when John Dutton sent Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White) there to become a cowboy. It was the location where Jimmy got to meet ranching legend and renowned horse trainer Buster Welch.

‘Yellowstone’ star Kevin Costner finds inspiration from his father

Sheridan may have found inspiration for the character of John Dutton from a ranching legend. But when it comes to Costner’s performance, he bases elements of the character on his father William. He was one of 11 children, who was raised on a wheat farm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression.

“My dad was a fistfighting, single-minded tough guy coming out of the Dust Bowl in the Great Depression,” Costner said, per Outsider. “He wanted a job and never let it be taken away from him. The [Winchester] .30-30 gun I use in the show was his. When I put it up to my cheek, my dad’s right there. I know what it’s like to be a person that’s kind of a John Dutton—minus the murder.”

The first three seasons of Yellowstone are available on Peacock. The season 4 finale airs Jan. 2, 2022, on Paramount.

RELATED: ‘Yellowstone’ Creator Taylor Sheridan Just Bought 1 of the Largest Ranches in the World — Inside His Plans for the Four Sixes Ranch