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Aerial view of Great Falls and the Missouri River

Great Falls is a city in and the county seat of Cascade Countymarker, Montanamarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 56,690 at the 2000 census. It is the principal city of the 'Great Falls, Montana Metropolitan Statistical Area', which encompasses all of Cascade County. Great Falls takes its name from the series of waterfallsmarker that the Lewis and Clark Expedition had to portage around, requiring 31 days of arduous labor, in their 1805-06 exploration of the Louisiana Purchase. Two undeveloped parts of their portage route are included within the Great Falls Portage, a National Historic Landmark. The city is home to the C.marker M.marker Russell Museum Complexmarker, the University of Great Falls, Giant Springsmarker, the Roe River (world's shortest river), and the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind, as well as the Great Falls Voyagers minor league baseball (formerly known as the Great Falls White Sox) team. The local newspaper is the Great Falls Tribune. Great Falls is known as the "Electric City" due to the five hydroelectric dams that are in the nearby vicinity along the Missouri Rivermarker.

A Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index listed Great Falls as the most affordable area of 348 markets in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Geography and climate

Great Falls is located at (47.503657, -111.286299), near several waterfalls on the Missouri Rivermarker. It lies near the center of Montanamarker on the northern Great Plainsmarker, about south of the Canadian border.

Like other cities in the Great Plainsmarker and Midwest, the economy of Great Falls has suffered from the decline of heartland industry in recent years.

Thanks to the chinook wind, winter in Great Falls is relatively mild, but when the wind is absent, extremely cold temperatures lower than are common.

Great Falls receives an average of of precipitation, mostly in the form of summer thunderstorms and winter snow.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.9 square miles (51.6 km²), of which, 19.5 square miles (50.5 km²) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.1 km²) of it (2.21%) is water.

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 67 70 78 89 93 101 105 106 98 91 76 69
Norm High °F 32.1 37.7 45.3 55.6 64.7 73.9 82 81.2 69.6 58 42.1 34.2
Norm Low °F 11.3 15.1 21.5 29.7 38.3 46 50.4 49.9 41.2 33 22.5 14.4
Rec Low °F -37 -35 -29 -6 15 31 36 30 16 -11 -25 -43
Precip (in) 0.68 0.51 1.01 1.4 2.53 2.24 1.45 1.65 1.23 0.93 0.59 0.67


As of the census of 2000, there were 56,690 people, 23,834 households, and 14,848 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,909.1 people per square mile (1,123.0/km²). There were 25,250 housing units at an average density of 1,295.7/sq mi (500.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.96% White, 0.95% African American, 5.09% Native American, 0.86% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 2.45% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.39% of the population.

There were 23,834 households out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.4% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,436, and the median income for a family was $40,107. Males had a median income of $29,353 versus $20,859 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,059. About 11.1% of families and 14.5% of the population and 11.1% were below the poverty line, including 20.3% of those under the age of 18 and 9.2% of those 65 and older.


Founded in 1883 by Paris Gibson and railroad magnate James J. Hill, Great Falls began as a planned power city, situated to take advantage of the hydroelectric power of the waterfalls of the Missouri Rivermarker. Historian William J. Furdell described it as "a businessman's town" and it was said that the city "couldn't point to a boot hill or a hangin' tree".

Great Falls post office was established July 10, 1884. Paris Gibson was the first postmaster. In 1889, construction began on the Black Eagle Dam, which provided the city with hydroelectric power by the following year.

Great Falls quickly became a thriving industrial and supply center and, by the early 1900s, was en route to becoming one of Montana's largest cities. The rustic studio of famed Western artist Charles Marion Russell was a popular attraction, as were the famed "Great Falls of the Missouri," after which the city was named. A structure billed as the "world's tallest smokestack" was completed in 1908 by the city's largest employer, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company's smelter, measuring tall. The Big Stack immediately became a landmark for the community.

Great Falls prospered further with the opening of a nearby military base in the 1940s, but as rail transportation and freight slowed in the later part of the century, outlying farming areas lost population, and with the closure of the smelter and cutbacks at Malmstrom Air Force Basemarker in the 1980s, its population growth slowed.



The Great Falls Tribune is published in Great Falls.

AM radio

FM radio


Great Falls is home to Malmstrom Air Force Basemarker and the 341st Missile Wing. The 341st Operations Group provides the forces to launch, monitor and secure the wing's Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and missile alert facilities (MAF).

These ICBMs and MAFs are dispersed over the largest missile complex in the Western Hemispheremarker, an area encompassing some 23,000 sq mi (59,570 km²) (approximately the size of the state of West Virginiamarker).

The group manages a variety of equipment, facilities, and vehicles worth more than $5 billion.

Great Falls International Airportmarker is also home to the Montana Air National Guard's 120th Fighter Wing. The 120th is composed of F-15 Eagles (F-15C/D) fighter aircraft and associated support personnel.

Great Falls is also home to the 889th Army Reserve Unit.


The Great Falls Police Department is the municipal law enforcement agency. The GFPD has 82 sworn men and women and 37 civilian supportive staff. The department has many subdivisions including a High Risk Unit.

The patrol division consists of 49 officers. There are four shifts. In 2005 the officers responded to 32,823 calls. There are three patrol teams. Each consists of a Lieutenant, two sergeants, and ten officers. There are three canines on the GFPD force. K-9 York and K-9 Kelly and K-9 Rhingo. Both dogs are from Holland. Officers Bragg, LaBard and Green are the dogs' owners. The dogs specialize in drug detection and suspect apprehension. Bike patrol consists of four officers and they mainly patrol the downtown section of the city. They volunteer to patrol on mountain bikes. HRU is a SWAT team which is trained to handle dangerous situations. The candidates take on rigorous tasks.

The GFPD was established in 1888. George E. Huy was the first police chief. At that time the department had two officers. The officers did not wear uniforms so they used plain clothes. The department got automobiles in 1914, and two-way radios in 1940, then computers in 1970. Now the department has 82 officers and 65 cars.

The current police chief is Cloyd "Corky" Grove.


Club Sport League Stadium (or Arena)
Great Falls Voyagers Baseball Pioneer League Centene Stadiummarker

For the 1979-80 WHL Season, Great Falls and the Four Seasons Arena was the home of the Great Falls Americans hockey team. The team was 2-25 before folding. Great Falls has a rich baseball history with the Voyagers. Formerly called the White Sox, Dodgers and Giants, baseball players such as Pedro Martínez, Jose Offerman, and Raúl Mondesí have spent time in Great Falls with the team. Since 1988, the team has won the Pioneer League championship five times (1988, 1989, 1990, 2002 and 2008). In 2007, the Great Falls Explorers basketball team were the CBA National Conference Runner-Up.

The Mariana UFO Incident

The Mariana UFO Incident occurred in August 1950 in Great Falls. Nicholas "Nick" Mariana, the general manager of the Great Falls "Electrics" minor-league baseball team, and his secretary observed two "bright, silvery spheres" move rapidly over the city's empty baseball stadium. Mariana used his camera to film the objects; the film was one of the first ever taken of a UFO. The incident received widespread national publicity and is regarded as one of the first great UFO incidents in the United States. In 2007, the Great Falls White Sox were renamed as the Great Falls Voyagers to commemorate this event. The team logo features a green alien in a flying saucer.

Notable natives and residents

Motion pictures filmed in Great Falls

Numerous motion pictures have been filmed in and around Great Falls, Montana. These movies include:

Sister city

Great Falls has one sister city, as designated by Sister Cities International (SCI):


  1. Great Falls Weather|Great Falls Weather Forecast|Great Falls Climate
  2. Lutz, Dennis J. Montana Post Offices & Postmasters, p 24, p. 200. (1986) Minot, ND: published by the author & Montana Chapter No. 1, National Association of Postmasters of the United States
  3. History | Police Department | Great Falls, Montana
  4. Patrol Services | Police Department | Great Falls, Montana
  5. K-9 Dog Unit | Police Department | Great Falls, Montana
  7. Administration | Police Department | Great Falls, Montana

Further reading

External links

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