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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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After passing one continued rapid and three small cascades of about four or five feet each[,] at the distance of about five miles I arrived at a fall of about 19 feet; the river is here about 400 yds wide. this pitch which I called the crooked falls occupys about three fourths of the width of the river, commencing on the south side, extends obliquly upwards about 150 yds.[,] then forming an accute angle extends downwards nearly to the commencement of four small Islands lying near the N. shore; among these Islands and between them and the lower extremity of the perpendicular pitch being a distance of 100 yards or upwards, the water glides down the side of a sloping rock with a volocity almost equal to that of it’s perpendicular decent.
For a time, later in the nineteenth century, it seemed to some viewers that “horseshoe fall,” would be more descriptive, but Lewis’s name has prevailed. The islands and sloping rock Lewis noted have been obliterated by the in-fill on the north bank, which covers three large pipes that carry water from an intake above Rainbow Fall to a powerhouse a short distance below Crooked Falls.
By Jim Wark
Of all the falls of the Missouri, this one remains the nearest to the way it looked to Lewis and Clark.
Just above these falls, the captain continued, “the river makes a suddon bend to the right or Northwardly. I should have returned from hence but hearing a tremendious roaring above me I continued my rout across the point of a hill a fiew hundred yards further.” — lewisandclark.org
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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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