Postcard from the mighty river at Great Falls

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The Missouri River at Great Falls, Montana. | Dennis Lennox

Great Falls is more than just a quick stopover on a summer road trip across Big Sky Country.

As a destination, Montana’s third-largest city punches well above its weight, thanks to the big-city feel of its downtown, a couple of notable museums and a landscape that remains beautiful despite being partially covered up by the progress of industry.

Great Falls, as its name implies, is situated at the great falls of the Missouri River. Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame called the falls — some 900 feet wide and 80 feet tall — “the grandest sight” he ever saw.

Dams and power plants changed much of the scenery, though a small stretch of the river at the aptly named River’s Edge Trail in Giant Springs State Park offers a vista from the past.

Inside the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. | Dennis Lennox

Fittingly, this is also where the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is located. The two-story museum, run by U.S. Forest Service in partnership with a nonprofit foundation, gives visitors a crash course in the history of the Corps of Discovery’s 8,000-mile expedition in the aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase.

Beyond the history of this important chapter in the story of America, there is the art found in the city’s two art museums.

The C.M. Russell Museum has 16 galleries devoted to its namesake, Charles M. Russell. The artist,…

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