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Great Falls
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In the northern area of Montana, along the United States border with Canada, the Great Falls Destination can be found. There are various cities within the region, namely Shelby, Gildford, Havre, Boneau, and Great Falls, the latter being the namesake of the destination. As of the 2020 census, Great Falls reported a population of 60,442 people, making it the third most populous city in Montana.[1] Also located in the region is the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, home to the A’aninin and Nakoda tribes.[2] Attractions in the destination include the River’s Edge Trail, which runs for 60 miles along the Missouri River; the C.M. Russell Museum; and the Giant Springs State, featuring one of the largest freshwater springs in the country.[3] The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is also located in the region. At the monument, there are various rock formations, cliffs, and grassy plains. Former President Bill Clinton formally established the 377,000-acre monument in 2001.[5] When visiting the Great Falls Destination, it is recommended to visit Great Falls between July to the middle of August for warm-weather activities, based on the previously recorded annual weather conditions for the area. Average temperatures for the area range from 18 degrees Fahrenheit to 86 degrees throughout the year.[4]

What Great Falls is known for

The Great Falls Destination is located primarily in the state of Montana, along the United States border with Canada. Great Falls, the namesake of the destination, serves as the county seat of Cascade County, and it ranks as the third most populous city in the state, with a population of 60,442 people according to the 2020 census. Located east of the Rocky Mountains, Great Falls is intersected by the Missouri River. The city’s name is derived from a series of five waterfalls on the Missouri River, which played a fairly prominent role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Three of these waterfalls, known as Black Eagle, Rainbow, and the Great Falls (or Big Falls), are part of the area’s hydroelectric dams, earning Great Falls the nickname “The Electric City.” Other nicknames include “The River City” and “Western Art Capital of the World.”[1] 

River’s Edge Trail is an attraction in the region that spans 60 miles along the Missouri River, connecting city parks, downtown, and tourist sites. Gibson Park, a part of the trail, features gardens and reflective ponds. Other attractions include the C.M. Russell Museum, which preserves the original studio and home of Western painter Charles M. Russell, displaying his artwork. Giant Springs State Park offers "one of the largest freshwater springs in the country," with outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center provides insights into the expedition, and Gibson Park offers a duck pond and picnic areas.[3] In addition to its cultural attractions, Great Falls is home to two military installations: Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard.[1]

Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is in the north-central part of Montana and is home to the A’aninin (Gros Ventre) and Nakoda (Assiniboine) tribes. The reservation spans 1,014 square miles, including these tribes’ main homeland and off-reservation trust land. The tribes have a combined enrollment of 2,851 members. Fort Belknap Agency serves as the capital and largest community on the reservation.  Furthermore, the U.S. Department of the Interior initiated the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations in 2015, offering to buy back fractionated land within the reservation to address past federal mismanagement of revenues.[2]


Various cities can be found in the Great Falls Destination, namely Malta, Havre, Lewistown, Highwood, and Shelby, among others. The region is located in northern Montana, occupying land along the United States border with Canada. Great Falls, the namesake of the destination, is located near the southwestern corner of the region.

Great Falls is situated between the Great Plains and the Big Belt Mountains. The region features a rugged landscape with elevations surpassing one kilometer above sea level. Within a 16-kilometer stretch, five waterfalls can be found: The Great Falls, Rainbow Falls, Crooked Falls, Black Eagle Falls, and Colter Falls. To the west lies the mountain range known as the Northern Rockies as well as a segment of it known as the Lewis Range. The Missouri River, the longest river in North America, begins its journey from the headwaters located approximately 144 miles south of Great Falls. Downstream, the river widens and feeds into Fort Peck Lake, around 310 miles from the city.[6] The city is located 180 miles away from Glacier National Park and 264 miles from Yellowstone National Park. Interstate 15 connects Great Falls to major destinations.[1]

Common wildlife in Great Falls Park includes whitetail deer, Eastern chipmunks, gray squirrels, red foxes, coyotes, beavers, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and bats. Whitetail deer give birth to fawns in spring, while red foxes have pups in March or April. Coyotes aid in helping control prey populations. Those visiting the area may see signs of activity left behind by beavers. Bats can be seen at dusk near picnic areas as well. All wildlife is protected, therefore, those who visit the park are not permitted to interact with animals or feed them.[7]

Great Falls experiences a climate characterized by short, warm summers and freezing, snowy winters. The average temperatures range from 18°F to 86°F throughout the year, rarely falling below -8°F or exceeding 96°F. According to Weather Spark's tourism score for the area, the best time to visit for warm-weather activities is reportedly from early July to mid-August. The "hot season" for the area lasts approximately 2.7 months. July is the hottest month, with an average high of 85°F and a low of 56°F. The cold season spans 3.5 months, from November to March, with average daily high temperatures often being below 45°F. December is typically the coldest month, with an average low of 20°F and a high of 36°F.[4]


Great Falls, Montana, owes its name to the Missouri River and its waterfalls. The area was inhabited by Native American tribes, most primarily the Blackfeet, and was explored by Lewis and Clark in 1805. The expedition encountered the “great falls” of the Missouri River. The vision of Paris Gibson led to the creation of Great Falls, backed by railroad magnate James Hill. Gibson planned the city, emphasizing straight streets and abundant parks. Great Falls started to grow and became the home of Western artist Charles M. Russell.[8]

Great Falls experienced relatively large amounts of growth in the early 20th century due to homesteading, agriculture, and what many considered to be favorable economic conditions. It became a financial center and regional shopping hub for the area. The city benefited from New Deal programs given by the federal government in the 1930s, leading to the construction of a Civic Center. World War II brought military installations, making Great Falls the largest city in Montana between 1950 to 1970. The Northwest Staging Route and the Lend-Lease program played a role during the war. However, in later years, the decline of industry and transportation, including the closure of the smelter and cutbacks at the air force base in the 1980s, contributed to economic challenges similar to other cities in the region.[1]

Also located in the destination is the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in north-central Montana preserves the Missouri Breaks, a landscape featuring rock formations, cliffs, and grassy plains. Established in 2001 by President Bill Clinton, the monument spans 377,000 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The area holds historical significance as French trappers and various Native American tribes, including the Crow, Blackfoot, and Sioux, inhabited the region. Lewis and Clark explored and documented the Breaks during their expedition in 1805, noting the presence of bighorn sheep. The Breaks also witnessed important peace councils in the mid-1800s and played a role in the Nez Perce’s attempt to escape in 1877. It is a cherished natural and historical site.[5]

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The Grand Union Hotel is an inn located in Fort Benton, Montana, and was founded in 1882. It was most recently reopened again by Jim and Cheryl on its 117th anniversary. The Grand Union Hotel is a common stop for those looking to adventure the Missouri River, seeing as how the grounds are next to the river. It has a patio that guests can use to dine next to the river as well. The property is full of history, both its own as well as that of the surrounding area. The building has 26 units that visitors can rent out, as well as a few common areas and its own restaurant.

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