Rainbow Falls

overlook at dam with rainbow
Rainbow Falls Overlook

NPS/ Alex Wiles

Quick Facts
Great Falls, Montana

Lewis and Clark NHT Visitor Centers and Museums

Visitor Centers (shown in orange), High Potential Historic Sites (shown in black), and Pivotal Places (shown in green) along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Rainbow Falls is a High Potential Historic Site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

On June 14, 1805, as Lewis explored the Great Falls of the Missouri River, he encountered “one of the most beatifull objects in nature, a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular streching at rightangles across the river from side to side to the distance of at least a quarter of a mile. here the river pitches over a shelving rock, with an edge as regular and as streight as if formed by art, without a nich or brake in it; the water de­cends in one even and uninterupted sheet to the bottom wher dashing against the rocky bottom rises into foaming billows of great hight and rappidly glides away, hising flashing and sparkling as it departs the sprey rises from one extremity to the other to 50 f. I now thought that if a skillfull painter had been asked to make a beautifull cascade that he would most probably have pesented the precise immage of this one.” Accord­ingly, Lewis and Clark named this landmark waterfall “Handsome Falls.”

Now called Rainbow Falls, the feature is located directly upstream from Crooked Falls and about a mile downstream from Giant Springs. The height of the falls is crested by Rainbow Dam, which was constructed in 1910. Water flow is diverted to a hydroelectric power plant, which has all but eliminated the tremendous cascade witnessed by Lewis. An overlook of the falls is accessible by roadway or footpath, and a USFS Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is located about 1.5 miles to the west.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Last updated: August 11, 2020