Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 26, 2016, Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, Greate Falls of the Missouri, Ryan Dam, and Fort Benton

July 26, 2016, Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, Great Falls of the Missouri, Ryan Dam and Ryan Island, and Fort Benton, Traveled up to Shelby, MT.

We has some excellent touring today in the Great Falls area of Montana. Two very much worth visiting locations. The first is the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center run by the US Forest Service. This is one of the better interpretive centers that we have visited. Excellent exhibits and demonstrations. The center is located in the Great Falls area and is the region of the Missouri River that has 5 falls. This area caused the Corps of Discovery to portage their canoes 13 miles and two week around the falls. When you see what they had to climb up with these huge wooden canoes it is amazing they just didn't turn around and go home. But these weren't go home kind of guys. The made wheels and carts and hauled and pulled their canoes up the walls of the Missouri River.

Lewis & Clark National Historical Trail Center.

We learned three different ways to make fire. Very cool.

Lewis & Clark's men were part of the army, they wore official jackets like this.
The Missouri River from the bluffs by the center

I got to see an excellent demonstration of how to make fire and how Lewis & Clark navigated and figured how their distances. This location is also the site of the Great Spring which we didn't see because it was so hot. But a great way to start the day.

Next on our trip was to drive a little ways up Route 87 to the Great Falls. This is one of the falls that Lewis & Clark had to go around. It is now the home of the Ryan Dam and Power Station but before there was a dam it must have been spectacular. The falls themselves are 96 feet high and very wide. It is pretty cool, but what is really nice is just below the dam is an island called Ryan Island. You take a swaying suspension foot bridge over to the island. This is a little jewel. It is just beautiful, trees, nicely set up with the soaring walls of the canyon all around. We just loved it there. It would be a great place for a picnic.

To get to Ryan Island Park Picnic Area and the Ryan Dam you take Ryan Dam Road off of Route 87 and drive for nine miles through some amazing wheat fields on this small little road. This entire area of Montana is just filled with these huge wheat fields. They are amazing. Almost hard to comprehend how big they are. We have drive through miles of corn and soybean but the wheat fields are even bigger. We are not talking in square acres but in square miles. It is hard to image how much work it must take to deal with all of these. But every grocery store in America has a bread section and it has to come from somewhere. Western Montana is one of those places.

Walking across the suspension bridge to the island. It starts moving right away

Ryan Island Dam on the Great Falls, Missouri
Louise walking through the island park. A beautiful little park in the middle of the river

This is the point of the Missouri River that caused Lewis and Clark to portage the canoes 13 miles around the falls. The river bank walls are maybe 100 or more feet high, it is amazing how they did this. The interpretive center has a life size model of what they had to do.

Reenactment of how they hauled their canoes up the river bank. It is hard to believe
After the Great Falls and Ryan Dam we drove north to Fort Benton, Montana. Between 1860 and 1887 Fort Benton was the center of freight shipments for the Western United States and Canada. 600 steamships came up to this river port over those years and transferred their goods to oxen and horse. Today it is a small town with a bunch of museums but no really foot traffic. It takes a bit to get there, again miles of wheat fields and frankly I don't think it is worth it. Unless maybe a festival or something is going on there. It is interesting but we have already seen much of the history. There is though a really cool overlook just before you come to Fort Benton. You see a huge bend in the Missouri River that is really cool.

Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea, Fort Benton, MT

Driving north and west we started looking for a hotel for the night. While doing so we ran around the edge of a huge storm. The sky here is amazing and you really feel the "big sky country" saying. It is very flat and you can see for a zillion miles. Storm clouds are huge and powerful. For the night we are in Shelby, kind of a rail road town that is a jumping off point for Glacier National Park.