CM Russell Museum and Recreation in Great Falls, Montana

Gateway to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. Visit the C.M. Russell Museum featuring his log cabin art studio from 1903.
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Gateway to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. Visit the C.M. Russell Museum featuring his log cabin art studio from 1903.
Biking the River's Edge Trail, 48 miles of trail along the historic Missouri River. Photo courtesy of Great Falls Tourism

Biking the River's Edge Trail, 48 miles of trail along the historic Missouri River. Photo courtesy of Great Falls Tourism

The West Unbridled at Great Falls

From the famous scenes of the West captured by C.M. Russell on his canvases to live mermaids swimming underwater at a bar, Great Falls has must-see, world-class sights.

Catch a Vivid Window into the Old West at the C.M. Russell Museum

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926), The Fireboat, 1918, oil on board, C.M. Russell Museum Collection, Gift of Mrs. Wade George in memory of Wade Hampton George (cropped)

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926), The Fireboat, 1918, oil on board, C.M. Russell Museum Collection, Gift of Mrs. Wade George in memory of Wade Hampton George (cropped)

You’ll find one of the West’s most vibrant storytellers in Great Falls, Mont.

But you won’t be able to hear his stories. The great artist Charles Marion Russell died in 1926. Instead, you’ll discover evocative scenes from the 1800s and early 1900s depicted across his broad canvases with splashes of bright-colored paint at the C.M. Russell Museum. You’ll find herds of rambunctious elk and the haunting sunlit faces of three Native Americans witnessing a steamboat on the Missouri River for the first time.

“I like to say that the more you dig into Charlie Russell and his art and writings, the more you are drawn into his world,” says Duane Braaten, the museum’s senior art director. “It’s like you’d like to sit around a campfire with him and hear his stories. A visit to the museum is the about the closest we’ll ever get to that.”

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926) The Jerk Line, 1912, oil on canvas, C.M. Russell Museum Collection, Gift of Fred Birch (cropped)

Charles M. Russell (1864-1926) The Jerk Line, 1912, oil on canvas, C.M. Russell Museum Collection, Gift of Fred Birch (cropped)

While other renowned artists of Russell’s era like Thomas Moran and Frederic Remington traveled to the West periodically, Russell stayed, carving out a rich life in a corner of the West where the Great Plains roll up to the Rocky Mountain front. The museum, his home and log-hewn studio sit on the exact city block where Russell, his wife Nancy and son Jack lived.

Befriending native tribes, he earned the name Ah-Wah-Cous for “antelope” because of the buckskin patch on the rear of his wool pants. A quiet community leader, locals continue to revere him because he captured the real lives of earlier generations.

“A few of his paintings are almost like photographs,” says local Rebecca Engum, executive director of Great Falls Montana Tourism. “My husband’s grandfather’s favorite piece is one of cowboys roping a bear [the 1916 Loops and Swift Horses]. He always said, ‘Son, that’s one of the things we probably never should have done.’ He captured things people actually did, which is what endears him to the community.”

Sip n’ Dip Lounge

The Sip n Dip mermaid show in Great Falls, Mont. Photo by V Smoothe via Flickr

The Sip n' Dip mermaid show in Great Falls, Mont. Photo by V Smoothe via Flickr

Sip a drink in a tiki bar while watching live mermaids swimming underwater on the other side of the bar’s glass windows at the legendary Sip n’ Dip Lounge in downtown Great Falls on 7th Street right off Central Avenue. It’s been ranked by GQ the number one bar on Earth worth flying. Where else can you look out the windows to watch mermaids swim and do performances underwater?

As if the scene was not amazing enough, longtime lounge singer Piano Pat Spoonheim takes center stage Wednesdays through Fridays after 9:30 p.m.

“You have not experienced the Sip n’ Dip until you have sung Sweet Caroline [by Neil Diamond] in Piano Pat’s style,” says Engum.

Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center

Exhibit at the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center in Great Falls, Mont. Photo by David Krause

Exhibit at the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center in Great Falls, Mont. Photo by David Krause

Experience how it felt to pull a boat against the currents of the Missouri River during the days of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s 8,000-mile expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. You’ll also discover how the two men and their team spent from 1804 to 1806, mapping the territory and its flora and fauna, meeting Indians and searching for a suitable route to the Pacific Ocean.

For more information:

Great Falls Visitor Center
(800) 735-8535
15 Overlook Dr., Great Falls, MT
genuinemontana.com

C.M. Russell Museum
400 13th St. N., Great Falls, MT
cmrussell.org

Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center
fs.usda.gov/recarea/lcnf/recarea/?recid=61458

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