Saturday, October 9, 2010

Great Falls, MT

On the way to Great Falls we drove down to Coal Banks Landing on the Missouri River. In about a week there was a group who planned on kayaking down the Missouri and Coal Banks Landing was the put in place. We wanted to see what it was like. This part of the Missouri River was considered to be one of the prettiest by Lewis and Clark. It is called the 'White Cliffs of the Missouri'. Unfortunately my circumstances changed and I was unable to make the kayak trip, but at least I got to see the surrounding area.
Just down the road from the landing was what remains of the town of Virgelle. Here is the mercantile building. It is now a river outfitter and antique/gift shop.

Next door was the old bank. The bank also is filled with items for sale and they use the old vault for storage.

The outside of the bank. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the bank was charged in 1917 by Virgil Blankenbaker. The town thrived in the 1910s with the influx of homesteaders and ranchers. But with the drought and depression of the 1920s few homesteaders remained and the bank closed in 1927. The building became the home of a railroad employee in 1941, but in 1985 the railroads abandoned this track and today there is no trace of the railroad at all.

Back on the way to Great Falls was the town of Big Sandy. They have a nice rest area so we stopped and walked around town (the entire 4 square blocks). This area's claim to fame is having the Ft. Walsh and Cow Island Trails go through town and the road to Judith Landing on the Missouri heads east out of town, so it was a crossroads of sorts. The town grew up in the 1880s with several warehouses and 9 saloons. Most saloons were tents on a platform. Story has it the men would get drunk, hook up the platforms to their muleteams and pull the saloons down the street through town.

Arriving in Great Falls, we stayed in the parking lot of the convention and expo center. Nearby were biking trails which took you wherever you wanted to go in town. Across the river was this old building. As I got closer I realized it was the old train depot. Now a commercial office building, not much is left inside which is original.

C.M. Russell, the artist, was from Great Falls. In addition to his residence, his studio is next door, and the town has built a museum behind. The day we arrived they were having an open house at the museum with food and music.

Giant Springs on the Missouri River. 150 million gallons of fresh spring water flow into the Missouri River daily from this spring.

The Roe River, one of the shortest rivers in the country, only 201 feet.
Rainbow Falls.
Great Falls was so named when Lewis and Clark found they would have to portage around the 'great falls' of the Missouri. It turned out to be 5 sets of falls and their portage was appx 18 miles to cover the 21 mile stretch of falls and rapids. Today only 4 falls remain, Colter Falls being underwater since the river has been damned.

Black Eagle Falls, the uppermost falls.

A group of us decided to bike the 6 miles or so to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It turned out to be more like 10 miles and the wind was so bad it felt like 20.

Here we are starting our adventure.

These sculptures were along the rail to trail which ran alongside the Missouri.

I liked the paintings on this buffalo inside the interpretive center.

But this painted beast was found downtown.

Not sure which fall this is.

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