Painting and Nature Preservation: The Great Falls of the Missouri


Natural objects overlooked by artists were not always so lucky. The Great Falls of the Missouri, praised by Lewis and Clark on their famous transcontinental journey, was not painted and became the site of one of the first hydroelectric dams in the United States.

This photograph, taken on the Raynolds Expedition to Yellowstone, obviously did not make the falls aesthetically appealing.

Sadly, improvements which elevated photography to an art form only a year or so later might have made a difference.

The falls, in the middle of the picture, is bounded by high canyon walls. The photograph is taken from an overlook from the top of the canyon where Lewis made a sketch in 1804.

J. D. Hutton, The Great Falls of the Missouri, 1859, Yale Western Americana Collection