Giant Springs State Park in Montana was one of the stops on Louis and Clark’s month-long portage through the area. Getting to it was an adventure in itself for these historic explorers; they were told by natives to expect a journey of only half a day, but ended up needing several weeks thanks to the amount of heavy equipment they needed to drag with them.
Once there, they found themselves standing at the largest freshwater springs in the United States. The Giant Springs put out 156 million gallons of water every day. The state of Montana has taken advantage of this massive amount of fresh water to run a fish hatchery, and every year, 200,000 people visit the park to see both the springs and the hatchery. The park has been managed by Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks division since 1972.
This state park is not only home to a “biggest” natural feature. It’s also home to the shortest river in the world: the Roe River, measuring only 201 feet long. The river discharges into the much-larger Missouri River, which takes the water the rest of the way to the ocean. There are also at least 80 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles in the park. Interpretive lectures are offered every summer at the Rainbow Falls Overlook to tell visitors about the fascinating array of wildlife they can see.
Five waterfalls impeded the progress of the Lewis and Clark expedition. One of these is located here in Giant Springs State Park. This falls is Rainbow Falls, and it’s just a short walk up a path from the Roe River.
Hikers, canoe-lovers, and naturalists all enjoy this Montana state park. Historically-minded people also find it a fascinating stop. For those interested in its history, the Louis and Clark Historic Trail Interpretive Center is a must-see. The Center is just ½ mile from the hiking trail, making it an ideal stop for those who have come to the area with walking in mind. Several benches and overlooks make the park an ideal stop for those of all fitness levels.
Many also take a look at the modern fishery, where trout and salmon are hatched. Thanks to the close proximity of the Missouri River, many water-based activities are available. Canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are clear choices for those who enjoy riparian fun.
Camping isn’t available on-site, but there is a KOA Campground nearby to make it easy to stay in the area with sites for tents and RVs. There are also cabins, so if you’re not into “true” camping, you can still enjoy the campground’s amenities. These amenities include a pool, firewood, and campfire sites.
To reach Giant Springs State Park, drive two miles east of U.S. Highway 87 on Giant Springs Road in Great Falls, Montana. The park’s address is: Giant Springs State Park, 4600 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, MT 59405. You can call them at 406-454-5840 for details on any activities you’d like to know more about. The park’s official web page can be found through the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks site at http://fwp.mt.gov/parks/visit/.
When you’re ready to take a hiking tour through a beautiful and historic landscape, Giant Springs State Park is definitely a place that should be high on your go-to list. With 15 miles of hiking trails, a beautiful river, and easy access to a very large river, it surely won’t disappoint you.