Mathews' Second Principle Fall

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"Second Principal Fall"
"handsom Fall," later called Rainbow Falls

Mathews pencil sketch

This picture, artist A. E. Mathews explained,1 "represents the second principal fall, seven miles below the mouth of Sun River, and about ten miles from the stage road.2 The middle and left hand side of the fall has a descent of forty feet, while the right hand side consists of a succession of four falls (three of which are seen in the picture) with an island separating them from the main volume of water on a lower level."

Pleasingly Beautiful

Lewis's admiration of the Crooked Falls on the morning of 14 June 1805 was interrupted by his awareness of "a tremendious roaring above me." He made his way "across the point of a hill a few hundred yards further and was again presented by one of the most beautifull objects in nature." It was "a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular streching at right angles across the river from side to side to the distance of at least a quarter of a mile."

here the river pitches over a shelving rock, with an edge as regular and as streight as if formed by art, without a nich or brake in it; the water decends in one even and uninterupted sheet to the bottom wher dashing against the rocky bottom rises into foaming billows of great hight and rappidly glides away, hising flashing and sparkling as it departs[.] the sprey rises from one extremity to the other to 50 f[eet].
I now thought that if a skillfull painter had been asked to make a beautifull cascade that he would most probably have pesented the precise immage of this one; nor could I for some time determine on which of those two great cataracts to bestoe the palm, on this or that which I had discovered yesterday;
at length I determined between these two great rivals for glory that this was pleasingly beautifull, while the other was sublimely grand.


1. Alfred Edward Mathews (1831-1874), Pencil Sketches of Montana (New York: published by the author,1868).

2. The "stage road" would have been the Mullan Road, pioneered and initially built under the direction of Lieutenant John Mullan, of the Corps of Topographical Engineers. It connected Fort Benton at the upstream limit of steamboat commerce on the Missouri River, with Fort Walla Walla, the eastern commercial terminus of the Columbia. See Marilyn Wyss, Roads to Romance (Helena: Montana Department of Transportation, 1992), 3-4.