Ryan Dam is interesting, but Great Falls turns out not to be so great after all!
Today it was going to be very hot, around 30c, so we thought we would stay out of the heat and head to the nearby city of Great Falls. As it's larger than Helena where we were staying we thought it would offer more. Oh well, you can't be right all the time!
Great Falls is about 1.5 hours northeast of Helena and has a population of about 60,000, so bigger than Helena. We had heard it had a large outlet shopping mall, so thought we take a look. We also wanted to visit Ryan Dam which is nearby, so we'd kill two birds with one stone.
The journey to Great Falls is via Interstate 15 which goes directly between the two cities, but we decided to take some of the back roads instead. Old Highway 91 and other backroads take you away from the interstate and meander round rivers and rail tracks, so much better than the boring interstate. They also go through some tiny towns which are always interesting.
Here is some of the beautiful scenery we saw.
As I mentioned we had been advised to visit the outlet mall called Holiday Valley Mall and as we love a bargain, we thought it was a good idea. We found it easy enough using the truck's navigation and as it was quite early thought that the lack of cars in the parking lot was because of this.
When we went in it was pretty deserted of people. Wandering along the aisle we noticed a lot of the shops were closing down or already empty. We soon came to the conclusion that it wasn't an outlet mall at all and it seemed that the mall was dying a death. Oh well, never mind we thought we'd grab a coffee and then carry on to the dam, but when we went to the food court area only two places were still open.
By now we were ready to leave as there just wasn't anything for us here. One big department store was having a big closing down sale so we popped in just to see what was on offer. as it turned out Chris found a pair of Kenneth Cole jeans that were $25 so we got them. Other than that the place was a big miss. We grabbed a hot chocolate and cake at a nearby Starbucks and then left Great Falls and headed to Ryan Dam.
This dam is a hydroelectric dam that is 1,336 feet (407 m) long and 61 feet (19 m) high. The dam itself is quite spectacular, although the building to the side is pretty ugly. The dam is built over the orgiginal falls which are pretty but eclipsed by the dam.
There is a lovely park in the centre of the dam area called Ryan Island and you reach it via a quaint wooden bridge. The warning sign was a little worrying, but no blasts whilst we were there. Lol. There are picnic tables and the area is really pretty and peaceful. There were lots of birds flying aroud too.
In a building in the park is the strangest of things. It is a display of electric stovetops. They were built to demonstrate the new way of cooking back in the day.
On the way from the dam, we saw a heard of Pronghorns lazing in a field. Got a few photos and they weren't at all bothered by us.
In the evening we ate at a restaurant right next door to our hotel called Shellies Country Cafe. It got great reviews on Tripadvisor so we walked round to try it out.
It is a truck stop type place I suppose. No airs or graces but a nice place. The walls have lots of funny signs and the staff were very friendly. I decided to try the pasty with mash an veg and Chris had a burger. We really enjoyed our meals and the service was very good, so we can see how they got such good reviews. Will defiantly come back. Both meals with tea and coffee were $26.