Every now and then we get the opportunity to collaborate on a project that has real cultural significance. The Great Northern Town Center’s “Great Falls of the Missouri” rendition was just such a project. In preparation for the nation’s commemoration of the Bicentennial of the historic journey of Meriwether Lewis & William Clark, Land-Escapes Inc. was chosen to work with the architectural firm of Mosaic Architecture PC., and Dick Anderson Construction to create a Helena landmark with Nicholson Inc. as the project principal.
There were two major parts to this project, 1) build a water feature that would emulate the Great Falls of the Missouri River and 2) build a “re-creation” of the Gates of the Mountains. The Great Falls Portage of 1805 presented Lewis and Clark with one of the most challenging ordeals of their famed expedition and The Gates of the Mountains, just a few miles north of the city, were described as “the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen” by Meriwether Lewis in his journal. They seem to open and close as on hinges as one travels the Missouri River by boat.
We constructed the “Great Falls” from large blocks of the same slate rock as the original. While the original drops 87 feet ours falls about 8 feet and has significantly less water flow even at 300 gallons per minute. Our “Missouri” then flows about 80 feet toward our “Gates” which are made with nearly 200 tons limestone in mostly two rocks! They are set in such a way as, just like the real thing, to appear to be opening and closing as you stroll along the “Missouri” pathway.
Every summer thousands of visitors enjoy the sights and sounds of the cooling waters of the mighty “Missouri” as it cascades over these Great Falls. The place is alive with young and old alike at the ice cream parlor, the Carousel, the Exploration Works and the many fine businesses and eateries in the area. Check it out when visiting our beautiful capitol city.