New book chronicles Montana’s waterfalls

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There are many books on the plants, animals and sights to see in Montana, but none until now have been devoted to the state’s wild and wonderful waterfalls.

“Montana Waterfalls: A Guide for Sightseers, Hikers and Waterfall Enthusiasts” was written by Larry Johnson and his son, Nathan Johnson, who scoured the state for seven years for the 208-page book that features 52 waterfalls.

The authors expect this year’s record mountain snowpack will enhance some of the state’s best cascades.

“All waterfalls are going to be spectacular this year,” said Larry Johnson, a Helena resident. “Right now many of the waterfalls are going to be their most impressive in size, but when runoff settles down and the water clears up, the waterfalls will still be large and even more beautiful.”

But the high water will present hazards, he warns.

“It could get pretty scary in some places,” he said. “We also point out in the book that people should be careful near waterfalls because there can be some slippery places.”

According to Helena-based Riverbend Publishing, the Johnson book is the first and only guidebook on Montana’s waterfalls.

Johnson said the idea originated with Nathan, who works as a computer programmer in Missoula.

“At first we were maybe going to do postcards or calendars,” Johnson said. “But once we started going in and building a database on these waterfalls, we got to thinking about the history and the camping in some of these areas and it kind of evolved into doing a book.”

The book is separated into sections by geographic regions in Western and Central Montana, with photographs of each waterfall and detailed information and maps showing how to reach them. There also are summaries providing basic information on the falls, such as their height, length and their varied characteristics.

“There’s a lot of information in that book,” Johnson said. “We did a lot of research.”

Johnson said some of the falls are highly accessible, with roads or highways nearby, and some can be reached by trails with short or long hikes. But the Johnsons had to bushwhack to reach some of the waterfalls, a few of which weren’t even named.

The waterfall featured on the book’s cover, for instance, was dubbed Lodgepole Creek Falls after the Johnsons found it on the tributary to the Blackfoot River drainage in the Ovando area.

The triple-tiered falls are an impressive 75 feet high but they are not well known. “There isn’t even a trail leading to it,” Johnson said.

The Johnsons found some of the formerly unnamed falls in the book by studying topography maps and determining where a mountain stream likely would take a steep plunge.

Johnson said Nathan customized all of the topography maps featured in the book to show the best routes to often-remote locations.

“There was a lot of work in just doing the maps alone,” he said.

“Montana Waterfalls” will be available at bookstores and gift shops, and it is available through online book retailers such as, and through the publisher’s website,

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