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"Whether biking, jogging, in-line skating, running, or walking is your favorite outdoor
  activity, the River's Edge Trail is the perfect venue. The paved urban trail links many  
local parks and attractions along both sides of our scenic and historic riverfront."
~ from the City of Great Falls, MT Parks & Recreation Dept. website

Although Jim and I have been busy getting everything back in order since we arrived at Gateway FamCamp at Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls six days ago, we've taken time each day to get out and ride our bikes and/or walk with Cody.

The weather has been dry and  unseasonably warm -- and we've been taking full advantage of that after months of wet, chilly weather in Alaska and Canada.

Looks like fall but still feels like summer in Great Falls

In this entry I'll show photos I've taken on different days from the impressive River's Edge multi-use trail along the Missouri River. The paved path parallels several miles of Lewis & Clark's historic portage along the Missouri River and utilizes portions of old railroad beds.

It's a great hike or bike ride with lots of scenic views and historical significance. 

We discovered this terrific bike path back in May but this time we rode the entire length of it on the south side of the river (about a dozen miles are paved). I believe there are more paved miles on the other side of the river. We haven't explored those or the many miles of multi-use dirt trails at the north end of the paved path we rode:

The dirt trails start here; the paved trail continues to the right for a couple miles to Crooked Falls.

It's interesting to compare of photos from the end of May and now. The terrain looks much different now in the fall than it did in the spring, especially through the hilly grasslands to the north:

Curve between Rainbow Falls and dam (left) and Crooked Falls on May 31

View this week of same curves in the river; the water level is much lower now.

As much as I like green, the golden grasslands are more striking against a brilliant blue sky in autumn.


Here's a diagram of the bike path from an interpretive panel:

You can find a larger version of the map here.

Most of this paved bike/hike path is very scenic, particularly on the more hilly and rural northern section beyond the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center and Giant Springs Heritage State Park:

Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

Giant Springs Park as seen from the bike path; this grass is still mostly green.

The grasslands just north of the park are gold now. The base of a roaster stack (left, above)
is all that remains of 75+ buildings at the former site of a silver smelter from 1888-1902.

This portion of the bike path is higher above the river and sometimes farther away from it through the grasslands, but trail users still have views of the river most of the way.

There are also excellent views of Rainbow Falls/Dam and Crooked Falls. I took all these photos either from the bike path or the Rainbow Overlook, which is a little closer to the river.

The next six photos show different views of Rainbow Falls and Dam:


There is much less water in the river now than in May. There is usually less at the end of summer but there's also a human-engineered reason right now for the low levels. I'll explain in a little while.



Note all the poles carrying water-generated electricity from the power plants along the river:

Crooked Falls is about half a mile downstream (north of) Rainbow Dam:



Note the dirt trail foreground, left; it's part of the south shore hike-bike trail system.

The horse-shoe shaped falls is the only one of the five falls in Great Falls that isn't mostly straight across, hence the name "crooked."

The U-shape is easier to see in pictures where the river is full of water than when it's very low:


The power plants are not very attractive, nor are the oil tanks across the river on the way downtown -- but these signs of industry are easy to ignore if you focus on either the Big Scenic Picture or interesting small things in the water (like all the birds) or close to the bike path (colorful leaves and flowers, e.g.):

Waning Gaillardia flowers

Nature's way of ensuring new milkweed plants next year

Continued on the next page:  photos from the southwestern part of River's Edge Trail

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil