“When my ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water, advancing a little further, I saw the spray arise above the plain like a column of smoke which would frequently disappear again in an instant – which soon began to make a roaring too tremendous to be mistaken for any cause short of the great falls of the Missouri.”  Meriwether Lewis, June 13, 1805

The falls were more than 80 feet high, giving him a view that he described as:

…the grandest sight I had ever beheld.”

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Today, visitors see the falls quite differently, as the power of the water falling a total of 476 feet over the five falls has been harnessed to provide electricity, but it is still an awesome sight.  Four of the Falls flow over dams.  Colter Falls has been submerged in the river for several years now.

We visited the Great Falls and Black Eagle Falls.  Both are best seen from island in the center of the river.  Footbridges provide easy access to the island.IMG_6353 SUSPENDED BRIDGE TO ISLAND AT THE GREAT FALLS (RYAN DAM)

The dam is 1,366 feet long and 61 feet high.  The power plant supplies electricity to the equivalency of 45,000 households. (The water is flowing at a rate of 134,000 gallons per minute.)IMG_6368b

We drove next to the Black Eagle Falls and Dam.  We walked over to the island and took several photos, but perhaps the best view is from the top of the bluff above the falls:

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Inspiring all of us who attempt to keep journals, Meriwether Lewis was meticulous.  Black Eagle Falls is named for one of his entries:

“…below this fall at a little distance a beautiful little island well timbered is situated about the middle IMG_6446of the river.  In this island on a cottonwood tree an Eagle has placed her nest; a more inaccessible spot I believe she could not have found for neither man nor beast done pass those gulphs which separate her little domain from the shores…”

We were not fortunate enough to spot an eagle, but we did watch this osprey.

The road leads, scenically,along the river IMG_6467

to the Lewis and Clark  Interpretive Center.  In my opinion, this is one of the best national Interpretive Centers we have visited.

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This great, artistic buffalo greets you as you enter.

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The multi-media exhibits of the center lead you on an informative, captivating tour chronologically through the 2 year plus expedition.  Several of the exhibits focus on the portage around the Great Falls area.  Supposing they had perhaps a mile to transport the boats and supplies around the falls, the portage became 18 miles of brutal work taking almost a month to traverse.

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IMG_6510At one point, they even attached wind sails to the vessels to make it easier.

The Expedition, covering over 8,000 miles was inarguably the greatest single exploration of the United States.

If you would like to learn more about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, here are some excellent sites:

Discovering Lewis and Clark

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

A volunteer at the center suggested we eat at a local drugstore’s Soda Fountain.  We took her advice… had a great sandwich and soup, followed by a sarsaparilla soda …. umm umm … just as good as it looked on the old Bat Masterson television show.

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