Landscape Architecture Project Description

Dry Falls Visitor Center by Walker | Macy

Fifteen thousand years ago, the Cordilleran Ice Sheet crept across the Canadian border, buried the Pacific Northwest and built an ice dam on the Clark Fork River thousands of feet thick.

Lake Missoula was born. Yet as the sheet began to melt, the dam began to break, and cataclysmic floods burst across the region. In one instance, the whole lake was emptied in a matter of days. Water ten times the volume of all the rivers of the world tore channels, sculpted immense cataracts, stripped topsoil, left giant gravel deposits. Until the Cordilleran’s final retreat, these floods reinvented the landscape again and again.

The Dry Falls Visitor Center sits among the floods’ mighty footprints, circled by a living exhibit of massive geologic events. With interpretive illustrations, thematic story lines, aerial views and simulations of the floods’ power, it takes visitors back in time. It also draws them outdoors, tying these interpretive elements into their own direct experience of the place itself.

Walker Macy created the master plan, orienting trails, overlooks, parking and picnic area to build an implicit connection between the built and natural environment, using a palette of stone and native plants to blend into the fabric of a harsh and rocky landscape. Standing on the doorstep of the National Geologic Trail, the Visitor Center offers both a framework and a starting point, inviting visitors to immerse themselves intellectually, physically and emotionally in the story of the Ice Age Floods.