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Great Falls

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  • Central Montana

Great Falls is known as the "Electric City" because of its numerous dams and power plants. Montana's third largest city is located on the Missouri River among the five falls that were both a magnificent spectacle and formidable barrier to early river travel. This area held great significance for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The explorers were forced to spend nearly a month portaging around the falls in June 1805. Grand vistas can be found in every direction; Great Falls is surrounded by mountains and buttes on three sides, as well as vast plains to the north. Within minutes you can be on a large wheat farm, in a beautiful winding river gorge, or a picturesque valley. On the bluffs above the Missouri River, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center provides an ideal view of terrain similar to what the Corps of Discovery encountered along their portage of the Great Falls of the Missouri River. Exhibits, live programs and a video provide a comprehensive understanding of central Montana's importance to the Corps' mission and the area's place in history along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The center, on Giant Springs Road, sits less than a half-mile from Giant Springs, where Clark recorded his discovery of June 18, 1805. Giant Springs State Park is a lovely park that preserves one of the largest natural, cold water springs in the world. Flow from the springs supports a state trout hatchery and also qualifies amongst the shortest rivers in the world, the Roe River. All of the area reservoirs and waterfalls may be viewed via the 49-mile River's Edge Trail, which follows both sides of the Missouri River. There are also paved road connections to Black Eagle, Rainbow and Crooked Falls and to the Great Falls of the Missouri near Ryan Dam. It offers a unique experience to walk, jog, rollerblade or bike along three of the falls. There is also a paved road with scenic turnouts where the falls can be viewed by car. You can find contemporary art at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, named for the founder of Great Falls. This beautiful building with its ornate interior was originally built in 1895 and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Great Falls was also the home of the famed cowboy artist Charlie Russell, whose original home and log studio are now part of the C. M. Russell Museum. Great Falls is the site of Malmstrom Air Force Base, the center of our nation's first Minuteman Missile Complex. The Malmstrom Air Force Base Museum and Air Park explains the history of the base, from its role in World War II to the present. Displays at the air park include a "Huey" helicopter, a Stratotanker used for in-flight refueling, a Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile and many aircraft used as fighters and bombers. Discover the magic, history and beauty of Great Falls while on the Great Falls Historic Trolley or Tour de Great Falls. You'll see and hear about the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Indians of the region, Giant Springs State Park, C. M. Russell Museum Complex, historic downtown Great Falls, Three waterfalls, Paris Gibson Square, historic railroad area, Historic Home District, churches, saloons and other historic buildings. Take a short drive and visit the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. This historic Buffalo Jump is thought to be the largest bison cliff jump in the nation. At the Visitor Center learn why and how the Native Americans drove buffalo over the cliffs. Enjoy an awe-inspiring 360-degree panoramic view atop the cliffs or take an interpretive trail around the park. Elevation: 3,674 feet.

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