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A writer from the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine toured the falls of the Missouri in the autumn of 1887 and reported: “The appearance of the Black Eagle Fall suggests its future use. Some day it will drive saws, spindles, and mill-stones.”4 Indeed, plans for harnessing the fall’s potential were already under way. The first dam, completed in 1891, provided both direct mechanical power and a limited amount of electricity for local use.
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“Despite their splendor the Great Falls presented much danger and hardship for the explorers. In one afternoon Lewis’s path converged with a bear, a mountain cat or wolverine and three buffalo bulls; to Lewis it seemed that “all the beasts of the neighbourhood had made a league to distroy me, or that some fortune was disposed to amuse herself at my expence” (140). Many members of the expedition were ill, including Sacagawea who had been suffering for more than a week from an unknown sickness. Clark, Charbonneau, Sacagawea and her baby nearly drowned in a violent storm of torrential rain and huge hailstones. Grizzly bears, rattlesnakes and mosquitoes were a constant worry, even to the dog, Seaman, who Clark noted was “in a constant state of alarm with these bear and keeps barking all night” (151) –nps.gov
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Meriwether Lewis was known to comment on the falls:
. . . hearing a tremendious roaring above me I continued. . . a few hundred yards further and was again presented by one of the most bea[utiful]objects in nature, a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular stre[t]ching at [right angles] 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 streight as if formed by art, without a nich[e] or br[eak] in it; the water descends in one even and uninterrupted sheet . . .
The waterfall was named “Beautiful Cascade” and later “Handsom[e] Falls” by Lewis, but was given its present name by Thomas B. Roberts, a railroad engineer, in 1872. — From Wikipedia
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A watchtower overlooking Last Chance Gulch was first built on the west side of “Catholic Hill” in the early 1870s. The one pictured above, which was taller and included a shelter on top, was built in 1874. An 1864 Gould Manufacturing Co. bell salvaged from the Missouri River sidewheeler “Tacony” was hung in the new tower (that bell is pictured above), replacing a large iron triangle which had been used to sound the alarm. — Helenahistory.org
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