Every property owner in the Valley is in danger of losing their land due to the legal trickery of a ruthless railroad baron who backs up his action with an army of 200 men. Into this tense scene rides an iron-willed young man who defiantly tells the Barkleys he is the "bastard son" of the dead family patriarch, Tom Barkley - and who demands an equal share of the estate.
With a massive cattle drive about to begin - 3,000 steers, 550 miles in 24 days - Heath has problems gaining the respect of the 40 hands needed to carry it off. His problems escalate when a decorated ex-general of the Civil War agrees to join the drive, because the former general has designs of recruiting the hands and starting his own army.
A Stockton memorial to Tom Barkley and his last pair of dress boots stir memories of him for Victoria and Heath. Victoria travels to Strawberry, Heath's birthplace, to find out just what Tom Barkley felt for Heath's mother Leah.
Audra is attracted to a handsome stranger who saves her life during a horse stampede. His appearance in the Valley coincides with the emergence of a pillaging "protection" ring that has begun to terrorize the area.
After 30 years a man comes back to the Valley to claim land promised to him by the late Tom Barkley. The land is now the site of a proposed dam that will benefit the community. The Barkleys argue among themselves and with the local landowners about whether the man is entitled to stay.
In the town of Lonesome Camp, the Barkleys' investment in a mine is threatened when labor unrest leads to a violent strike. Heath looks into the situation and, due to promises made by the late Tom Barkley years before, the Barkleys decide to fight for control of the mine in order to settle the dispute.
Heath falls in love with Maria, who is returning home from school in the East. She is the daughter of Don Alfredo, a Spanish land owner and nobleman who is in a dispute with a neighbor over land which he claims is his. Don Alfredo also believes that Heath's lineage is impure, and the dispute soon endangers the romance.
A neighboring rancher's teenage son returns to Stockton after being away many years and is immediately obsessed with Audra. He tangles with Audra's defender, Heath, which leads to a feud between the families. The dispute further escalates with a shooting, and then the boy's background is divulged.
Victoria, a surly ex-Barkley ranch hand, and a pregnant Native American girl fight to survive when an earthquake traps them in a church cellar. When it is discovered that the cellar may connect to tunnels from a closed-up Barkley gold mine, not all the searchers really want the rescue to succeed.
An old Barkley friend, a hard-working Mexican national, comes to Stockton to sell his herd of cattle. When it is found out the cattle are infected with a deadly, infectious disease, he refuses to destroy the animals or isolate his cattle from healthy Barkley stock.
Nick is bitten by a rabid wolf, an attack only Heath witnesses. Thinking he is going to die, Nick leaves the ranch and Stockton without any explanation to his family. His journey leads him to re-examine his life and attitudes - and the kindness of a woman and her son give him hope for the future.
Heath lashes out at the Barkleys' new timber camp foreman, who was the sadistic commandant of the Confederate prison camp where Heath was held. The timber crew also resent the foreman - especially two brothers sworn to kill him.
Audra discovers Irish immigrants camping on a section of land on the Barkley ranch - land they insist they bought and paid for in San Francisco. Their leader and Nick clash immediately. Heath, on the other hand, is sympathetic and thinks they are honest people who are mistaken and not squatters.
Jarrod arranges for the girlfriend of a murderous outlaw to be released from jail so she can spend Christmas with the Barkley family. The family has mixed feelings about sharing the holidays with her. She's a wildcat and, with her boyfriend still on the loose, she defiantly vows to re-join him at the first opportunity, causing chaos in the Barkley household.
A family of rawhiders, plundering the countryside, bushwhack Heath and then decide to pretend to be the people who saved him. Their plan to rob the Barkleys is helped along because almost everyone is away from the ranch on a cattle drive. Only a weakened Heath, Victoria, Audra, and one of the bushwhackers' own women stand in their way.
After a whirlwind courtship, Nick proposes to a beautiful "partygirl" Eastern socialite. Her interest in him soon disappears when she experiences the slow paced life on the ranch-and becomes obsessed with Heath.
Jarrod has an old friend from law school pass through Stockton who has ample funds,no job and time on his hands.A Secret Service agent soon follows and tells Jarrod his friend's "income" is suspected to come from bank robbery and counterfeiting-Jarrod tries to unearth the truth.
An outlaw gang leader orders his men to kidnap a teacher so he can learn to read and write for a special purpose. His men nab Victoria by mistake-she pretends to be the school marm to buy time for the Barkley boys to find her.
Pardoned after a long imprisonment for a crime he didn't commit,a man has Jarrod's help in adjusting to being free again. The man is hired to work at the ranch and after having doubt planted by one of the hands,his fear of returning to prison may lead to the death of the man who was the Prosecuting Attorney in the his case-Jarrod.
Nick celebrates his birthday at a waterfront saloon where he is drugged and shanghaied for sea duty.Jarrod suspects an old client of his,beautiful Barbary Red,is behind Nick's disappearance-Eugene and Heath help him investigate his hunch.
Everyone except Heath extends a warm welcome to an aging cowboy who killed Tom Barkley's murderer-a result of the Barkley-Railroad War.The man it turns out is friend to no one,he enjoys range wars and will sell his services as a killer to either side-and he's looking for work!
Heath,feeling responsible for an old friend's crippling injury,is determined to do all he can to help the man and his wife.While Heath stirs up gossip of his having grown too close to the wife,the old friend schemes of using the injury to get money out of him to finance his latest "get-rich-quick" idea.
A man arrives at the ranch looking for Heath and is shot by two trailing bounty hunters who claim he is wanted for murder.While the man is hospitalized at the ranch,Jarrod travels to Coreyville to look into the murder charge and Heath comes to terms with an old grudge.
Heath is drawn to an alluring old girlfriend who is now married and part of a trick shooting act.When her husband is mysteriously killed in a gun "accident",Heath is accused of murder-Jarrod must use a new science to try to clear him but ends up sparring about it with the D.A.,an old law school colleague who is jealous of the Barkley's.
While travelling cross country, Victoria and Heath have an accident resulting in Heath becoming pinned under their heavily loaded wagon. Victoria seeks help and turns to a mysterious man who is being pursued by aggressive bounty hunters.
A Barkley riverboat,sunk years before with a fortune in Civil War era government gold aboard is located-but there's no trace of the gold.A group of Confederate symphatizers or Tom Barkley himself may have caused the explosion which sank the ship-the lure of gold may even extend to Nick's old commanding officer who is assigned to investigate.
Audra falls for a shrewd financier who has come to the Valley to capitalize on a drought that has left most of the ranchers in need of loans.When he is about to foreclose and seize the land used as collateral,the ranchers blame the Barkley's-Audra offers herself as a "sacrifice" to hold off the financier.
A new General Store,owned by a husband/wife team,is invaded by outlaws who plan to tunnel across to the Railroad Baggage Depot-where Barkley gold is held for shipment.Complications arise when it is determined that the outlaws are being helped by the husband,the Barkley's visit the store and there is a deadly gas leak in the tunnel.
With the Barkley family on the way to the State Fair,Audra is stricken with appendicitis and the only doctor aboard has his own problems-men are out to kill him for revenge.The doctor has a rather infamous past having been responsible for burning,plundering and murder in the town of Colbyville years before.