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In the 1970s the Wilhelm family purchased a tract of land across the Missouri River from Giant Springs State Park and the site of the present day Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. The Wilhelms built a home on the edge of the Missouri River and kept the rest of the land undeveloped. Since that time interest in waterfront properties along the river has grown substantially, both among developers and groups seeking to preserve the natural habitat of such areas. Both sides of the Missouri River, downstream from Black Eagle Falls to the Sulphur Spring, were extensively mentioned in the Lewis and Clark Journals - approximately 18 miles - and remain largely in their natural state. Most of the north side of the river is protected by the Lewis and Clark Greenway, a conservation and trail easement guaranteeing that the land will remain undeveloped indefinitely. The Wilhelm tract was the only piece of private property on the north side of the Missouri River.

In a related development, Great Falls’ Rivers Edge Trail has expanded significantly along the Missouri River throughout the 1990s. Much of the early trail development began in an abandoned railway on the south shore, and today this trail area has largely been completed. Attention in recent years has focused on the north shore of the river.

In 1998, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center was built on the south shore, near Giant Springs State Park. The building was designed to blend with the natural landscape, and was purposely oriented toward the undeveloped portion of the Wilhelm property, with large sweeping windows offering an impressive view of the Missouri River and the north shore. From 1998 through 2006, negotiations for the purchase of the Wilhelm property continued on and off, with no success. Then within the span of a few months in 2006 and 2007, two strategic opportunities to purchase the land surfaced.

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The undeveloped portion of the property was subdivided into three lots and listed for sale. These properties were at serious risk of being sold and developed. With the support of several partner agencies, the Foundation purchased all three 5-acre vacant lots in 2006. An opportunity to purchase the home and 2.4 acres came the following year. Numerous individuals, foundations, and companies came together to financially support the project through the Lewis & Clark Foundation. In 2017, the home was demolished, and today these lands remain largely in an undeveloped natural state – just as it was when the Lewis and Clark Expedition traversed the area more than 200 years ago. With financial assistance from Atlantic Richfield, the Foundation purchased the last original Wilhelm parcel, a 9-acre parcel just north of the road.The Lewis & Clark Foundation is grateful for all who stepped forward to support the project. A plaque recognizing donors contributing $500 or more can be found on the Interpretive Center grounds, east of the amphitheater. Donors to the project are also listed here.


Caspar C. and Martha L. Garrigues Fund


Atlantic Richfield
The Cinnabar Foundation
City of Great Falls
Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce
James S. Fish Family Foundation
Missouri-Madison River Fund
Pacific Steel & Recycling
PPL Montana
River’s Edge Trail/Recreational Trails, Inc.
Roland & Helen LaPee Family Foundation
Marian J. Setter
Swank Enterprises


Bresnan Communications
Central Montana Radio Network
Debbie Churchill
Ian & Nancy Davidson
Giant Springs Heritage State Park Commission
Great Falls Tribune
Dr. William Peter Horst
Lewis & Clark Honor Guard
Mrs. Bette MacGilvra in memory of Robert E. MacGilvra
Robert & Gladyce Oakland
Sheila Rice
Bob & Pat Sletten
Southern Montana Electric Generation & Transmission
Guy Tabacco Construction Co.
Dr. Bill Tacke & Barbara Teberg
Titcomb Foundation
US Bank
Beth Wolff
James & Frances Wylder


American Public Land Exchange Co.
Norma Ashby
Andy & Zander Blewett
Rick & Peggy Bourne
Dick & Agnes Brooks, in honor of the volunteers
Central Plumbing & Heating, Inc.
Chicago Title
First Interstate BancSystem Foundation
Dept. of Family Medicine, Great Falls Clinic
Randy and Nora Gray
Dr. James Hinde & Dr. Lynn O’Malley
Carla Hobbs
Gerry & Chuck Jennings
La Quinta Inn & Suites
In honor of Stan and Jane Meyer 50th Anniversary
Don Mills
Dr. Brian & Joan Molloy
Dr. James & Carol Mungas
Art & Marian Neill
Northwestern Energy
Albert & Lois Reeves
In memory of Henrietta and John Remsh
Frank & Nadyne Ritter
Jay & Renee Russell
Barbara Sales
John & Rita Schrader
Alan & Joyce Schubert
Shortgrass Web Development
Rick & Sarah Stevenson
Keith & Judith Strong
Suhr Transport
Dennis & Dawn Thomas
Ray & Lynne Wahlert


Charlie & Sydne Abernathy
Dr. John Logan Allen
Anderson Family Pharmacy
Viggo & Joyce Anderson
Terry & Roxann Barber
Dr. Bryant Boswell
George & Colleen Campanella
George & Frances Carlson
Sharon & Will Crough
Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole and Dietrich
James & Sandra Cummings
Bob & Barb Danielson
Paco & Loretta Doran Day
Tom & Tamara Dimke
Jack Eidel
Dr. Chad & Dr. Carrie Ann Elkin
Dave & Lois Engbrecht
Justine Farmer
Darrel & Lois Gabriel
Garth & Kathleen Gabriel
Tom & Laurie Gilleon
Eric & Teresa Gysler
Headwaters Chapter, Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Fnd.
William & Jan Hill
Dan & Lora Huestis
Paul & Beverly Hurst
Don & Patsy Joyner
Charles Kuether & Dr. Susan Effertz
Dan Konen
Debbie & Bob Kuntz
Mike & Carol Lamphier
Eldon & Erica LaTray
Kathryn Lewis
Nancy Lewis
Brian & Patricia Loucks
Dr. Gary & Constance Ludwig
Bill & Joan-Nell Macfadden
Ron & Dawn Maurer
Dr. Bobby & Dr. Nancy Maynard
George & Connie McCabe
Mountain Title Co.
Stuart & Janie Nicholson
Ira & Mary Ann Peterson
Plum Creek Foundation
Ben & Rhonda Rangel
Brice & Denise Russell
Randy & Barbara Sakalis
Sam’s Club
Dale & Judy Schwanke
Sons of Norway - Lodsen #138
Earl & Lillian Spangenberg
John & Sue Ann Stephenson-Love
In memory of Alan Sterry
Rex & Marlene Tanberg
3D International
Bert & Myrna Thurber
Stan & Janet Tiffany
Glenn & Peggy Tremper
Harold Uecker
Will & Nancy Weaver
Walt & Angie Walker
Jim & Jane Weber
Persis M. Webster
Thomas Wolgamot
Scotty & Claire Zion


Lewis and Clark Discovery Space at the Great Falls International Airport


Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, along with the Corps of Discovery, faced and overcame one of the greatest challenges of their journey here in the area of the Great Falls in the summer of 1805.  Five waterfalls and numerous rapids along the local stretch of the Missouri River forced an epic portage of 18 miles and four separate trips to transport all of the Expedition’s canoes and equipment to safer waters.  The portage took nearly two weeks, and the Corps of Discovery spent over a month in the Great Falls area, before they could “proceed on” to the Pacific.  This exhibit offers you a taste of the obstacles the Lewis and Clark expedition overcame on their journey across the continent.


Enjoy this hands-on display to get a taste of what we have in store for you when you visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center here in Great Falls.  The Lewis & Clark Foundation  engaged the services of Klundt-Hosmer Exhibit Design to create a hands-on, child-friendly space for children (and adults) visiting the airport and/or waiting for airline travel.


  • A replica dugout wagon-cart used on the Great Falls portage

  • Tipi

  • Replica fire pit

  • Artifacts

  • Flip panels with information on the major characters of the Expedition

  • Graphics/text on the adjacent walls.


The space is located inside the secured area of the airport, but is highly visible through large glass windows in the unsecured area.


The focus of the space is to display information and material that will be interesting and educational for children, as well as adults watching their children in the Discovery Exhibit.


Special thanks to the following sponsors who made this exhibit possible:

First Interstate Bank

Alice Lee Lund Charitable Trust

Roland and Helen Lapee Family

    Foundation, Sue Warren, Chair 


Contract Flooring / Carpet One

Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation

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