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Click the links below to learn more about Great Falls.

Don't forget to take a Virtual Tour of Great Falls!

It's true; Great Falls' consistently clear skies make it easy to find your place in the sun. Our pro-business attitude doesn't hurt either. In fact, you'll notice a down right sunny disposition among the people who live and work in Great Falls. Newcomers are always welcome.

We feel so positive about our community, we've put together a few facts to give you an idea of what Great Falls and her people have to offer.

bullet Virtual Tour
bullet History
bullet Climate/Topography
bullet Population
bullet Recreation
bullet Arts
bullet Health Care
bullet Military
bullet Media
bullet Economy/Industry
bullet Public Schools
bullet McLaughlin Research Institute
bullet Chamber of Commerce

History (top)

Montana was first seen by Indians, then by the French fur traders in 1743. Capt. Meriwether Lewis reached the Great Falls of the Missouri on June 13, 1805. A series of waterfalls blocked the water route of Lewis & Clark. From June 21 to July 15, the expedition undertook the strenuous task of portaging around the falls. The portage covered more than 18 miles. Lewis & Clark's journals were filled with tales of hardship, courage and a land of wealth.

Trapping, trading and socializing with the Indians followed the expedition until the 1840's, when the Black feet were decimated by small pox. In 1847, the American Fur Trading Company established a permanent post at Fort Benton.

Gold prospects came to Montana in droves in the early 1860's and struck it rich in Bannack with subsequent strikes in Virginia City and Helena. For many years the highway to Montana was the Missouri River. This had been the route used by Lewis & Clark. When gold attracted the attention of Westerners, other overland routes were opened. One of the early routes from Fort Benton to the mining camps at Virginia City and Helena passed through what is now Cascade County. Fort Shaw on the Sun River, a tributary of the Missouri, was established in June 1867, to guard immigration and freight trains along Fort Benton - Helena road, and to police the hunting excursions of the Indians

After the establishment of Fort Shaw, stock raising became the primary industry of the county. The arrival of the homesteaders saw grain production also an important role. In 1879 - 1880, the Little Belt Mountains yielded rich deposits of lead and silver ores, and a mining industry was born. Coal also was discovered, and Cascade became Montana's leading coal-producing county by 1893. The wealth of the entire state was enormous. In 1899, Montana produced 61 percent of the cooper in the Untied States and 23 percent of the production of the world.

The Missouri & Sun Rivers met at the site of Great Falls, which was virtually neglected until an engineer named Paris Gibson, a native of Maine and founder and early planner of the city of Minneapolis, saw the industrial potential of Great Falls. James J. Hill, the Great Northern Railway magnate and early developer of the Pacific Northwest, backed his careful surveys and meticulous plans. As a result of this support, Great Falls experienced the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in 1887.

The city was incorporated in 1888, and Gibson was elected its first mayor, a position he held for three years. Great Falls boasted a smelter, a hotel, a newspaper, a general store, a school, a church and a population of 3,979 by 1890, the same year in which the first of five dams to harness the wild Missouri River was completed.

Climate & Topography (top)

Partially encircled by mountain ranges, topography plays an important part in the climate of the Great Falls area. Primary factors in producing the frequent Chinook winds during winter are the Continental Divide to the west and the Big and Little Belt Ranges to the south. Summers are generally pleasant with moderately warm sunny days and cool nights. Most of summer rainfall occurs in showers or thunderstorms with steady rains occurring primarily during late spring.

Winters are not as cold as is common of a continental location at this latitude largely as a result of the Chinook winds. Subzero cold weather lasts seldom more than a few days, and are terminated by southwest Chinook winds which can produce sharp temperature rises of 40 degrees or more in 24 hours. Long hours of summer sunshine and adequate precipitation during the growing season makes the Great Falls area climate very favorable for dry land farming.

Population (top)

Throughout the hundred-year history of Great Falls, population has grown in surges with leveling in between. The current estimated population of Great Falls is 58,493 making it the second largest city in Montana, Billings being the largest with 86, 578

Recreation (top)


The Annual Montana State Fair runs the last Saturday of July through the first Saturday of August. The fair presents top name entertainment nightly along with a PRCA Rodeo. The Four Seasons Arena is situated on the Montana State Fair- grounds and offers a variety of events year-round, including top name country western and rock concerts, rodeos, basketball games and tournaments, trade shows, circuses, truck pulls, hockey tournaments and ice shows.


It is not unusual on a summer night to see the Missouri River occupied by water skiers, windsurfers, sculls, and fishermen-all in the space of a mile or two. Kayakers, canoeists and rafters also use the river and nearby rivers for their favorite summertime pursuits.


Montana is known for its 'COLD SMOKE', a light fluffy powder snow outstanding for skiing, which is available in several locations for downhill and cross country skiing. Showdown Ski Area, located 60 miles southeast of Great Falls, near Neihart at King's Hill Pass, has 32 downhill ski runs and 1400 vertical feet of ski trails with enough variety to suit every level of skier. With an average snowfall of 23 feet, Showdown usually has plenty of light, dry powder to tempt the skiing enthusiast. Rocky Mountain Hi Ski Area is on Teton Pass, 28 miles from Choteau. It is located on the edge of the Rocky Mountain Front, sometimes called the "Montana Alps." It has 25 runs, covering 150 acres, with a good mix of easy, intermediate and difficult terrain. Cross country ski enthusiasts find a bonanza in Russell Country, in the peaceful surrounding of winter-blessed back country. One of the most popular trail systems is the Silver Crest, located in the Lewis and Clark National Forest near Neihart and Kings Hill Pass. Groomed weekly, the Silver Crest trail has 3.5 km of easiest, 10.3 km considered more difficult, and 4.2 km classified as most difficult. Mizpah Ridge, O'Brien Creek and Deadman are all in the same proximity, 7 miles southeast of Neihart. None of these have groomed trails, but all have a mix of easy to most difficult.


Thirty of the top young pro prospects in the Los Angeles organization have the opportunity to play for the Great Falls Dodgers. Legion Park attracts more than 80,000 fans every June, July and August to watch Pioneer League baseball, making that sport the most-watched of all summer activities in Great Falls.


There are nearly 140 teams-and 1,800 players--in the City Parks and Recreation Department Leagues. Those teams compete weekly at Multi-Sports Complex from late April until early August. There are tournaments scheduled virtually every weekend at the eight Multi-Sports fields.


More than I 50,000 rounds are played at the three local courses each year. The 40- year old Anaconda Hills course, located in 131ack Eagle, has been expanded from 9 to 18 holes. The 18-hole R. 0. Speck course is the busiest public course in the state, but also one of the best. Out-of-town golfers can play the private Meadow Lark course with a club member. Emerald Green Executive Golf course opened also has a great 18 holes available.


A new recreation trail, known as River's Edge Trail has been completed. Running from Oddfellows Park, at the foot of the Warden Bridge on 1Oth Avenue South, to Giant Springs Heritage State Park northeast of town. The trail is 10 feet wide, and paved in concrete or asphalt.


From legendary trout streams in the west to spectacular walleye reservoirs in the east, Montana is an angler's dream come true. Whether it's casting a dry fly to a wild trout, trolling a deep-running plug for some of the West's largest walleye, or simply drifting a baited hook through the ol' fishing hole, Montana has it all. Montana has long been famous for superb trout fishing. The pure, cold water that rushes off the Continental Divide supports tremendous populations of rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout. Trout anglers throughout the world know blue-ribbon rivers such as the Madison, Yellowstone, Big Hole, and Bighorn. There are also the Beaverhead, Missouri, and Jefferson rivers; Rock Creek and Clark Fork; the Bitterroot, Flathead, and Kootenai rivers; Nelson's and Armstrong's spring creeks; and ... well the list goes on. The fact is, just about any little creek (we say "crick' out here) harbors sizable trout.

Numerous reservoirs and natural lakes also provide excellent trout fisheries. Try Canyon Ferry, Clark Canyon, Hebgen Lake, Flathead Lake, or the international Lake Koocanusa, where fish swim between British Columbia and Montana. Along with trout, many lakes contain kokanee salmon, yellow perch, largemouth bass, and northern pike. For adventuresome anglers, Montana's breathtaking mountains harbor countless high- country lakes accessible by foot or horseback. On Montana's central and eastern plains, trout are replaced by warm water species such as sauger, smailmouth bass, channel catfish, and even paddlefish, a prehistoric-looking fish that still spawns in the lower Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. Two huge reservoirs, Fort Peck Lake and Bighorn Lake, grow tremendous walleye, along with several other species. Wherever you are in Montana, collect your fishing gear and head for the nearest stream or lake. Chances are, you'll find great fishing.


Big game hunting in Montana is a very personal endeavor. In the Big Sky Country, we understand fully that the definition of the "total" outdoor experience varies from one hunter to another. Still, we can confidentially claim that when it comes to wildlife diversity and big game hunting opportunities, Montana has something to satisfy nearly anyone; something for the man who-cherishes hunting a wide selection of big game in an incredible diversity of topographic extremes and habitats; something for the woman who appreciates the state's sweeping scenery, its diverse ecosystems and its abundance of elbow-room; something for the youngster that defies interpretation, such as the shrill bugle of a rutting bull elk on a wild mountain divide; and something for nearly every- one else. Montana has a total land area of 147,138 square miles with over 1,260 square miles of water surface. On the terrestrial portion, eleven big game animals are found and can legally be hunted. These are moose, elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, ante- lope, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bear, grizzly bear, mountain lion and buffalo). Only a few places on the continent can lay claim to such a diversity of wildlife habitats and such a wide array of species.


There are more than 500 retail stores and 200 wholesale businesses: Holiday Village Shopping Center, 1200 1Oth Avenue South; Agri-Village group of stores, 4800 1Oth Avenue South; Westgate Shopping Center, 3rd Street Northwest; shopping complex off Northwest Bypass; Times Square shopping complex downtown, 525 Central Avenue; Marketplace Mall, Great Falls newest shopping experience, just off I-15.

Type of facilities in city or within 10 miles

Public golf courses ....3 Public parks....56
Racquetball court facilities....3 Sheltered picnic facilities .... 5
Public swimming pools.... 4 Horseshoe pits.... 40
Country club available.... 1 # of indoor movie theaters ....3
Softball diamonds.... 8 Handicapped access parks….yes
Outdoor basketball courts .... 6 Baseball diamond....18
Running tracks..... 5 Public pools w/water slide…1
Public tennis courts.... 20

The Arts (top)

The C.M. Russell Museum Complex has a complete collection of Russell works and memorabilia, including a log cabin studio and the Russell home. The Museum's Permanent Collection includes the most comprehensive accumulation of original Russell art works and personal objects to be found in any one place. In addition to our Russels, visitors enjoy the works of such world-renowned artists as O.C. Seltzer, Winold Reiss, Olaf Wieghorstd and others. The C.M. Russell Museum has seven galleries and the Frederic G. Renner Memorial Library. Library facilities are available to the public
under staff supervision.

Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art contains exhibits of historical and contemporary art. Art classes, workshops and lectures are hosted in this 1895 building. It is also the home of the Cascade County Historical Society and the Genealogy Society.

The Great Falls Community Concert Association can be reached at (406)- 453-4102

Great Falls symphony is a first class symphony, which was founded in 1959. The association consists of a 65-member orchestra, 70-voice symphonic choir, a resident string ensemble, the Cascade Quartet, and woodwind quintet, The Chinook Winds. Among its regular presentations the Symphony offers a six-concert season, two free performances for senior citizens and elementary school children from Great Falls public and private schools as well as some 30 rural schools, special events such as touring opera, dance and musical theater, a free summer concert in a park, and choral Broadway dinner theater. The Cascade Quartet performs a 10-concert chamber season, is available for private and public performances and presents some 30 to 40 children's programs each year throughout the entire state of Montana.

Montana Chorale is a professional touring chamber-choir of adult musicians from Montana and the Northwest. The chorale's expansive repertoire includes Renaissance music, contemporary, sacred works, classical motifs, and American and international folk music.

Healthcare (top)

Great Falls, with two accredited hospitals, four centers for long-term care and eight first-rate clinics is Montana's medical center. Benefis Health Care West Campus is a nationally known cancer treatment center, while Benefis Health Care East Campus is nationally recognized for the treatment of heart disease. Front Range Healthcare -2 locations for convenient health care. Other medical assets include several skilled Nursing Centers and Retirement Communities, Great Falls Clinic, the McLaughlin Research Institute for tissue and organ transplantation, the Montana Rehabilitation Center for the treatment of crippled children and adults, numerous treatment centers and a regional ambulance service encompassing both land and air.
Number of hospitals in community....................2
Number of beds ............................................. 486
Clinic in community…………Yes
Medical Doctors ............................................ 311
Dentists ....................................... 51
Registered Nurses .......................................... 509
Licensed Practical Nurses ....... 121
Note: Numbers are approximate.

Military (top)

Malmstrom Air Force Base, the largest intercontinental ballistic missile complex in the world is located just five miles east of Great Falls. Manned by approximately 573 civilian and approximately 3,868 military employed personnel, Malmstrom Air Force Base is the largest military base in Montana and one of the key bases in the Northwest. Malmstrom is the headquarters of the 301 AREFW, which reports to AMC, and the 341 Missile Wing, which reports to ACC whose mission is to operate the underground Minuteman sites in Montana. The base also houses the 301st Air Refueling Wing and 5,338 military dependents. 1554 military retirees live in the Great Falls area. Air Force people in Great Falls make up nearly 12% of the population of the city's metropolitan area, providing a $94 million payroll. in addition, other military spending here brings this figure to an impressive $253 million annually. The entire missile complex covers a section of central Montana totaling over 23 thousand square miles. All personnel manning this vast complex are assigned to Malmstrom.

Montana Air National Guard

Great Falls is headquarters for the 120th Fighter interceptor Group of the Montana Air Guard, which occupies 42 buildings and allied facilities atop Gore Hill. Its complement of 1,1 60 members has 416 who are full-time. 20 f-I 6 fighter jets and I other aircraft augments our nation's air defense, ready status. MANG annually pours over $21 million in the GI-eat Falls trade stream in the form of payroll and local purchases.


Reserve units
All service branches maintain reserve units in the city: Army, Navy, and Air Force. Substantial capital outlays in buildings, equipment, plus full-time duty personnel are maintained offering both information and opportunity to young people for fulfilling their military obligations.

Media (top)

Top-flight newspaper and electronic media enhance the Great Falls market area whose residents enjoy the facilities of the daily and Sunday Great Falls Tribune with a daily circulation of 34,577 and 41,722 Sunday.
The weekly newspaper, The Consumers Press, is free with city wide distribution.
There are three television stations: KFBB--TV, KRTV, and KTGF Channel 16 plus eight radio stations: KMON--AM & FM, KAAK/KXGF--AM, KEIN/KLFM Radio, and KQDI-AM & FM. in addition, the Great Falls Television Cable utility provides TV subscription service to many additional northwest stations.

The Public Library at 301 2nd Avenue North is ultra-modern in design. The Montana Room contains many rare historical books & papers on early Montana and Great Falls. Hours: IO A.M. to 8 P.M. ---Tuesday through Thursday; IO A.M. to 5 P.M.--Friday and Saturday. Closed Mondays, Sundays and Holidays.

Economy (top)

The 'base economy' of Great Falls includes agriculture and livestock, military, state and federal governments and manufacturing.

Situated in the heart of some of the finest farmland in the country, Great Falls markets more of Montana's grain and livestock production than any other city, It also serves as the major grain processing and trade center to a 14 county agricultural region.

The military defense impact made by Malmstrom Air Force Base adds approximately 3986 military and civilian personnel and an estimated $273 million dollars annually to the area's economy. Great Falls is also headquarters of Montana Air National Guard and reserve units of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.

The Great Falls Tribune is the major newspaper with a daily circulation of 34,000 and a Sunday circulation of 40,000. Clean industry, such as the Pasts Montana and American Agri-Technology Corporation's ethanol plant have great potential in the future of Great Falls. Several State and Federal agency offices are located in Great Falls and continue to be a stable portion of the base economy.

Great Falls serves as a regional center for much of the north central Montana. As such the city serves the retail medical and service needs of many surrounding counties. The city takes pride in the 1,400 retail, service, wholesale, and financial establishments, three major convention centers, large indoor arena, two shopping malls, Northwest Bypass strip mall, and its 60-block stretch of business on 10th Ave South, the most heavily traveled section of highway in the state.

Its establishment of High Plains Development Authority, Inc. to promote growth in the private sector evidences Great Falls' positive attitude toward economic development.
For more information contact: High Plains Development and Port Authority, Inc. (406-) 454-1934

Economic Development

High Plains Economic Development Corporation works to provide sites and capital financing for new and existing plants. The Development Corporation does not restrict its work to exporting industry. It is directed by a board of capable and alert business leaders and is involved in the development of North Park, a 142-acre industrial park in the northeast corner of the city.

Air Service

Five scheduled airlines-Delta, Northwest, Northwest Air Link, Sky West and Horizon provide local and transcontinental flights both east west and north south, as well as international service to Canada and the Orient. The International Airport is the City's aviation center. The Montana Air National Guard base and U.S. Customs overlooks the entire city and provides a memorable sightseeing experience when viewed at night. See the mural of the Lewis & Clark Expedition Portage Around the falsl by artist Robert Orduno located over the escalators.

Public Schools (top)

Take a Virtual tour of our schools.

Great Falls Public Schools is a school district on the move, serving close to 13,000 regular, special education, alternative education and adult education students.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study recently rated the Great Falls School Districts as the most efficient of eight districts chosen nationally, at translating tax dollars into direct school and classroom services for children. District financing is from four tax sources - local, county, state and federal. Facilities consist of fifteen elementary schools (grades K-5), three middle schools (grades 6-8), and two four-year high schools, a special education center, and an adult education/ alternative program center. Included are two field houses, a 6,000-seat stadium and playing fields and tracks at the middle schools. School District #1, the second largest in the state, employs 1,805 persons, including 1, 1 2 7 full-time employees, making it the second largest employer in the city. Some 805 teachers, 49 % of who have master's degrees, instruct close to 13,000 students in regular and special classes.
The Montana State School for the Deaf and Blind is located here and is one of the finest Special Education centers in the country. Great Falls has three private schools which serve children from preschool through eighth grade.; Emmanuel Christian School, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, Holy Spirit Catholic School.

Scholastic Achievement
High school students have consistently surpassed state and national averages on ACT and SAT tests, scoring an average of 522 in math (national average 476) and 462 in verbal (national 424) on the SAT. Composite scores of 22.6 on the ACT compare to the national average of 20.6 Scores on the elementary and middle school Iowa Test of Basic Skills are well above national averages. Graduates regularly include national Merit finalists, Presidential Scholars, and military academy appointees. Seniors garner scholarships of nearly $1 million annually, and many are accepted at prestigious colleges and universities.
The SAT and ACT are taken by college-bound students only, and is not to be used to measure total student achievement for a high school.

View the Great Falls Public School website.

Special Services
Transportation is provided for eligible students in elementary, middle school, and senior high schools. School buses transport nearly one-fourth of the student population. Seven elementary schools have a breakfast program and all schools offer a hot lunch program, with 1.3 million meals being prepared each year by the School Food Service's three production centers.

Education Attainment of Labor Force

Graduate/Prof. Degree - 5.6 % High School Graduate - 36.3%
Bachelor's Degree - 1 2.7 % 9-12th Grade Grad. - 10.9 %
Assoc. Degree - 5.4 % Less than 9th grade - 6.2 %
Some college, no degree - 22.9 %  

Post-Secondary Education

Higher education opportunities includes Mountain States Baptist College, a four-year Biblical Arts college; the University of Great Falls, a four-year liberal arts institution with a Master's Program; and Malmstrom Air Force Base Education Center which offers three masters degrees in cooperation
with Troy State University and five Bachelors degrees from Park College.
A $4 million Montana State University College of Technology campus offers excellent post-secondary training and is the site for MSU - higher education for Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate degrees. MSU Northern - Great Falls is an extension of MSU Northern in Havre.
The Montana University System is a single, unified organization comprised of two comprehensive, doctoral - level universities; four administratively merged, four-year institutions, and five merged colleges of technology. All units are bound together for the common purpose of serving the citizens of Montana. The system includes research universities specialty institutions, and smaller colleges closely attuned to regional needs.

University of Great Falls

The University of Great Falls (UGF), formerly the College of Great Falls, is an independent, four-year university sponsored by the Sisters of Providence. Spanning nearly 50 acres in southeast Great Falls, the campus consists of 11 buildings, one of which houses the Galerie Trinitas, featuring artwork created by the late Sister Mary Trinitas Morin.
UGF offers more than 60 associates, bachelors, graduate and pre-professional degree programs. The school boasts a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and an enrollment of more than 1,400 students of diverse backgrounds. Career and placement services are available to students and graduates.
The university offers numerous events and activities to the community and surrounding area on a year-round basis. Recreation opportunities are available at the McLaughlin Center swimming pool, gym, poolroom, and bowling alley. The community also may use the university library or reserve other campus buildings for events or conferences.
Web site:

Montana State University
College of Technology

The MSU-College of Technology constantly evaluates its educational offerings to provide challenging, high-demand programs offering Associate of Applied Science Degrees and Certificates. Montana University System core courses and transfer of credit, day, evening and weekend classes; Internet courses, seminars and workshops; customized training, and a telemedia studio for distance learning enhance and strengthen the College's exciting educational opportunities. Enrollment is approximately 2000 students a year from throughout Montana and Canada. MSU-College of Technology in Great Falls offers: 16 Associate Degrees and 10 Certificate Programs

Montana State University - Northern-Great Falls
MSU-Northern-Great Falls is an extension of MSU-Northern located in Havre. MSU-Northern has the primary mission of providing accessible university programs designed to prepare teachers and technical experts in fields ranging from business and nursing to diesel and electronics engineering technology Other key niche programs include biology with a paleontology emphasis and growing graduate program offerings. Degree programs include: 17 Associate Degrees, 24 Bachelor Degrees, 4 Graduate Degrees, and 2 Certificate Programs. Web site:

Mclaughlin Research Institute (top)

The biomedical research work conducted at Mclaughlin Research Institute over the past 25 years is recognized throughout the world. Research at MRI is dedicated to improving the health of the nation's citizens through increased understanding of the genetic basis of susceptibility to disease. Cutting edge research, aided by mouse strains developed by MRI, may lead to major advances in unraveling the complex heredity of cancer, and help prevent or treat the devastating brain disorders of later life such as Alzheimer's disease. In addition to its research programs, MRI also sponsors a summer research-training program for talented Montana High School students; several internationally respected scientists and physicians gained their first exposure to research at MRI.
Although established research programs are funded by grants and contracts, ongoing needs require an endowment fund to meet costs of operations and support for promising new research initiatives. Consequently, a fund-raising campaign has been launched. Committed to improving the nation's health, the Board of Trustees, Scientific Advisory Committee and Staff of McLaughlin Research Institute are dedicated to preserving and expanding this valuable national resource.

Chamber of Commerce (top)

The Chamber has a proud history and is regarded as one of the northwest's better volunteer business organizations. Its office is located at 812 2nd South. First organized as the Board of Trade in 1888, then in 1912 as the Great Falls Commercial Club, the Chamber was officially brought into being in 1926. Today, this 900-member organization is regarded as the city's spokesman and one of the most influential segments working for industrial progress in the area. The Chambers affiliation with more than a score of state and national organizations assures the city close liaison with affairs of a larger scope.