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Great Falls is known as the Electric City, a moniker given when hydroelectric powers dams were built on the series of waterfalls in the city. At Great Falls the Missouri River flows from the Rocky Mountains and, in a series of five waterfalls, quickly descends to the level of the plains. In the summer of 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent a full month portaging the ten miles from the lower falls to the upper. Eighty years later, Minnesota magnate Paris Gibson began developing the site as a source of hydroelectric power. Today, as Montana's third largest city and home to Great Falls International Airport, Great Falls serves as the perfect entry into Montana's vast central interior.
Perched on bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center explores the early history of the region through exhibits and live programs. The fifty-seven mile long River's Edge Trail along both banks of the Missouri gives bikers and walkers a chance to view the spectacular falls that stymied the explorers and the dams that made Paris Gibson wealthy. Adjoining the Interpretive Center is Giant Springs State Park, named after one of the world's largest cold water springs. A state trout hatchery and the Roe River, one of the world's shortest rivers are in the park. The city has numerous unique shops and boutiques, as well as two sophisticated art museums. Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art showcases unique contemporary art. The C.M. Russell Museum exhibits the life, times, and work of turn of the century cowboy artist Charles Russell, one of Montana's most famous and beloved citizens. In addition to a huge collection of his artwork and Native American artifacts, the museum complex includes Russell's original home and log studio. In the twentieth century, Great Falls gained fame as the location of Malmstrom Air Force Base. Watch the history of the nation unfold at the Malmstrom Air Force Base Museum and Air Park, with exhibits covering World War II to the present.
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