In Great Falls, MT, one of our favorite stops is the Giant Springs State Park and Fish Hatchery! Located right on the Yellowstone River, near the ‘great falls’, and a mere half mile from the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center, the hatchery and park are a great place to stop for a picnic lunch between destinations!
Giant Springs is one of the largest fresh water springs in the country, and it was journaled about by Lewis and Clark on their expedition in 1805. Today, the springs still flow at a rate of 156 million gallons per day (no, that is not a typo!), and the site is also home to a state run fish hatchery and a spacious state park. Giant Springs is also a great jumping off spot for exploring the banks of the Yellowstone, by foot, along the well maintained walking path that borders the river.
The hatchery area of the park has 2 parts – the inside exhibit, which contains a viewing window into the indoor hatchery tanks, and an outside pool where you can see and feed some of the largest fish.
The area down by the river is beautiful and is a gorgeous location to take photos. It is also the home of one of the shortest rivers in the world: the Roe River flows just 201 feet from the springs before it empties into the Yellowstone. The spring pond is home to many fish, and it is a peaceful and relaxing stop!
There are benches for relaxing on, and picnic tables nearby for your use. There is also a small observation deck that extends out over the spring so that you can get a better view down into the water.
Here is what you need to know about visiting the Giant Springs State Park and Fish Hatchery:
*There is a $7 per vehicle fee for entering the state park, for out of staters. If you have Montana plates (this includes you RVing LLCs), state park ‘contribution’ fees are added in your plate fees, and you get in free (they consider your entrance fee already paid).
*There is a state parks ranger station on the way down to the hatchery. Here you can ask a ranger about the hatchery, pay your day use fee or purchase a non-resident annual entrance pass.
*The park is open year-round from 8 am to sunset, but the hatchery exhibit and pool have limited hours.
*Don’t forget your nickels!!! You can only visit the fish and feed them Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. During this time, you can feed the large salmon the pellet food that is available via dispenser for a 5 cents a handful.
*The hatchery has limited big rig parking (and not super big 😉 ), but directly across from the entrance to the park is another section of the same park (turn right instead of left if coming from town), and this area has better parking.
The Giant Springs State Park also has an extensive picnic/roam area with mature trees, picnic tables, and room to run, and the park has a cute playground area that is great for stretching legs after a long ride in the rig!
If you would like to learn more about the Giant Springs State Park and Fish Hatchery, you can find their webpage here: Montana State Parks – Giant Springs”.
Also worth mentioning if you are visiting the area, across the road from Giant Springs is the Great Falls FWP Regional Office and Visitor’s Center (it’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks in MT).
and it is manned by FWP rangers who are available to answer any questions you have! It’s a quick and informal stop that can help educate you about the area, as well as pique interest in Montana wildlife.
Great Falls has several destinations that make it worthy of a stop! Combine them all for a great day trip, or make it a multi-day stop!