Great Falls, named after thunderous falls in the Missouri River
, is the county seat of Cascade County
. It lies 87 miles north of Helena
on I-15, on the banks of the river. The city also is near Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
In 1882, Paris Gibson came west and made plans for a city, then laid them out for James Hill, an influential railroad man. Hill provided financial backing for Gibson, realizing that a city here would be a valuable railroad connection.
Today Great Falls, population 57,758 (est. 1998), is Montana's second-largest city. Its highest employment lies in the retail, administrative/clerical, and service sectors. January's average high and low temperatures are 30.6 and 11.6 degrees. July's high and low are 83.3 and 53.2 degrees. The city derives much of its cultural flavor from the life and renderings of resident Charles M. Russell, cowboy and western artist.