Known variously in its early history as Monaco and Columbia, this town takes its present name from its location on the South Fork of the Flathead River, one of the headwaters of the Columbia River and from its location in the shadow of Columbia Mountain. Although there are no falls on this portion of the river, when James Kennedy applied for a post office in 1891, he was advised that adding “Falls” to the town’s name would prevent confusion with Columbus, Montana. One of Columbia Falls’ claims to fame is that it is where Montana’ first movie, Where Rivers Rise, was filmed in 1921. In 1953, the US Bureau of Reclamation finished the Hungry Horse Dam south of town and 2 years later the Anaconda Company’s aluminum plant opened to make use of low-cost electricity produced at the dam. The town’s main industries for many years have been wood products and aluminum production.
Columbia Falls is a small community located just 17 miles south of West Glacier. Not only is Columbia Falls “The Gateway to Glacier National Park”, it is the pathway to a rustic and scenic alternative route to Glacier National Park at the Camas Creek Park Entrance. County Road 486, also called the North Fork Road, follows along the North Fork of the Flathead River. This river is the western boundary of the park and has been designated a ‘Wild and Scenic River’. It is about 20 miles to Camas Creek Park entrance.
Columbia Falls offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, including some beautiful golf courses in the area, Meadow Lake Resort and Glacier View Golf Course. Take a tour of the Hungry Horse Dam while in the area. The Big Sky Waterpark provides a fun-filled day for the entire family in the summer, with waterslides and tubing rides, bumber cars and minature golf. There are over 80 miles of groomed snowmobiling trails providing a winter playground for the family during the winter months.
Columbia Falls and the surrounding areas also offer numerous camping opportunities. Whether you prefer “roughing it” in a tent, or desire all the amenities of your RV, Columbia Falls area will be a terrific area to start your vacation. And if you are looking for fly fishing, whitewater or a scenic float, Columbia Falls is just the place. It is the gateway to the to the Flathead Rivers, part of the Nation’s Wild and Scenic River System. With over 225 miles of river to choose from there is something for everyone.
As in the past, Columbia Falls is still home to industrial businesses, including the Plum Creek Timber Company and Stoltze Land and Lumber. The residents here pride themselves in maintaining a small town atmosphere and a sense of community spirit.