McLaughlin Institute

Great Falls: An Exceptional Quality of Life

great falls montana

Located between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, Great Falls, Montana, is surrounded by natural beauty and recreational opportunities. A local author and outdoor enthusiast has written that “You can travel in any direction from Great Falls and within two hours be in remote, spectacular country.”

The Missouri River flows through town and offers some of the country’s best fly fishing. The nearby and dramatic Rocky Mountain Front offers unbeatable hiking. Bird and big game hunting are popular pastimes. In winter, powder skiing is an hour’s drive away in the Little Belt Mountains. Without even leaving town, you can walk, jog, skate or bike along the River’s Edge Trail, a 25-mile path along the Missouri River.

Great Falls is also rich in cultural opportunities. The Great Falls Symphony and its resident chamber ensembles have a strong presence in the community. Great Falls is known as the Western Art Capital, and it also boasts a dynamic contemporary art museum. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center and other museums represent the fascinating history of the area.

Great Falls is known for its good schools and for being a safe place to raise a family. The sane pace of living and lower cost of living make it a wonderful place to call home. Its affordable housing market didn’t reach the highs much of the country experienced and therefore remains strong. That means that in Great Falls the “good life” is within easy reach.


The Missouri River


The Missouri River. Photo Courtesy of Kate Burns
The region provides opportunities for hunting big game and birds. Hunting guides are available. Fly fishing is popular at the numerous streams and rivers. Golf enthusiasts enjoy the city’s golf courses including Emerald Greens Golf Club. Guided tours are available for hiking the Lewis and Clark Trail. Riding the trolley in the historic downtown is popular with tourists. The Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is situated on a large acreage and is popular for wildlife photography.

Downtown Great Falls, MT


Downtown Great Falls. Photo Courtesy of Kate Burns.
Great Falls was founded in 1883 by Paris Gibson and railroad tycoon James J. Hill. The city was established to generate power from the nearby waterfalls. In the early days it was known as a businessman’s town. Industries and the supply business were flourishing. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company was the largest employer.

Significant growth occurred with the construction of a military base in the 1940’s. However, during the late portion of the century, declines in the rail transportation business and the farming population as well as the shutting down of the smelter reduced the city’s population. In 1950 a citizen filmed what he perceived to be a UFO. The claim received national attention and is considered to be one of the first major UFO incidents in the country.

Points of Interest


Charles Russell. Photo Courtesy of Kate Burns.


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