Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse, Montana

on February 20, 2013

A few minutes south of Whitefish is the turn off to Columbia Falls, directly east on Montana Highway 40. (You can also go Hungry Horse Reservoirstraight south to Kalispell, but that’ll be a discussion for another time.)

After my friend, Shannan (again, mentioned often in previous blogs), moved from Eureka, her family moved to Columbia Falls.  We had so much fun there, but mostly just “being”.

But other than just “being”, the Columbia Falls’ Chamber of Commerce’s website list some other fun things that you can actually do there are:

This time, we drove straight through to Hungry Horse…after stopping for groceries, that is.  And, actually – now that I brought that up – this particular grocery store (I think it was Super 1 Foods) had the most beautiful fruit display I’ve ever seen. (I’m not saying they had the most variety or the most exotic fruit, but their displays were really beautifully laid out.  In fact, they even had a really pretty onion display!  I took so many pictures, I’m pretty sure they thought I was a “secret shopper”.)
Onion displayFruit Display

Seven miles (11 kms) further east, on your way to Glacier National Park, you will find Hungry Horse.

As the name suggests, Hungry Horse was named after two hungry horses, Tex and Jerry.  Apparently, in the winter of 1900, Tex and Jerry wandered away, but were found a month later, hungry and scrawny, but alive!

Although Hungry Horse is only 11 miles (18 kms) from Glacier National Park, we didn’t quite get there… we spent our entire weekend in Hungry Horse and the Hungry Horse Dam area.

Even though I grew up not that far away (see Eureka, MT blog), I had never been to Hungry Horse (except passing through on my way to Glacier) and we (ok, I) decided it was time to change that.  So, when a couple of our friends from Calgary wanted to go “somewhere new, somewhere sunny”, for August Long Weekend, we (ok, I) picked Hungry Horse.

In case you don’t have time to pick your own huckleberries while in Eureka or Hungry Horse, you will find an abundance all down the main street – everything from actual huckleberries (I brought home a pound and froze them mmmmmmmm yummy!!) to pies to milk shakes… syrups, jams, honey… Sooooo delicious!!
Pies and milkshakesJam, Pie, Ice CreamJam, Pie, Milkshakes

We spent one entire day at and around Hungry Horse Dam.   The area is gorgeous and the dam iHungry Horse Dams fascinating!

On the South Fork of the Flathead River, and about 5 miles from Hungry Horse town, the Hungry Horse Dam is 564 feet (172 meters) high and 2115 feet (645 meters) long.

Hungry Horse Dam

The building of the Dam (the Hungry Horse Project) started in 1948 and was completed in 1952. (According to the www.usbr.gov/pn pamphlet, President Truman “threw the switch in 1952 to start generating electricity at Hungry Horse Dam Power Plant.”)

At the time of its completion, it was the 3rd largest dam, and 2nd highest dam in the entire world.  Now it’s not on the Top 10 – BUT it’s still on the “tallest” list… I counted around 83rd… but I might’ve miscounted.  (The current World’s Tallest is the Nurek Dam in Tajikistan.)

The Hungry Horse Dam’s main purposes are the generation of electricity and the control of flooding.  But, it’s also used for irrigation and recreation (and probably a bunch of other things.)
Down riverUp River

All dams have some sort of Spillway, which is (as per many on-line dictionaries): “A channel for an overflow of water, as from a reservoir.”

Basically, though, at some point the water reaches its highest level and must be released, and the dam’s purpose is to control that release of water, to prevent flooding.  Most dams (that I’ve seen) have something like a chute.  Wikipedia has a great explanation with pictures.

Morning Glory SpillwayHowever, Hungry Horse Dam has a “morning glory” spill hole.  This particular spillway (which falls under the category of “bell-mouth spillway”) is the highest morning-glory structure in the world, and drops the cascading water a maximum distance of 490 feet!

It’s called a “bell mouth” because it has a shape similar to an upside-down bell – when the water level reaches the level to spill overOfficial picture into the mouth of the bell,
it funnels down into the base, and goes out through a tunnel at a lower level.

I’ve never seen this before – never even heard of it, actually.
I was completely intrigued!

Sunday, we’ll be talking about Seattle – just a quick trip.

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2 responses to “Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse, Montana

  1. Shannan says:

    The dam is awe inspiring. We spent the longest time just looking down. I also still have some huckleberry syrup left we (ok I) bought in Hungry Horse. By the way , why isn’t it called Hungry Horses?

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