The name Great Falls suggests a natural, picturesque scene, yet the city's nickname is the "Electric City." Upon further exploration of this town, it is clear that Great Falls is difficult to pin down with a single identity. Only in Great Falls do scenic waterfalls on the Missouri River coexist with the world's tallest smokestack, built in 1908 and affectionately called "The Big Stack." Since before the city's incorporation in 1888, enterprising businesspeople in Great Falls have been harnessing the hydroelectric power provided by its waterfalls, earning the city a reputation as a prosperous industrial area.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Since the city's inception, Great Falls has been known as a great place for businesses to thrive. In fact, the main reason it was founded was to put the hydroelectric power given off by the waterfalls to good use, which accounts for its five dams. Today, there are a number of large companies in Great Falls. Some of the employers with the largest economic influence in Great Falls are the 341st Missile Wing and the Malmstrom Air Force Base, which together employ roughly 5,000 people. Other large companies with headquarters in Great Falls include Davidson Trust Co., Benefis Healthcare and Prairie Mountain Bank.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
The city of Great Falls accommodates a mostly urban population of over 58,000. Neighborhoods and districts of Great Falls accommodate around 25,000 houses, out of which more than 23,500 are occupied. Of the occupied houses, more than half are owner-occupied while renters occupy the rest. The median home price in Great Falls is slightly lower than the statewide median.
The walkability of Great Falls is good. Most of the places like grocery stores, restaurants and schools are within a mile's distance from the center of the city.
Historic Great Falls Downtown offers shopping, dining, culture, and arts. Downtown's Main Street is home to many events and festivals, including a farmers market. The Riverside Railyard Skate Park, Historic Trolley Tour, Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, and Children's Museum of Montana are among the area's greatest attractions.
Great Falls comprises a multitude of neighborhoods that are overseen by nine active Neighborhood Councils. Popular residential areas include:
- Fox Farm: Located in the SW corner of town, this family-friendly neighborhood features excellent schools and is walking distance to several parks and the city's main shopping plaza.
- East End and Riverview: These newer areas are also known for their good schools and local parks.
- Other Great Falls neighborhoods include Bel View Palisades, Valley View, and Prospect Heights.
- Montana State University-Great Falls: This campus offers more than 30 degrees, most of which can be attained in one to two years. The focus at MSU-Great Falls is on hands-on training, particularly in the College of Technology, which teaches skills in business, health care, and general technology.
- University of Great Falls: Roughly 1,000 students attend this private Catholic liberal-arts school, which offers a wide range of undergraduate degrees. Its two main colleges are the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Professional Studies. The College of Graduate Studies boasts several master's degree programs.
- Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind: This unique school teaches blind and deaf children from preschool to age 21, with a focus on encouraging them to become productive, independent members of society.
Great Falls residents can enjoy the great outdoors while watching some of the following local sports:
- Football: Great Falls Gladiators, a Rocky Mountain Football League team
- Baseball: Great Falls Voyagers, a Pioneer League baseball team
- Rodeo: Montana State Fair Rodeo, Montana PRCA Circuit Finals Rodeo
- The University of Great Falls athletic teams are called the Argos, and fans can watch their volleyball, golf, soccer, and softball games, as well as wrestling and cross country meets.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Great Falls is sometimes referred to as the Western Art Capital of the World and is home to several prestigious museums and a large performing arts center.
- Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts: Located in a historic building, this center gives Great Falls a much needed venue for trade shows, dances, concerts, and plays.
- Great Falls Symphony: For more than fifty years, this group has been sharing live music with Great Falls through enchanting concerts.
- Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center: This enormous facility offers Great Falls a theater, an exhibit hall, and more, with the goal of educating visitors about the state's history. Hiking trails located right outside the building are popular with locals, particularly in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
- C.M. Russell Museum: This museum is dedicated to one of the West's most famous artists, Charles Marion Russell. His paintings depict life in the West, particularly his home of Great Falls, during the early twentieth century.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Great Falls is credited with being the location where the first UFO was caught on film, in 1950. At that time, the general manager of the Great Falls Electrics baseball team, Nicholas Mariana, saw two spherical objects moving in the sky and caught the image with his camera. As a nod to Mariana, the Great Falls White Sox were renamed the Voyagers in 2007.
- The O'Haire Motor Inn is home to a bar called the Sip-N-Dip, which was ranked No. 1 on the list of the "Top 10 Bars Worth Flying To" by GQ magazine in 2003. It features live piano entertainment and a pool with swimmers dressed as mermaids.
- Some of the many movies filmed in Great Falls include The Untouchables, Northfork, A River Runs Through It, and The Vessel.
- Great Falls' Roe River is the world's shortest river, at a mere 201 feet long. It was in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1989, but there is no longer a category for the world's shortest river.