Sunday, August 4, 2013

Great Falls, MT

Continuing north on I 90, we enjoyed more lush scenery along the Missouri River.

We settled in at the Moose Lodge in Great Falls which even provided us with electricity.  Since it was hot, we gladly accepted.

We headed out to view the great falls for which the town is named.  When Meriwether Lewis scouted ahead to look for the waterfall the Indians had told him about, he was surprised to find a total of five waterfalls that would require a portage of 18 miles.  This is the first he saw heading up river.  At 97 feet high (without the added dam), it is the actual Great Falls.
It must be pretty impressive during high water times.

It can be viewed from a pretty island/picnic area accessed by this cool bridge.

This is Rainbow Falls with the colorful rock.

And the furthest up river is Black Eagle Falls.  Here's Ron doing his impression of Captain Lewis.  As you can see, they all have dams on them now.  We can only imagine their former appearance.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center there is fabulous.  I have no pictures, but go if you're ever in Great Falls.

We also really enjoyed the C.M. Russell Museum.  Charlie Russell was very famous for his paintings of the old west.  He must have been incredibly prolific since the museum was huge and I'm sure holds only a small portion of his work.  Photography was not allowed, BUT some of his paintings were also in the Historical Society Museum in Helena and they allowed pictures.

Here is a good representation of his work.

This one is not his usual western theme, but depicts Russell's first love, Laura 'Lolly' Edgar.

This last painting, called The Exalted Ruler, I grabbed off the internet.  I guess not everybody obeys the rules.  But keep in mind that this picture bears only the faintest resemblance to the actual giant painting that hangs in the museum.

This painting has a fascinating story.  As every self-respecting member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks knows, the lodge president is called the Exalted Ruler.  Charlie Russell was a member of the Elks Lodge in Great Falls and painted this picture for them.  It looked to be about 3 1/2' x 4' to me - it is magnificent!  It hung in the Elks lodge until the mid 1990's when they decided to sell it, either due to the cost of insuring it or because they needed money.  Concerned citizens created a fund raiser to keep the painting in town.  Contributors could 'buy' a 2 1/2 square inch of the masterpiece for $250.  In this way, they raised 1.2 million dollars to buy the painting, restore it (you can just imagine the smoke damage), and donate it to the museum with all the contributors listed on a plaque beneath.  What a story!


  1. You really need to see the falls in the spring with the snow run off. Even with the dams they are really pretty.

  2. I love Russell's work, he really captured the essence of the Old West.

    How imaginative it was for the townspeople to save the painting. Thinking outside the box works every time.

  3. One cant visit too many falls in my opinion ... a theory I hope to put to test very soon ;-)

  4. We love Great Falls and have stayed at the Moose Lodge many times. Jeff the manager is a wonderful man.

  5. I'm enjoying your trip through Montana since I've never been there myself.

  6. Its great that the community stepped up and purchased the painting! Its a shame the damns are located right at the falls, still awesome landscapes.

  7. Also love CM Russell. If you ever come across his book Good Medicine I think you would enjoy it. Great illustrations on his old letters.