Spend a weekend exploring Great Falls, Montana - home to the Missouri River or 'Mighty Mo', sights of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, numerous cascading waterfalls known as the 'Great Falls' and endless outdoor adventures. As the third largest city in Montana there is plenty to keep you busy as you explore this beautiful area of Montana! The town of Great Falls is actually named for the series of waterfalls along the Missouri River that make for some great scenic stops and the river itself provides for endless water activities - including it's world famous fishing! Here is how we spent a four day weekend exploring Great Falls, Montana!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
KOA GREAT FALLS
For those of you that are campers - the KOA Great Falls was a wonderful base for our four day weekend visiting Great Falls! We absolutely loved staying here! From the clean restroom and laundry facilities to the playground and waterpark - this is a prefect place for families! After our busy days exploring Great Falls, it was great to come back to the campground and spend some time playing at the waterpark! With four waterslides and the water depth only reaching about 1.5 feet our son could have spent all day playing here! Adding to the kid friendly vibe throughout the park, a nightly train makes laps around the campground - our son absolutely loved the train ride!
WATERFALLS OF GREAT FALLS
Probably the number one thing you should do while visiting Great Falls, Montana is to visit the numerous falls that are found along the Missouri River. The town itself is named after the series of five different falls found here: Great Falls, Rainbow Falls, Black Eagle Falls, Crooked Falls, and Colter Falls. Due to dams that have been built along this stretch of river though, Colter Falls is now submerged though. In fact, 'Electric City' is one the nicknames of Great Falls due to the various dams and power plants found along this stretch of the Missouri River. These falls are also quite famous as it was due to these falls that Lewis and Clark had to 'portage' around these falls during their expedition along the Missouri River and spent a significant amount of time here in Great Falls as their worked their way around these mighty falls.
Great Falls: The largest of the waterfalls, Ryan Dam was built over Great Falls back in 1915 and occupies a large portion of the 87 foot waterfall. Of all the falls to visit in the area, this was our favorite! You can cross a small suspension bridge onto Ryan Island Park which is a small island in the middle of the Missouri River - spend some time here enjoying views of the falls and dam or bring a picnic - the park was a beautiful spot to relax!
Rainbow Falls: The second largest of the falls, Rainbow Falls is 30 feet high and over 1,600 feet wide when the water is running at full capacity, however the dam restricts the flow most of the time.
Black Eagle Falls: The closest waterfall to the city, it was here that Montana's first hydroelectric dam was built in 1890. Black Eagle Falls drop about 25 feet and are 600 feet wide.
Crooked Falls: The only falls that remains unchanged since the time of Lewis and Clark and unfortunately we did not get a good picture here!
Colter Falls: Still included in the list of falls, Colter Falls is actually submerged underwater most of the time due to the dam and can really only be seen during an extreme drought.
FISHING THE MISSOURI RIVER
One of the absolute best activities when visiting Great Falls is to spend some time fishing the Mighty Mo! The Missouri River is America's longest river at 2,300 miles, forming near Bozeman, Montana and flowing to the Mississippi River - this mighty river provides water for 1/4 of all the agricultural lands found in the United States. For those wanting to try their luck at some fishing along this majestic river, numerous outfitters are available for hire for various length fishing trips down the river. Having our own raft, we spent a couple days floating various stretches of the river just outside of Great Falls and had a blast! The fish were biting and we had a blast creating memories with our son as we taught him to fish! Just remember to have a valid Montana fishing license for anyone older than 12 years of age!
GIANT SPRINGS STATE PARK
An absolutely beautiful area - visiting Giant Springs is a lovely way to spend some time while visiting Great Falls. As the namesake of the state park and a sight that Lewis and Clark describe in their journals as they passed thru Great Falls during their famous expedition, Giant Springs is an underrated Montana gem that is truly breathtaking! Over 156 million gallons of fresh water pass thru this spring each day, the waters originate from snowmelt in the Little Belt mountains over 60 miles away. These springs bubble up and flow through the Roe River which is considered the World's Smallest River before it connects up with the Missouri River. Follow the paved walkway around the springs for 360 degree views of these clean, clear bubbling waters. Encompassing over 14 miles of river shoreline along the Missouri River, this park offers a bit of something for everyone - take a stroll and enjoy the views of the springs and Missouri River, try your hand at fishing, stop by the fish hatchery or simply just enjoy a picnic here. CLICK HERE to read more.
LEWIS & CLARK NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL INTERPRETIVE CENTER
Located near Giant Springs State Park you will find the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center run by the U.S. Forest Service. Built along a cliff overlooking the Missouri River, this museum is wonderful for anyone interested in U.S. history! The center tells the story of Lewis and Clark's 8,000 mile expedition from the beginning to the end and includes some wonderful hands on exhibits to keep the kids involved. A Junior Ranger program is also offered where kids can complete a series of activities and earn a Junior Ranger badge. Our son had a blast learning earning his badge and learning about Lewis and Clark - but his favorite was learning about Seaman - who was the Newfoundland waterdog of Captain Meriwether Lewis that accompanied Lewis on his famous cross country expedition. Located outside of the center is a large status of Seaman - perfect for a picture!
FIRST PEOPLE'S BUFFALO JUMP STATE PARK
For some more local history, head out to First People's Buffalo Jump State Park. The park offers a glimpse into the history of local Native American tribes and their use of a historic buffalo jump that is located just outside of Great Falls, Montana. It is believed this is one of the largest buffalo jumps ever used in North America and was in use for more than 1,000 years before Lewis and Clark first passed thru this area. Although smokey skies filled our views while visiting this historic sight - it was amazing to visit such place and imagine what it was once like for the local Native Americans hunting along the high plains of Montana. CLICK HERE to read more.
TOWER ROCK STATE PARK
Marking the place where the Great Plains meet the beginning of the Rocky Mountains, Tower Rock State Park was one of the many stops along the famous Lewis and Clark Trail.
Named Tower Rock by Meriwether Lewis in 1805, the area had been used by local Native Americans as a landmark for hunting grounds, trading routes and was even considered sacred to the Piegan Blackfeet. Today, the area is now one of Montana's newest State Parks, created in 2005. Located near the small town of Cascade along the Missouri River in Montana, Tower Rock State Park is a quick 30 minute drive from Great Falls. CLICK HERE to read more.
MIGHTY MO BREWING COMPANY
If you're looking for a great place to relax and enjoy some amazing food and drinks - Mighty Mo Brewing Company was amazing! Their pizza was some of the best pizza we have enjoyed anywhere not to mention the great selection of drinks! Located in downtown Great Falls, we would highly recommend stopping by Mighty Mo Brewing Company after a busy day of exploring Great Falls, Montana!