On June 14, 1805, Meriwether Lewis wrote of a harrowing experience with a grizzly bear near the Great Falls of the Missouri: “In the first moment 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… I ran hastily into the water about waist deep, and faced about and presented the point of my espontoon… The moment I put myself in this attitude of defense he suddenly wheeled about… So it was, and I felt myself not a little gratified that he had declined the combat.”
More than two centuries later, people still run for their lives along the banks of the Missouri River; however, unlike Captain Lewis, they run not from danger but toward a healthier, happier standard of living.
Founded in 1989, the River’s Edge Trail Foundation seeks to provide trails for people to explore Great Falls’ outdoor opportunities and to improve the community’s quality of life. To date, more than fifty miles of paved and single-track trail have been laid along the Missouri River, providing opportunities for jogging, walking, hiking, skating, and cycling throughout an area teeming with scenery, history, and culture.
Along with the Missouri’s scenic views and wildlife, the Trail provides access to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and numerous parks, including Giant Springs State Park (which contains one of the largest freshwater springs and one of the shortest rivers in the world). The Trail also connects to Downtown Great Falls, where shopping, dining, and entertainment can be enjoyed, all without the need of transportation.
That said, those seeking culture need not go beyond the Trail to find it. More than one dozen public artworks can be found along the river’s edge, including Grizzly Bear, a life-size steel-frame sculpture at the site of Captain Lewis’ narrow escape.
For more information, visit thetrail.org.