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Giant Springs State Park

Natural Wonder

Giant Springs State Park.

Giant Springs State Park

During the summer of 1805, the Corps of Discovery reached the Great Falls of the Missouri. While searching for a portage route on the south bank Captain Lewis stumbled upon a spring that "boils up from under the rocks near the edge of the river and falls immediately into the river 8 feet, and keeps its colour for ½ mile which is emencely clear and of a bluish cast."

Historically called "Black Eagle Spring" by the Blackfeet and now commonly known as Giant Springs, the spring is located on the south bank of the Missouri River at the Great Falls.

The Hidatsa told the Corps of Discovery that they would find giant waterfalls on the true branch of the Missouri, and this branch would be marked by an island upon which they would see an eagle's nest in a cottonwood tree. The Hidatsa also said that it would only be a half-day portage around the falls, but had not considered portaging heavy boats and goods. In reality the portage took nearly a month. On the up river side of the falls, Lewis's grand experiment with his specially built iron-framed boat failed, "I therefore relinguished all further hope of my favorite boat and ordered her to be sunk in the water."

It was also at the Great Falls where Lewis had a terrifying encounter with an ornery Grizzly Bear while bison hunting.

"I drew up my gun to shoot, but at the same instant recollected that she was not loaded and that he was too near for me to hope to perform this operation before he reached me … I ran about 80 yards and found he gained on me fast … the idea struck me to get into the water to such a debth that I could stand and he would have to swim, and that I could in that situation defend myself with my espontoon … the moment I put myself in this attitude of defence he sudonly wheeled about as if frightened … and retreated …"

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks began managing the 117-acre Giant Springs area as a state park in 1972. This springs is the largest freshwater springs in the country, discharging over 156 million gallons of water a day. Each year nearly 200,000 people visit the springs and the adjoining state fish hatchery. Other local attractions include: the C.M. Russell Museum, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, and the Museum of the Northern Great Plains in Fort Benton.