Great Falls Portage

SE of Great Falls at jct. of U.S. 87, 89, and 91, Great Falls, Montana


Great Falls

One of the 5 falls that required the portage.

Photo taken by Jim Allen in Sept. 2018




In June & July of 1805 the Lewis and Clark Expedition undertook an 18-mile, 31-day portage at Great Falls, one of the most difficult ordeals of their westward trip. -- National Historic Landmark statement of significance, May 23, 1966

They portaged around 5 waterfalls on the Missouri River. They are (going upstream) Great Falls, Crooked Falls, Rainbow Falls, Colter Falls, and Black Eagle Falls. There are now dams above three of them, Great Falls (Ryan Dam), Rainbow Falls, and Black Eagle Falls. Colter Falls is submerged; only Crooked Falls looks as it did in 1805. The portage started at Belt Creek, the Lower Portage Camp east of the city of Great Falls, and went 18 miles to the Upper Portage Camp, south of Great Falls.

This landmark consists of 2 discontinuous sections of the trail. They are the lower campsite, at the beginning of the portage, and the upper campsite, at the end of the portage. Most of path is on private land and not open to the public

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966
Reference number
Area of significance
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event
Property type
Historic functions
Road-related; Camp
Current functions
Park; Agricultural fields
Period of significance
Significant year
Number of properties
Contributing sites: 3
Non-contributing buildings: 1
Non-contributing structures: 1

Update Log 

  • December 26, 2018: New photos from Jim Allen
  • December 23, 2018: Updated by Jim Allen: expanded description