Location: Hwy I-15, which connects with I-90 and 1-94. Highways 87 and 89 also pass through Great Falls. 143 miles to Glacier National Park; 273 miles to Yellowstone National Park; 240 miles to Billings; 327 miles to Calgary, Alberta. Population: 59,350. Visitor Information Center: 15 Overlook Drive; Website: www.greatfallsmt.net
In the heart of Big Sky Country, Great Falls is surrounded by natural splendor. The city is built along the Missouri River, where a drop of over 500 feet resulted in a series of rapids and five breathtaking waterfalls. Lewis and Clark were the first known white explorers to catch sight of the "great falls" of the Missouri River; the party could hear the roar of the falls from more than seven miles away.
A man named Paris Gibson was responsible for the precise plan and thoughtful beautification measures of Great Falls’ organization. After coming west in 1882, he laid out his city plans to James Hill, of Great Northern Railway fame. Hill was impressed and provided financial backing to Gibson, realizing the value a city in that location would hold for the railroad. Befittingly, Paris Gibson Square is one of the state’s finest cultural centers, offering dynamic art museum exhibitions, classes, lectures, tours and performances. Gibson Park is the largest of 54 city parks, filled with flower gardens and a variety of waterfowl, including swans on Gibson Pond. The park has a modern playground, picnic tables, restaurant, over a mile of paved walking trails and weekly band concerts throughout the summer. Citywide, there are over thirty miles of walking trails.
The C.M. Russell Museum Complex houses the work of Charles M. Russell, the legendary cowboy artist who lived in Great Falls, as well as his original log cabin studio and home. His artwork and illustrated letters reveal intimate and humorous first-hand accounts of early Montana life. The Museum owns a vast collection of Russells, an enviable permanent collection of paintings and sculptures produced by many other historic western artists and an outstanding collection of Browning firearms. Every March Great Falls becomes the "Western Art Capitol of the World" during the C.M. Russell Art Auction.
Relive one of the most exciting chapters in our nation’s history at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center overlooking the majestic Missouri River, with hands-on exhibits, displays, interactive presentations and knowledgeable guides. Ulm Pishkun State Park protects the sites of the most heavily and longest used buffalo jumps in the country. The Visitor Interpretive Center tells the story of the importance of the buffalo to peoples of long ago with magnificent murals. The gift shop emphasizes Native American books and gifts. Drive up on top of the cliff for an awe-inspiring 360-degree view of mountain ranges and a prairie dog town.
The history and culture of the Northern Plains and its people come alive in the museum at the High Plains Heritage Center, which houses the Cascade County Historical Society. The Society collects and preserves the historical and folk heritage of the Central Montana region, interpreting that diverse resource for the education and enjoyment of the public by maintaining extensive archives and education and preservation programs. The Museum Gift Shop carries a good variety of regional books and unique "Made in Montana" gifts.
The Great Falls Historic Trolley departs from here for the trolley "City Tour" or an area "Historic Tour". The tours showcase waterfalls, parks, Lewis and Clark Trail, Museums, Historic Downtown, Saloons, Historic Railroad Area, Churches, Malstrom AFB and numerous other attractions in this fascinating community along the beautiful Missouri and Sun Rivers.
The Children’s Museum of Montana has two floors of exhibits to touch, poke, raise, lower, push, pull and examine. Another noteworthy attraction is the Gothic Revival style 1912 Ursuline Center, which houses a museum of irreplaceable artifacts and a chapel decorated with three absolutely magnificent murals and provides lodging for groups.
Great Falls is an exciting community with a variety of four season recreational opportunities. Enjoy some of the best fly fishing in North America. Water ski, reenact an historic canoe trip or go white-water rafting or kayaking. There are five challenging and scenic golf courses, including three that overlook the Missouri River, a state-of-the-art skate park and a public swimming pool and wave park. A paved trail follows over 13 miles of the Missouri River, allowing for scenic biking, roller blading and walking.
The fresh-water spring in Giant Springs Heritage State Park is designated as one of the world’s largest, where more than a million Rainbow Trout are raised each year in the hatchery. The area is home to a multitude of wildlife such as raccoon, beaver, pelicans, bald eagles, coyote and deer. Black Eagle Memorial Island is pedestrian access only, with a boat ramp for kayaks and canoes and great views of Black Eagle Falls and Dam. Kings Hill Recreation Area provides Olympic-class cross country skiing and numerous snowmobile trails. Downhill skiing and snowboarding at Showdown Ski Area can be enjoyed just an hour’s drive from Great Falls.
Special Events: M.A.G.I.E.: January PRCA Pro-Rodeo Finals: January Guns and Hoses Hockey: February Celebration of Sobriety Pow-Wow: March The C. M. Russell Art Auction: March Cruisin’ the Drag Car Show: May Taste of Great Falls: June The Lewis and Clark Festival: June The Montana State Fair: July Bluegrass on the Bay: July RiverFest: July Fourth of July and St. Patrick’s Day Parades Cottonwood Folk Festival: September Blues and Brews: September Holiday Parade of Lights: December Christmas Stroll: December