Great Falls Things to Do

  • View downriver from Rainbow Falls
    View downriver from Rainbow Falls
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  • Belt Creek and Road
    Belt Creek and Road
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  • Belt Creek
    Belt Creek
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Most Recent Things to Do in Great Falls

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    Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

    by fred98115 Written Feb 14, 2014
    Interpretive Center from the River Trail
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    For the person retracing the Lewis and Clark trail, this is arguably the best of the many interpretive centers between St. Louis and Astoria, Oregon. The exhibits are complete and dramatic. The bookstore has extremely useful items to aid in understanding the Expedition and its sites. And, there is access to the Missouri River trail so you can walk along the river and visualize it as it was 200 years ago. When we visited, volunteers were putting on special demonstrations about tepee building and fire starting. It's not as easy as it looks.

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    Roe River: Shortest in World?

    by fred98115 Written Feb 14, 2014
    Giant Springs and the Headwater of Roe River
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    Giant Springs flows into the Missouri directly and also via the Roe River. For a long time, the "D" River on the Oregon coast claimed to be the shortest river in the world and was recognized as such by the Guiness Book of Records. Then a new claimant arrived: proponents said that the Roe was shorter and controversy reared. Oregon fought back by measuring the "D" at high tide and thus reclaimed the prize as the world's shortest river. Or so they thought. The folks at Guiness were not bamboozled nor interested in the shenanigans by both groups. Guiness stoutly refused to name any river as the "world's shortest".

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    See the Giant Springs that the Expedition missed

    by fred98115 Written Feb 14, 2014
    Giant Springs Pool
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    When Lewis and Clark scouted for a portage route around the great falls, they first did so across the river and missed this unusual and beautiful natural springs. It is enormous and flows into two rivers: the Missouri and the Roe. Photographers: this park offers opportunities that will use all ranges of a zoom lens. A tripod might be useful to get images with the water flow slowed down to be milky.

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    Crooked Falls, one of the five Lewis & Clark faced

    by fred98115 Written Feb 14, 2014
    Crooked Falls
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    Lewis and Clark expected to find two falls according to information they had from natives. They found five. Four exist today in this heavily dammed section of the Missouri River. One is flooded by a dam lake. A river road provides access to viewpoints from which you can see the falls. This one is Crooked Falls. Photographers: a zoom lens works nicely so that context scenes and detail shots can be made.

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    Great Falls Revisited When Island is Open

    by fred98115 Written Feb 14, 2014
    Ryan Dam, Great Falls as seen from the island
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    Last year we were disappointed when the island was closed to access. Not so this time. Long grassy slopes framed by cottonwoods led to a trail and a rocky promontory with the falls before us. True, Ryan Dam sat behind them and the water flow is metered by the engineers, but looking at them still gives a sense of what Lewis must have felt when he first saw them. This is a must see site of you are following the Expedition's trail.

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    Upper Portage Where Expedition Rejoins River

    by fred98115 Written Feb 14, 2014
    Iron Boat Skeleton
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    Lewis and Clark thought that an iron frame boat would be useful once they had portaged the five falls. It was an experiment that failed. The original was buried and has never been found. Two replicas have been built, one of which is based at the Upper Portage. Photographers: the actual camp of the portage is in the distance near the river and is not accessible. Bring the telephoto if you want a dramatic shot of the camp.

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    Lower Portage of the Expedition

    by fred98115 Written Feb 14, 2014
    Belt Creek and Road
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    The Lewis and Clark Expedition had to portage around the falls, and, tracing the route, we began at Belt Creek. We stood at the Belt Creek Bridge and visualized thirty men stuggling to move five dugout canoes and ten tons of gear up the gully in late June. It boggles the mind. They did it in stages: up the gully to a staging area, transport a loaded canoe 18 miles to the upper portage in a day, and repeat. Men suffered dehydration and thorn inflicted infections in the month for the portage.

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    Walk trail past middle three of the Great Falls

    by fred98115 Written Sep 14, 2012
    Rainbow Falls
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    There is a trail along the Missouri River from which you can see and photograph the middle three Great Falls. It's a long haul so most people either bike it or drive from location to location and stroll on the trail to viewpoints. The middle three are Rainbow Falls, Crooked Falls and Coulter's Falls. Coulter's is now a lake behind one of the Missouri dams.

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    Great Falls and Ryan Dam

    by fred98115 Written Sep 14, 2012
    Great Falls and Ryan Dam
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    If you visit Great Falls, be sure to see the Great Falls and Ryan Dam. Important proviso: the best views are from an island at the foot of the falls, but the power company, which owns the island, closes the island, the park and the viewpoint between Labor Day and Mother's Day. Lewis first viewed the falls on 13 June 1805 and called them the grandest sight he had ever beheld.

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    Go to Giant Springs

    by Deborahtnc Updated Jan 27, 2007
    Giant Springs and Missouri
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    When I was a child we used to be able to drive to Giant Springs along an old road that runs down by the river. They have closed that road to cars now, but you can bicycle there. The steep cliff wall houses many birds. If you choose to drive, there is a nice park for picnics and a fish hatchery. Giant springs is one of the the largest fresh water springs in the world and well worth the trip to see it. Where does all that water come from?

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    Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Depot

    by jasperdo Updated Jul 27, 2006

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    Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Depot
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    In the "Golden Age' of railroads, the train station was often considered the gateway to a city, and most towns and rail lines tried to outdo each other in creating the most impressive building in town. This depot in Great Falls is a perfect example of that. Rising high above the prairie, the 135 foot tower still dominates the skyline. While no longer in use as a train station, this depot is still an interesting piece of architecture. Plus, it's at a good location right along the Missouri River. The riverfront trail and park runs right along the former station.

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    Black Eagle Falls

    by jasperdo Written Jul 25, 2006

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    Black Eagle Falls
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    Black Eagle Falls is probably the least impressive of the 3 major waterfalls in the Great Falls area. But it's still worth a look, and it is the most accessible. It's located right in town along the riverside trail, plus it can be accessed from the north end of the Missouri River as well. There is an island park on the north side that gives a closer look of the falls than the more popular south shore overlook.

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    Rainbow Falls

    by jasperdo Written Jul 25, 2006

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    Rainbow Falls
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    While not quite as dramatic as the Great Falls of the Missouri, Rainbow Falls might actually be a prettier, more scenic waterfall. The red rocks add to the beauty,and sheer dropoff makes Rainbow Falls resemble a smaller version of Niagra Falls. Plus it's a little easier to get to from town. It's located just east of the Lewis and Clark Interprative Center.

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    The Great Falls of the Missouri River

    by jasperdo Written Jul 24, 2006

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    The Great Falls of the Missouri Fiver
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    One of the few things that Merriweather Lewis knew for sure about the uncharted lands he was set to explore with his Corps of Discovery was that there existed a "great falls" on the Missouri River. What he didn't anticipate was that just beyond the Great Falls, there were a series of 4 other waterfalls. His predicted half day bypass of the falls, turned into a 3 week ordeal. The Corps had to Portage around the series of falls. This meant leaving the river, dragging their boats and supplies up a steep hillside and across 18 miles of prairie. It was the most time consuming setback of their entire expedition.

    Today, the Missouri River has been dammed up in numerous locations, including one right at the Great Falls of the Missouri. Still, the sight is impressive even today. The lower section of the falls looks much the same way it did to Lewis and Clark back in 1805. The rocky cascades of the falls, and sheer cliff walls on either side of the Missouri are still impressive. I'll let Lewis himself describe the scene:

    " I had proceed on this course about two miles with Goodrich at some distance behind me whin my ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water and advancing a little further I saw the spray arrise above the plain like a collumn of smoke which soon began to make a roaring too tremendious to be mistaken for any cause short of the great falls of the Missouri. Here I arrived about 12 Oclock. From the reflection of the sum on the sprey or mist which arrises from these falls is a beautifull rainbow produced which adds not a little to the beauty of this majestically grand senery."

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    Ulm Pishkun State Park

    by jasperdo Updated Jul 24, 2006

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    Ulm Pishkun State Park
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    For hundreds of years, before the arrival of Europeans and the introduction of the horse, the most effective way for the Plains Indians to kill buffalo was through a Buffalo Jump. Simply put, the wild buffalo were herded up a plateau where they were induced to stampede off a cliff. The tribe then had easy pickings of the buffalo meat and hides to sustain them through the harsh Northern Plains winter.

    Ulm Pichkun State Park contains one of the largest Buffalo jump sites in the United States. It extends for one mile, and was used consistantly for over 500 years. The State of Montana and local Native American tribes have done an excellent job at Ulm Pishkun explaining Buffalo jumps...how difficult they were to achieve, and how important they were to the survival of the tribe.

    There is an excellent little museum to check out for an understanding of the site. The museum is located below and some ways away from the cliff. So, after visiting the museum, be sure and drive the dirt road that leads to the top of the Buffalo Jump. You can plainly see how this was a perfect location for a Buffalo Jump. The gently rising plateau suddenly gives way to jagged cliffs and a steep drop off. Stand at the edge of the cliff, try to imagine a heard of buffalo stampeding towards you. It makes you appreciate the convenience of the corner supermarket.

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Great Falls Things to Do

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