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Great Falls - Montana

Now rolling placidly through the middle of Great Falls, the Missouri River was free-spirited when Meriwether Lewis first saw the falls on the 13th of June, 1805. He described the view as the "grandest sight" he had ever seen. He then went on to see four other falls, each with its own character and beauty. The Lewis & Clark canoeing party was required to portage around an 18-mile stretch of the river. On the 18th of June, he came across what is now called Giant Springs, at the side of the river.

Although much of the scenic beauty of the river remains, the river has been dammed in five places, raising the water level and capping falls with steel structures. Some of the fountains of water which constituted Giant Springs are now covered by the widened river below the Rainbow Dam. The remainder of the spring is protected within Giant Springs Heritage State Park, one of a number of parks and recreation sites along the falls portion of the river.

The city -- Montana's second-largest -- is a sprawling, modern community of 80,000 in the center of a ranching area. It has full visitor services and offers arts and entertainment programs year-round.

This is "Charlie Russell Country" and Great Falls was the home of the great cowboy and Western artist -- commemorated in the C.M. Russell Museum which contains the most complete collection of Russell works in the world. The complex includes Russell's home and his log cabin studio. It houses more than 7,000 works including paintings by several of Russell's contemporaries. Indian artifacts and the Browning Firearms Collection are also displayed. The museum complex is located at 400 13th Street North. Near the C.M. Russell Museum is the city's first high school, now called Paris Gibson Square, housing the Center for Contemporary Arts and the Cascade County Historical Museum.

For a day-trip, drive 12 miles west of Great Falls, via Interstate 15, to Ulm and visit the Ulm Pishkum Buffalo Jump. Now a state monument, this is where Indians stampeded herds of bison off the steep cliffs in order to obtain a winter's supply of food. This jump is 30 feet high and a mile long.

Great Falls is the site of the Montana State Fair, held in late July and early August. The fair features a rodeo, lumberjack shows, racing and entertainment. Walking along the river and looking at the falls is the most popular activity for visitors and there are overlooks and parks, as well as an excellent self-guided tour of the Lewis & Clark portage route for which the map is available at the Chamber of Commerce, 926 Central Ave.

Hotels

Staybridge Suites Great Falls
201 Third Street Northwest, Great Falls, 877-859-5095
In a town where close to 100% of the accommodations are national chain brand motor hotels, the Staybridge suites is a cut above. the hotel has all of the amenities that a suites hotel could provide, except that it does not have a restaurant. There's a brew pub close by and other restaurants within a short walk. The hotel has a breakfast room for its free breakfast. They hold a reception with drinks and hors d'oevres on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

For other hotels available in Great Falls, Go Here for a listing and links.

Camping

Dick's Trailer and RV Park
1403 11th Street, Great Falls, 406-727-7191
This park has mostly RV sites and is open all year. It's located beside the river and is set in amongst trees. The park mostly accommodates RVs with hookups, but there are a few tenting sites. Take Exit 278 off I-15.

Great Falls KOA
1500 51st Street South, Great Falls, (406) 727-3191
Full hook-ups, tent sites, cabins, a playground, nature trail, café and two "kamper kitchens" can be found here. It's located on the east edge of town at 10th Ave. S. and 51st Street.

For details on nearby towns and attractions
Go to Bigfork, Missoula, Seeley Lake, Whitefish,
Glacier National Park

 

Montana Destinations

Bigfork

Billings

Bozeman

Butte

Gardiner

Glacier National Park

Great Falls

Helena

Missoula

Red Lodge

Seeley Lake & The Swan Valley

West Yellowstone

Whitefish

 


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