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Black Eagle Falls, Montana

Black Eagle Falls is one of five waterfalls on the Missouri River near Great Falls, MT. Today, these five falls look very different than they did when they were first described by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

However, they are still interesting to observe and are a great way to enjoy a bit of history around Great Falls, MT.

Black Eagle Falls are the uppermost falls on the Missouri at Great Falls. This small set of falls has a number of interesting drops, and when water is not diverted for use in the hydroelectric plant, these falls are quite impressive.

black eagle dam
Image: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

The Black Eagle Falls was first seen by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. The five great falls of the Missouri River were considered to be one of the most spectacular views the travelers had seen up to that point on their journey.

They were also considered to be one of the most challenging limitations to continued travel along the Missouri River. Portage was necessary for the Expedition to pass around the five falls, and also added a considerable amount of time to their travels.

Black Eagle Falls was named such because of the large number of eagles that were seen living on a small island in the river just above the falls. In 1890 the river was dammed just above the falls. It was the first of the “great falls” to be dammed for hydroelectric power.

Visitors to the falls have a variety of viewpoints on the Black Eagle Falls. There is a lookout point on the west end of Veterans Memorial Park, and within the park, there are a couple of nice viewing platforms as well.

Black Eagle Falls Statistics

black eagle falls statistics
Image: Jimmy Emerson, DVM
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Height: 26 feet
  • Trailhead: No trailhead is necessary
  • Season (when can it be accessed): Year round

Recreational Activities Near Black Eagle Falls

recreational activities near black eagle falls
Image: Simon Foot

Black Eagle Falls are located on the eastern limits of Great Falls, MT. This means that there are plenty of recreational activities to be enjoyed in town.

There are also great recreational activities located along the Missouri River outside of Great Falls as well.

Hiking/Walking

Great Falls has a well-developed trail system that allows you to walk safely within the city. One of the most popular trails runs along the south shore of the Missouri River. This trail starts at the South Shore Trailhead near Rainbow Falls, and travels through town, ending at Riverside Park.

This trail offers great views of the Missouri River, and walkers can enjoy a number of nice parks along the way.

If you’re looking for something a bit more natural, Check out the hiking trails in Giant Springs State Park. This state park offers some nice, short nature trails where you can watch wildlife and enjoy views of the Missouri River.

Biking

Biking is a very popular recreational activity in Great Falls. As with walking/hiking, there are plenty of great trails within Great Falls that are fun for bikers.

The South Shore trail is paved through town making it a great adventure for families and those that don’t want to venture off the beaten path.

From the South Shore Trail trailhead, heading east, the trail is dirt and makes for an easy mountain biking adventure. This portion of the trail will take you from Rainbow Falls all the way to the Ryan Dam and the Great Falls, the largest falls on the Missouri in Montana.

Giant Springs State Park also allows bicycles on the trails within the park.

Fishing

The Missouri River is very popular for anglers. All along the Missouri there are great opportunities for fishing.

Within the Great Falls city limits there are multiple access points to the river for fishing and recreation. The river here is pretty wide and deep so shore fishing is the most popular fishing method.

Black Eagle Falls is one of the better places to fly fish on the Missouri in Great Falls. This area offers shallower waters that are ideal for catching rainbow trout and brown trout. Other game fish you’ll find in this area include catfish and walleye.

Visitors and locals alike need to have a valid Montana fishing license before casting their line. Fishing licenses can be purchased online from the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks website.

Trail Routes Near Black Eagle Falls

trail routes near black eagle falls
Image: david

South Shore River’s Edge Trail

This 27.2-mile trail starts at Ryan’s Dam and follows the river to the Rainbow Falls scenic overlook.

From here the trail continues to the west into Great Falls. The trail between South Shore Trail trailhead and Ryan Dam is a popular single-track trail for hikers and mountain bikers.

This trail is considered to be moderately difficult as it passes through some challenging terrain. This trail can be busy, especially during the spring and summer months, and is a popular trail for local hikers and bikers. The views along this trail are outstanding.

From the Rainbow Falls overlook heading west, the trail is paved and is part of the Great Falls parks system.

From here the trail follows the river, passing through numerous city parks, and ends at Whittier Park. There are plenty of amenities along this section of the trail.

Giant Springs State Park Trail

Giant Springs is a site along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The state park is home to the largest freshwater springs in the United States. It was described by Clark on June 18,1805. Today the springs are part of the Giant Springs State Park.

The Park has a great, 1.4-mile loop trail that travels through the park and along the Missouri River.

The hike is relatively easy, and the trail is well-maintained. This is a popular area for families because the trail is accessible for small children and strollers.

Sulphur Spring Trail

The Sulphur Spring trail is a great hike for history buffs. The 3.4-mile trail starts near Malmstrom Air Force Base and travels to a small spring. There is minimal elevation gain as the trail follows the river.

It is considered a moderately challenging trail, as the trail is difficult to see in some places.

The Sulphur Springs were used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition to aid Sacagawea after she had fallen ill. The waters in the spring were considered to be medicinal.

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