Malmstrom is in north-central Montana, just outside the city of Great Falls. The climate is moderate, the air clean and pure, the humidity low and the sun illuminates the Big Sky for as long as 16 hours during the summer. The average temperature during January is a crisp 35 degrees while July averages a comfortable 83 degrees. On the average, the area receives 5 feet of snowfall annually.
In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition took note of this area, describing it as “The Great Falls of the Missouri” in their journals. Eighty-five years later, the first of five dams harnessing the mighty Missouri was completed. By that time, the young city had grown out of the planning stages into a community boasting a smelter, a hotel, a school, a newspaper and a church.
Gibson Park in Great Falls was named after one of the founders of the city. In 1882, Paris Gibson, of Minneapolis, surveyed the region with James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern Railroad. They began dreaming of a planned city and, by 1884, turned that dream into a reality. Today, the population of Great Falls is nearly 60,000, making it Montana’s third-largest city.
Great Falls is home to Giant Springs State Park, one of the largest freshwater springs in the world. First discovered by Lewis and Clark in 1805, the springs flow in an underground river at a measured rate of 156 million gallons of water per day. Lovely picnic grounds and a state fish hatchery are adjacent to the springs. The park is also the site of the Roe River — the shortest river in the world. Call 406-727-1212 or visit http://stateparks.mt.gov/giant-springs for more information about the park.
Just 15 miles west of Great Falls another state park — First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park and National Historic Landmark. This archaeological site has possibly the largest bison cliff jump in North America. For more than a thousand years, the area was used by Native Americans to hunt bison by driving them off the cliff. Trails allow visitors to view the deposits of bones left for centuries, along with the teepee rings left from Native American encampments. Aprairie dog town is on the bluff along the entrance roadway. Visit http://stateparks.mt.gov/first-peoples-buffalo-jump or call 406-866-2217 for more information.
Recreational and cultural opportunities abound in Great Falls. The world-renowned C.M. Russell Museum houses the most complete collection of the works of Charles Marion Russell — America’s cowboy artist. Encompassing an entire city block, the complex, at 400 13th St. N., includes a museum, Russell’s original log cabin studio and his home. The museum’s collection contains more than 13,080 items, including fine art, photographs, studio props, firearms, letters and more. For more information, call 406-727-8787 or visit www.cmrussell.org.
If you’re interested in more contemporary art, check out the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art. The museum’s permanent collection of more than 800 pieces includes Northwest regional contemporary art, American Indian contemporary art and American self-taught art. Lecture series, classes and workshops are also offered. The museum is one of Great Falls’ oldest and most beloved landmarks and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The building served as a school from 1896 to 1975. Two years later, community volunteers renovated and reopened the building as Paris Gibson Square. For more information, call 406-727-8255 or visit www.the-square.org.
Great Falls also has much to offer the shopper. Downtown there are more than 30 shops, boutiques, restaurants and other retailers. Along the “strip” — 10th Avenue South — you’ll find everything from furniture to motorcycles as well as the Holiday Village Mall. This 60-store complex features men’s and women’s fashions, shoe stores, jewelers, eateries and more.
Great Falls has many annual events, but one of its most popular is the Montana State Fair. The fair includes a rodeo, horse racing, agricultural and livestock exhibits, commercial exhibits, a carnival, food concessions and shows featuring well-known national entertainers. For more information, call 406-727-8900 or visit www.goexpopark.com.
For more information about the area, visit the chamber of commerce at www.greatfallschamber.org.