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This film opens with a title card stating that it was shot in the "Grand Canyon of the Colorado, known as one of the most dangerous rivers in the world." According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, additional location shooting was done near Moab, UT. Hollywood Reporter and Variety news items dated April 7, 1953 reported that Richard Alan Simmons was hired to write the film's screenplay based on an original story by Harold Jack Bloom; however, neither of these writers are credited onscreen and their participation in the finished film has not been confirmed.
On May 4, 1954, Daily Variety reported that the producers had pushed back the start of production in the hopes of getting Charlton Heston for the role of "Brett Halliday." According to studio press materials, over 75 Navajo Indians were hired to portray Utes in the film. In a modern interview, producer Howard Christie dubbed Smoke Signal "the first seagoing Western in history" and stated that the film was shot on stretches of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers located between Mexican Hat, UT and Marble Canyon, AZ. A modern source adds John Day to the cast.