Great Falls is one of the main cities that is found along Montana's portion
of the Lewis and Clark
Trail. It was Lewis and Clark who were the first known white visitors to
the area, which they happened upon while navigating the Missouri River. At Great
Falls, the Missouri River drops some 500 feet, which results in a rumbling set
of rapids and waterfalls. Hence the city's name. Lewis and Clark were forced
to portage around the rapids and waterfalls at Great Falls during their famous
Corps of Discovery expedition, and nearly a month passed until they moved on.
Like many other Montana cities, Great Falls didn't start to gain identifiable status until the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was during this time that Great Falls Montana became both an important railway stop and a thriving industrial center. The city's waterfalls were used to create hydroelectric power, which also helped it to grow into a major supply center. As Great Falls quickly became one of the larger cities in the state, visitors began arriving to get a glimpse of the falls for which the city is named. They also came to see the studio of artist Charles Marion Russell, who was born in St. Louis and moved to Great Falls when he was a teenager. Russell specialized in painting scenes of the American West. He also made bronze sculptures and was an accomplished author and storyteller. When Charles Marion Russell passed away in 1926, the local schools shut down so that the children could watch his funeral procession. If you want to view some of the works of one of the most cherished past residents of Great Falls, a visit to the C.M. Russell Museum is in order.
One of the top Great Falls attractions, the C.M. Russell Museum complex displays some 2,000 artifacts, pieces and art, and personal objects that relate to Russell's life and career. It also features a home that Russell built in 1900, the rustic log cabin studio that came three years later, and even some works of art that were created by other renowned western artists. Great Falls Montana prides itself on being a cultural city, and there are a few other museums here that you might also add to your Great Falls travel itinerary. They include the History Museum, which has more than 95,000 objects on display that revolve around central Montana history, and the Children's Museum of Montana, which features fascinating interactive experiences that any kid is bound to enjoy. To learn more about Lewis and Clark's 1804-1806 expedition and how it relates to Great Falls Montana, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center is the place to go.
Found on a bluff that offers picturesque views of the Missouri River, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center offers exhibits that celebrate the spirit of adventure. There are also ranger programs that can be enjoyed here, and you can hike to nearby Giant Springs State Park, which is another historic Lewis and Clark Trail landmark. Should you really be interested in making the Lewis and Clark experience the focus of your Great Falls travel plans, you can visit the city in June, which is when the Interpretive Center puts on its annual festival. This event celebrates both the Corps of Discovery expedition and the area's Native American history and culture. Getting back to Giant Springs State Park, it too is among the top Great Falls attractions, partly because it is home to the shortest river in the world. At least that's what the Guinness Book of World Records once labeled the Roe River.
While there are plenty of hot springs in Montana that you can visit, the cooler springs at Giant Springs State Park also attract plenty of onlookers. People also come to the park to do some bird watching, to see the fish hatchery, and to enjoy the Rainbow Falls Overlook, which is easily reached from the park. Visiting Ulm Pishkun State Park is also among the top things to do in Great Falls. It is at this park where you can observe the cliffs that Native American hunters stampeded buffalo over for more than 1,000 years. From the cliffs at Ulm Pishkun State Park, views of the Rocky Mountains just to the west can also be enjoyed.
After engaging in a little Great Falls travel, you can head west to enjoy all that the highlands have to offer, or you might take a northerly route towards Glacier National Park. Head south instead, and you'll eventually find Yellowstone National Park. There's a lot to see and do in Montana, and the Great Falls attractions can definitely keep you busy for at least a few days before heading on. This is especially true if you show up for the State Fair, which is among the top events in Montana. The overall affordability of the Great Falls hotels helps to make it an attractive destination, and since one of the six major Montana airports can be found here, you can fly right in!