Great Falls sits along the Upper Missouri River and has been inhabited since about 10,000 years ago when the area was used as hunting grounds by the Salish and Blackfeet tribes.
The infamous Lewis and Clark Expedition brought the first white people to visit the area in 1805. The town developed and was founded in 1883 as an industrial city that could be reached by steamboat and powered by hydroelectricity provided by the series of five waterfalls in close proximity. Today, each of these waterfalls supports a hydroelectric dam that helps provide power to the city.
Great Falls is known for its diverse landscape, historical significance, and emerging art and cultural scene. Ranchers, artists, students, and outdoor enthusiasts intermingle creating a unique cultural fabric in Montana’s third largest city. If you are visiting or traveling through Great Falls, there are some fantastic parks that you should visit.
1. Take a Walking the Dead Tour.
A great way to explore some of the local history of the Great Falls area is to hear the stories of the past residents. Great Falls hosts an annual Walking the Dead tour at the Highland Cemetery.
You can walk or take a hayride to visit the featured graves and hear from storytellers who have delved into the authentic history of each person’s legacy to tell their story as accurately and respectfully as possible. Often it is a family member telling the story.
Proceeds from the tour go to the People’s Park and Recreation Foundation to be used for civic improvements like planting trees at the cemetery and painting the bandshell in Gibson Park.
2. Visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
Another great way to explore Great Falls history is to visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, where you can visit the largest collection of artifacts, information, and exhibits of the Lewis and Clark trail around the Great Falls area.
The expedition spent more than a month exploring the area, encountering hardship and danger as they trekked 18 miles, carrying their canoes, equipment, and supplies to bypass the five waterfalls along the Missouri River.
3. Stroll around Giant Springs State Park.
Located next to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, this beautiful area includes one of the largest freshwater springs in the United States. The spring is formed by an opening in the Madison Aquifer that discharges about 240 cubic feet of water per second.
Some of the water is bottled for human consumption and is also used for a trout hatchery. The park stretches along the banks of the Missouri River and includes several hiking trails and fishing areas.
4. Unwind at the Sip ‘N Dip Lounge at the O’Hare Motor Inn.
The Sip ‘N Dip takes you back to the era of tiki theme bars. It opened in 1962 and has become a bit of a cultural destination in recent years thanks to being mentioned in GQ magazine as the “#1 bar worth flying for”, on the CBS Sunday Morning show, and the New York Times as the “Campiest Place on Earth”.
As strange as it may seem to have a northern land-locked area known for a tiki bar, the Sip ‘N Dip features attractions like swimming mermaids and mermen that can be viewed through a window from the bar to the pool, and “Piano Pat”, the octogenarian jazz piano player that has been playing at the bar since 1963.
There are several RV parks in and around Great Falls, including Dick’s RV Park, the Malstrom AFB FamCamp, as well as boondocking sites in the Little Belt Mountains a short drive away.
LLOYD WATERS says
Very interesting ad informative article
James Savage says
Yes these are great things to do in Great Falls. There are a lot of things close by and they have dog parks along the river also.
Brent Kemp says
Thanks for dog park tip. Got to keep babies happy.
R Mabry says
Russell museum a great place to spend 8 hrs if you like old west photography & memorabilia.
Terry Story says
Since I grew up in Great Falls when my Dad was a beacon maintenance man for the CAA, (Civil Aeronautics Administration), I feel like I know Great Falls pretty well, and it is flat, cold in the winter, (we ice skated on the pond at City Hall then when it froze solidly enough). Then in the summer, or specifically in the spring when things started to warm up, the mosquitoes became ravenous and my arms were bumpy all the way up and down wherever they were exposed. That having been said, I can’t imagine anyone having a more privileged childhood, it was magical in a lot of ways. We were free to run all day until nightfall, we had all kinds of adventures and we lived closely enough to Giant Springs that we could walk there whenever we chose to, and that water is the best that I have ever had in my life, which is at its steep downhill period. If I had to choose a place to visit, I would visit Great Falls, as much because I grew up there as for any other reason, but also because of all that surrounds it, there are mountain ranges that are spectacular, rivers and lakes that are equally spectacular, and for anyone that enjoys the outdoors, there is no better place to visit! Take it from a former resident, you’ll love it, mosquitoes and all!
Brent Kemp says
Thanks for dog park info. Got to keep furry babies happy
Ben Smyth says
Well, IMHO, you missed maybe the best, the Charlie Russell Museum. Go there.
I know right that’s the best reason to be there
I too have visited the Charlie Russel Museum multiple times. I prefer his Western art to Remington’s because he was a professional cowboy before he was an artist. Malmstrom AFB was the control center for all of Montana’s nuclear missile silos during the Cold War, as well as an important bomber base. Its free museum is well worth the effort to obtain the entry pass.
Jim Steele says
If you love beautiful, realistic art, the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, MT is a must see! Charlie Russell is a world renowned artist, well worth a visit!
David Stacy says
We’ve enjoyed the Great Falls Farmers Market at the Civic Center a couple of times. Great place to get fresh produce, local beef (frozen) and some baked treats.
Larry Krall says
The Charles Russel Museum is Spectacular.
Lawrence Linderman says
I think you meant to print “famous,” not infamous referring to the Lewis and Clark Museum
Lee Morgan says
Why do you refer to Lewis and Clark Expedition as “infamous”? Are you ignornant of the meaning or just disrespectful?
Paul Cunniff says
Elizabeth Moore says
Hi Folks – thank you so much for this article. Could I make one small request, though? It’s “Waking the Dead”, not “Walking the Dead”. Would you mind making that minor change? Thanks again!