Great Falls is the ideal gateway to authentic Montana adventure.
Surrounded by peaks, waterways and prairies largely unchanged since the days of Lewis and Clark’s 1805 arrival, Great Falls is the ideal gateway to authentic Montana adventure.
The Missouri River is the liquid lifeblood of the town. Once the power source for early industry, it now enthralls visitors who float past its soaring cliffs, historic portage sites and ancient canyons. Where trains once plied the riverside, trails now lead to family-friendly adventures both on and off the water. To make the most of your Great Falls getaway, follow the Missouri to the source of some unforgettable Montana moments:
Float, paddle and fish the Missouri River
Drink in the scenic splendors of Great Falls from the seat of a kayak, raft or canoe. Or, walk on water with a standup paddleboard. These watercraft and more are available for rent at Montana River Outfitters, which has been equipping paddlers – including celebs such as Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner – since 1977.
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Thirsty for a farther-flung adventure? Sign up for one of the outfitter’s guided tours of nearby attractions such as Wolf Creek Canyon, where a calm section of river rolls past forests, meadows, 300-foot-high cliffs and the historic Tower Rock.
Home to one of the densest populations of river trout in the U.S., the Missouri is a world-renowned spot for anglers. Prime fishing season runs from May through September, when the days are long and the hatches reach their peak. Combine your boat rental with a fly-fishing expedition to a spot teeming with rainbow and brown trout.
Electric City Water Park
For an easy-to-reach day of fun on the water, venture over to Electric City Water Park, where kids can slip down the 20-foot-tall water slides while their parents relax poolside. Great Falls earned its nickname of “The Electric City” when town founders constructed Black Eagle Dam to harness the falls.
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center
If you prefer the feel of the earth under your feet, ramble the River’s Edge Trail, offering 60 miles of pavement and 25 miles of single-track mountain biking. Roll or stroll past public art, the Black Eagle Dam, swoon-worthy scenic overlooks and plentiful parks.
The trail drops you at the door of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, where you’ll step back in time 200 years to relive the drama of the explorers’ journey. Perched high on a riverside bluff, the center offers hands-on exhibits (test your strength by hauling a canoe upstream), videos, and a vast collection chronicling the Corps of Discovery’s 8,000-mile expedition. Kids can create their own epics with ranger programs, a scavenger hunt and special explorer costumes.
Giant Springs State Park
Meriwether Lewis recorded in his diary “the largest fountain or Spring I ever Saw, and doubt if it is not the largest in America Known.” See this aquatic wonder for yourself by continuing another quarter mile on River’s Edge trail to reach the popular Giant Springs State Park. The springs, which have been carbon-dated to 3,000 years, flow at an astounding rate of 156 million gallons of water each day. The water temperature stays at a consistent 54 degrees, making the park a delectably cool and grassy respite on a hot summer day. Watch for the more than 80 species of bird and wildlife known to inhabit the park, and enjoy feeding the fish at the on-site hatchery.
C.M. Russell Museum
Continue your water-themed explorations at the C.M. Russell Museum, which displays hundreds of the prolific Western artist’s paintings, sculptures and drawings – including 121 watercolors.
Herding horses by night, Russell spent his days resting and creating, his portable watercolor kit by his side as he lay in the shade of the chuck wagon.
Russell was the real deal: a working cowboy intimately acquainted with the life of the 19th-century West, its people and wildlife. The museum campus includes the original log cabin studio that his wife, Nancy, built him.
When you’re ready to get out of the house, catch a nonstop flight from Seattle to this wellspring of authentic Montana adventure.
Find out why Great Falls is the gateway to Genuine Montana. Plan your trip at genuinemontana.com.