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Discussion Starter #1
Very seriously looking at a school opportunity in GF, anyone there or near there that can enlighten me on the boater scene, ski scene, beer scene, real estate scene, or general fun scene there? Never been, but I loved Missoula when I visited for a week... Pleeez help...?
 

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Ok...my thoughts on Great Falls. Its nothing like Missoula in geography or culture, not to say that is bad. Never lived there, but when I grew up it was where my mom took me to do our before school shopping. My brother now lives about 60 Miles northwest of there.

So here is what I know. Its actually wheat country and more plains like than mountainous. Think central Canada and just as cold in the winter. You are fairly close to the mountains though, like hour/hour and a half. The town is primarily an agricultural hub with an airforce base. It will likely seem redneck in comparison to Colorado, think Grand Junction. Good pheasant hunting if thats your thing.

Skiing in that area is mom and pop type ski areas "Showdown" and "Great Divide". These are not your Colorado type ski areas, no big chutes no big bowls. Probably still people skiing in jeans like when I grew up. Showdown is ok, but you don't really have any advanced terrain. Not sure what Great Divide is like, never skied there, but the map looks good. Bridger and Big Mountain are within three hours drive, both great. If you like back country, my guess is there is some incredible stuff to be skied within two hours.

Kayaking, no clue, but your on the plains. There is a "Great Falls", I guess the run out is class II with some play. I would recomend looking for a Montana boating forum to ask questions. My thoughts would be that if your a creeker, you could find some great stuff in the surrounding mountain ranges. American Whitewater shows some good things on the Dearborn River about an hour west. Regular boating you would need to drive for. In Montana a three hour drive is considered a short drive though, so get use to road trips. You may have to train your own future boating partners.

Real estate in Montana will seem cheap, with lots of good options. Food, go to Jakers for ribs. Not sure on bar seen. Nice thing about Montana is people are very freindly and helpful.

Beer in Montana is awesome!!! Lots of good microbrewerys. Three pint max though by State law, but you can leave with as many growlers as you want.

If something like Missoula is what you want, I don't think you'll like it. But if you keep an open mind it may be decent. It will not feel like you are in the mountains, so prepare for that. I grew up in eastern Montana, and despite that I still think its a great place to live. I went to school in Missoula and loved it. More like the pacific northwest than the rest of Montana though.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Three pints? That's it? Forget it.

Naw, just kiddin. Lookin' at dental hygiene school there. Good food for thought. Thanks!
 

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What are you looking for?

All I can think of right now is that most people like Great Falls in their rearview mirror.
 

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May try and contact the creators of this blog for info
http://www.montanaeddyhop.blogspot.com/.

Montana is a small state population wise, so if you live in the state the likelyhood is you know someone in each major community. I think Ihow is from the Bitteroot area. If I lived there I would think most other places in Montana suck too. The rearview mirror analogy may be good, but I have never spent enough time in the community to get a true feel for it. It may be worth a call to Northern Lights outdoor store out of Bozeman. I think the paddling shop is at "The Barn". Someone there is likely to have more beta on paddlers, websites etc., or at least you hope they would.

http://www.montanaeddyhop.blogspot.com/
 

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Great Falls isn't that bad. It's more conservative than Missoula, way way more. There is a lot of great fishing on the Missouri near there. For the most part, the inflatable boat community rides down sections of the Missouri on pool toys, innertubes and the trusty Odyssey bucket boat. It's not too bad a location to be since you've got the Smith River close by, also several tributaries of the Missouri that aren't too challenging but very scenic. It's a great place to be if you're into upland bird, waterfowl and antelope hunting. There are some decent bars there but not that many young people, especially when compared to Missoula.
 

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I used to live in Helena,which is an hour and half south of Great Falls. The previous post is spot-on about the lack of young people outside of Missoula and Bozeman. The social scene wasn't very much fun during my year spent there. It's also one of the coldest areas in Montana also. The record low for the lower 48 was something like 50 below zero. However, the mountains are reasonably close, and the scenery along the Rocky Mountain Front is world class. The chinook winds will also help moderate the temperatures to an extent. I know a couple of very serious class V-type boaters in Helena, and I could pass on their info in a PM if you're interested. Don't know of any paddlers in GF, but these guys run stuff all around. Falls Creek (V) and the North Fork Blackfoot IV(V) river are reasonably close. I've never run Falls Creek, but I hear it's a lot of fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Right on, -k-, Marco, and Outlaw... I highly appreciate the ideas and the bits of info for us to get somewhat of a picture of Great Falls painted. Since we could be committing to 2+ years there, we wanted to get something of an idea what the town is like in general. Have to be able to tolerate the folks and make a few friends here n' there, plus find a few haunts for coffee, brews, and weekend stress-relief on skis/oars/paddles.

Any more info like this would be hugely helpful!!!
 

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Got a buddy Bob who lives in Great Falls, great gut who I have run the lochsa with. Tons of fun and a serious paddler. I can PM you his phone # if you want. He's always looking for more paddlers to join in.
 

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While I was in Helena there were times that I couldn't wait to move back to Colorado. Now that I'm back in Colorado, I'd love to move back to Montana. I think that where you want to live has a lot to do with the stage of life that you're in. I was younger when I lived in Helena and couldn't yet appreciate what Montana has to offer. Now that I'm older, I'd love to live there (not saying Great Falls specifically). Great Falls is way up there and kind of on it's own. You're not likely to find the town that exciting, but you're in a unique position to see a lot of stuff that most folks can't ever dream of seeing. For example, you're not far at all from Glacier / Waterton National Parks. You're not too far from the Canadian Rockies either. The Middle Fork Flathead wilderness run just became a lot easier to do when you're next door to it. If you get sick of Great Falls, Missoula's not that far away. Think of Great Falls as a base from which to do all those things in the great North that you would otherwise never have enough time off work to do. I always look back on those days as being some of my best opportunities for exploration. Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yeah, the life-stage thing plays a lot into what we're lookin' at. We don't tear up the late bars/clubs anymore, and having some decent easy floats for swimming the dogs is good, too. Thanks for the more positive tone, too, Outlaw. Boating's important, but not the absolute be-all/end-all. Sounds like we wouldn't go completely nuts...

mttodd- yeah, if your friend wouldn't mind a couple of questions about the scene up there, shoot me a PM

First step is to get into school up there, though. Thanks for the input!
 

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I love these where to live small town discussions for convergence of boating, climate, scene/vibe, affordabilty, outdoor opportunities, not too many people but enough infrastructure.

I used to be a front ranger and it would be hard go back (not trying to start a war but I just hate traffic and crowds). From my limited drive thru Great Falls I think if you loath crowds, can handle the cold winter, don't mind a red city in a red state, and think mountain biking with a bear bell beats out being able to buy things in person you'll love it.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Huh- good thing you like these discussions, cuz I'm applying to MSU-Great Falls, as well as San Juan College in Farmington, NM, and OIT in La Grande, OR.... Keep your eyes peeled for more info requests on those towns, too, although I already know enough about Farmington to be mostly excited for that opportunity.

Thanks!
 

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Hmm, maybe I was still in pain from my weekend swim when I diss'd GF. I'm also likely jaded because Missoula is such a great place to live as a community and for recreating.

Great Falls is in the plains, considered "eastern Montana" in the grand scheme of things which typically translates to very conservative and flat. However, the Front Range is one of my favorite places on the planet, and you're an hour away from that. The "Bob" is a great place to backpack. Most people I know from there hate it, but really, who has left their birth-home that likes it? It is extremely windy, which really just means you should take up windsurfing. There's probably no one to teach you there though (certainly no shops), and the reservoirs are kind of small for sailing unless you have a small laser or something. Right now, that area is the place to be as the snow geese (or are they swans?) are migrating through and Freezeout Lake is swarmed with them. I've always wanted to go check that out, and might have to now that I'm hurt. The boating is mostly flat, but the Missouri Breaks are gorgeous, more of a canoe trip, but probably something you'll always be glad you did as life progresses. Recreating is not crowded, except for the usual fishing/hunting scene.

While it's "flat", it has a ton of variation and if you hit the remote backroads there are some amazing places to be found.

So it's not a rad-dude extreme mountain/boating community. It might be a bit hard to break into as an outsider. Honestly, when we used to go to the Front Range more frequently, we used to joke we should get personalized plates so people wouldn't know we're from Missoula. (counties are designated by the #). I think the military base also exerts a lot of influence on the town.

If you're into creeking it might be tough, Missoula is 3 hours away and I'm not sure how far Bozeman/Columbus is. You will get comfortable driving long distances, it's just the norm anywhere in Montana. The MF Flathead has a good day run section, but that might be 2 hours from GF?

As the other poster says, if you go and then leave, you'll probably find you miss many things about it. I came to montana to go skiing and to go to college, and found I could just never leave. Everyone thinks there is something special about where they live, but Montana is still really mellow and uncrowded compared to most Western States (except WY). Many find that the "worst" places are worth suffering poor wages for, vs some of the "best" places in other states. Watch out, you'll find yourself wanting to stay in-state, but jobs are scarce and the "scenery tax" (low wages) is massive. At least GF shouldn't have hugely inflated real estate prices like Western Montana.

If you love it, awesome, if you hate it, it's only 2 years. If you are open to finding out what is enjoyable there, and different types of recreation than you do now, it'll probably grow on you, or at least the greater area.

Oh, and don't be freaked out by grizzlies (a lot of people are), they're not really a problem, I love seeing them (preferably at a safe distance). You just have to be smart about your behavior and activities.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Wow, good useful insight, Laura! We were initially thinking about going for the cheap real estate, but if we decide it's only the two school years, we may just rent. Figuring on the small, chill, mom-n-pop style ski hills for winter weekends an hour away, a little floating here and there on the Smith and the Dearborn, and running the dogs on the river paths, maybe even hucking what's left of the Falls below the dam...:)
 

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I just finished reading Undaunted Courage about Lewis and Clark's voyage, what a shame they have dammed almost all of the falls.

How sweet would it be to drive to the plains to run 5 waterfalls??
 

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mantana

nothin here in this state to see, economy in the shitter, phd,s workin at the corner store, dry winter, means burning summer, and for forks sake, stick to Oregon son, the folks will be alot nicer to you out there
 

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Ihowemet and Outlaw are right on. For two years I would chaulk it up to the experience and you will learn to love the state with exception of the weather. Don't be afraid to explore because there may be good water out their that does not get much attention. Even when I lived im Missoula there was not a very large kayaking scene (I know thats changed now) so its quite possible for things to get overlooked.

When my wife and I lived in Big Sky, we were gone exploring most weekends so meeting people was kind of a non-issue, despite that we still made some great friends. Add to that you will be in school you will likely find enough to fill your social calender. Another plus is Great Falls is a regional center for northern Montana, so there are regular events and music tours coming through.

Note: Northfwestg comments, as usual serve no real purpose.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Northfwestg, you sound bitter. I'm from small town Oregon originally, spent 28 years there, and I know they have the same meanies that exist everywhere else. Ain't gonna keep me from a wide-open view.

-k-, you've been more than helpful. Really enjoying the different aspects all y'all are contributing. Keep 'em comin and we can publish a friggin Montana tourism brochure. ;)
 
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