Due to my busy schedule this summer it has been a while sense I have made any post to my blog. This summer has been a roller coaster of events and adventures. Over the next eight posts I am going to cover my summer where I left off in July to current time. When I was not working or traveling I was on the bike hitting the trail. The Rivers Edge Trail has over 45 miles of trail and I covered every mile (Check out http://thetrail.org/). With a record fire season in Montana the colors were fantastic to photograph. There was always a stunning sunset, or a once in a life time sunrise to capture. One memorable trip I took was the trip out to Ryan dam from the Rainbow dam overlooks and this trail is aggressive at best. Following the river banks of the Missouri heading North East the trail takes you up and down the fingers that reach from the prairie into the water that sit about 50′ to a 100’ above the water. Mid way between Rainbow dam and Ryan dam sits Cochrane dam. You can’t drive to it due the fact the road is private so the only way to see it is to take the trail. In the 35 years I have lived in Great Falls I had never seen the Cochrane dam. The dam a modest structure that sticks out of the water with just one power plant. Just above the dam are the remnants of infrastructure that was once used to carry irrigation water out to the grassland. It is now used by guys like me that are resting at the midpoint between Great Falls and Ryan dam. To the north side of the river the old Rainbow dam power plant building has been replaced by the smaller building in the background. Just the week before I took my trip down the trail a grass fire surrounded this facility stripping all of the vegetation away. Now fall has come and gone, winter is here and the bikes are put away. Over the months to come I will be out and about capturing a Missouri winter and planning my shots for next summer.
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While it is nice enough to ride my bike I am out and about nightly and every night I pick a new place to go. It might be downtown, or on some part of the Rivers Edge Trail. Usually I hit the trail because of the ever changing scenery.
Last week I got ambitious and took the trail up to the top of Warden Park. There is quite the elevation change in a short distance for a bike. It ended up being great exerciser on top of the Images I was able to get were excellent. As a photographer I am always looking for the “Image” and I am never let down on any given night I get out and hit the Rivers Edge Trail. I would say that over all the Rivers Edge Trail is the single best feature of Great Falls but also the best kept secret.
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I don’t know about for you but July has been NUTS! I have had one weekend to relax and hit the Rivers Edge Trail. This is commonly something I do 3 to 4 times a week and every Saturday and Sunday in the mornings. The weekend before last was my one weekend of the month to do this. The Rivers Edge Trail takes you all the way to Ryan Dam east of Great Falls. It is a little bit of a “jaunt” to say the least but well worth it (keep an eye for upcoming blogs). The Great thing about the trail is the constant changing scenery. A few weeks ago I was on the trail one evening and I see they are building a Sun Dial just off of the 10th street bridge. The timing was perfect for a great image. I rode by once and got to the Black Eagle Dam before I realized that the sunset that was evolving was lining up right behind it, so I raced back to grab the picture. Luckily the gentleman that was working on it was still welding away. Another night I was out and about on the west side of the river and was able to catch the sun bouncing off of the BNSF train yard shop building. I have found that Great photos are made by being at the right place at the right time. I find myself pretty lucky to be able to go out on the trail any night of the week or any weekend and catch images that stand out.
It was a great ride this morning… Not a breath of wind and temps perfect for recreation. I took the Rivers Edge Trail to Giant Springs and back through downtown. I am still working through my photos I got this morning but wanted to get a few out. On my way down the trail I stopped by the City of Great Falls Skate Park. I have wanted to stop and grab photos of the structures and maybe a few action shots however by the time I get done working the park is a little too busy to stop. This morning was the perfect opportunity. After scoping the area there was a guy with his two boys just finished cleaning the entire park. I was not too sure what was going on so I continued to take photos while keeping to myself. As usual it didn’t take to long for someone to start asking questions about what it is I am taking photos of. After talking to the dad and his two boys I was completely blown away. He brings his boys down on Saturday for the same reason I chose to stop this morning. They clean the entire park from the ill-mannered folks from the previous days so they can enjoy the park the way it was meant to be enjoyed. His older boy (17yrs) Proceeds to explain to me that it is a privilege to have the park to use. Good people and a great dad getting his boys off to a good start. As sad as it is to see people take advantage of our parks and recreation structures the true silver lining is to know that there are people that are taking care of it.
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After a long day at the office or on the job site there is nothing better than coming home and hopping on my bike. Just a few short block from my house and I am on the Rivers Edge Trail. This trail runs the entire distance of the Missouri River within the Great Falls city limits and beyond. I am amazed by the different scenery that I see every time I go out and I try to make it out at least every other day. On those days I am never without new breathtaking images to capture. I recently took off on a Saturday afternoon down the east side of the river to Giant Springs (watch for upcoming blogs) and back across the West side. I try to get lucky enough to catch days where there is no wind and the Missouri and Sun Rivers are smooth as Glass. This is something that rarely happens due to the constant wind that blows in the Great Falls area. In the summer time Great Falls has such a unique landscape and feel and the best place to capture this is on the Rivers Edge Trail. On the north end of the trail there are statues of Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea. From a distance these actually look like real people standing on the hill side looking over the River. On the West side of the River there are great views of the downtown area being reflected on the Glass smooth river. This makes for an awesome way to start and/or Finish a day.
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There are some iconic images of Great Falls that anyone who has lived in Great Falls says home. Just adjacent to the historic downtown area and center of the history of great falls is the Milwaukee depot. Built in 1915 as a train station by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad who went bankrupt in the mid 60’s. Sense then this building has been transformed into a beautiful office building and is still a landmark that says “Home”. The Stack from the Old Great Falls Select Beer that was founded in 1933 and then closed in 1968 can be seen for Miles. Being a “west side” kid as long as I can remember that building has been in my memories. The 3D sign is another Great Falls Icon. I recently posted this photo on my Facebook page and I had huge response from fellow classmates that moved away. It is the sign of a restaurant that is actually in Black Eagle overlooking the Missouri River. The new images for generations to come are currently being constructed. The Rivers Edge Trail and the Westbank Park area of Great Falls is in the process of transformation. In the last few years The Staybridge Suites has opened with more business close behind. It is great to see the development of the river front. Great Falls recently made the list of America’s “greatest riverfront towns” by Budget Travel magazine and its website, budgettravel.com. As time allows I will continue to capture the Images of Great Falls and post them for your enjoyment.
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After work I can’t think of a better way to burn off some stress than hitting the Rivers Edge Trail on the bikes. I can burn down a few residential blocks and hop on the trail without crossing any major streets. From there I can reach the entire length of the Missouri that passes through Great Falls with one street crossing. This crossing is located just north of the Milwaukee Depot adjacent to the skate park. There is Just one note on this crossing that I wanted to share. It can be a dangerous crossing due to the signage provided. For the trail traffic there is a stop sign provided that tells the pedestrians and bikers that they need to stop and wait until it is safe to cross. The vehicular traffic is also provided a sign that says there is a pedestrian crossing ahead. However there is no communication on who has the right away. The danger comes when a vehicle stops giving up his or her right away leading the trail traffic into a false sense of security. The vehicular traffic traveling the opposite direction may not be paying attention or willing to give up their right away. If you have a longer train there may be some miscommunication on whether or not it is safe to cross. I watched this last week almost turn into a tragic accident. Myself I let the courteous drivers that stop to allow me cross keep their “right away”. It is only until it is clear that I attempt to cross (OK! On with the rest of my blog). This is about the third of fourth time I have blogged about the Rivers Edge Trail and I can Promise it won’t be my last. Every time I am on the trail the scenic view is different than the day before.
I am on my way out the door for a bike ride. My daughter has her warm clothes on and my wife is patiently waiting for me to finish this blog :-). When you look at the map of the Rivers Edge Trail you can see that there is an access point “just down the street” from just about everywhere in Great Falls. It is amazing what the trail started from compared to what it is today. There are so many awesome views of the Missouri River and sites around Great Falls. Starting at Flag Hill just below Warden Park on the southernmost part of the trail is the best place to start your journey. From this vantage point you get a great view of Great Falls and the path of the Missouri as it cuts through Great Falls. At the Top of Warden Park there are two high powered spotting scopes that you can use to glass Great Falls and beyond. I was surprised at the quality of the glass and scopes (highly recommend). In addition to the spotting scopes there is a Folf course that works its way through the park. I took photograph of the Flag with Great Falls in the back drop from this location (called “Flying Proud”). This print is being auctioned off at the Dirty Martini’s for Clean Water on the 12th of May; this is a fundraiser for the Rivers Edge Trail. The trail on this side of the river goes all the way out to Morony Dam. On the west side of the river starting at Bay Drive there is a nice little park that gets less traffic than other parks, however it is a great place to put in for Fishing or just relaxing next to the River. It is right on the river with park benches scattered about. I took an awesome photograph of the flag and the gazebo at the top of Warden Park with a brilliant rainbow behind it (Flying Colors). You can get on the trail and take it along Bay Drive, under Central Ave West Bridge. When you get to the other side you can take the West Bank park trail where businesses are developing the river front. This side goes all the way to the island below Black Eagle dam. On the tip of that Island is a great place to grab shots of birds flying up the river. When they pass by they are flying low. They like to fly up below the dam and float back down to Giant Springs. The second option when you get to the other side of the bridge you can take the Wiseman Bridge to the east side of the river. From there you can take a right to get back up to Warden Park or take a left and head to Morony Dam, Giant Springs, Gibson Park, and Great Falls Skate Park or practically anywhere in Great Falls.
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After a walk the other night on the trail above the Black Eagle Dam I scrolled through my 20k plus picture library and it was obvious that I have a great deal of pictures that have been taken from the Rivers Edge Trail. It is incredible the beautiful scenery and photo opportunities that are available on the trail. I think it would be safe to say that I have been on every foot of the miles of trail that can be traveled. On top of the scenery that can be seen and the abundant wildlife there is a ton of history. As I looked thru my photos I found a little of both. I found pictures of the Montana sunrise, and amazing sunsets. Also not to mention Pictures of the Grizzly bear statue at the place that Lewis and Clark were chased by a bear and the statues that were placed on the bluff across the river of Lewis and Clark. I would love to get into the history of the Rivers edge Trail but I don’t think I could say it as well as it is said on the website for the trail (http://thetrail.org).
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