The Great Falls Discovery Center is housed within a complex of old mill buildings in historic Turners Falls, Massachusetts.
The Visitor Center
The Center’s exhibits show the natural, cultural, and industrial history of the Connecticut River watershed. Our four acres of colorful gardens and open lawn with picnic tables nestle into a bend in the Connecticut River to provide a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere and the perfect place for fun and learning.
At the front entrance you’ll find layers of rocks and fossils reflecting our local geology. Inside the main building, exquisite dioramas show the plants, animals, and landscapes along this meandering 410-mile-long river. Walk alongside the dioramas, from the estuary at Long Island Sound, through forests, grasslands, and farms, all the way up to from the river’s arboreal source near the Canadian border.
Murals by local Greenfield artist Frank Gregory depict life in each habitat. A timeline indicates the impacts of human habitation on each environment over time and suggests safeguards to keep the watershed healthy and useful for all—people, plants, and animals—that live here together.
The Great Hall
The Center’s handsome Great Hall building is a former machine shop of the Montague Paper Company, with a high ceiling, brick walls, large windows, and gleaming old wood floors.
It is connected to the main building by a corridor whose windows on one side open onto a canal once used for transportation and industrialization, and now for power. A mural depicts what is found beneath the canal water rushing by.
The Great Hall is used regularly for art exhibits, educational programs, community events, and activities for children and adults. The Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center host monthly live-music Coffeehouses that warm up the room while raising funds to support the Center’s free public programs.
Located in town yet close to nature, the Center is one end of an easy self-guided walking tour of the interesting little village of Turners Falls in the town of Montague, with its historical industrial architecture, distinctive geology, restaurants, shops, and Carnegie Library. The Canalside Rail Trail along the river and canal runs from Turners Falls to Deerfield and is a favorite site for bird watching, biking, and walking. Barton Cove’s picnic area and campgrounds, where eagles soar over the peninsula, is just a mile away
About the DCR
The Great Falls Discovery Center is open year round and is operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation as part of the Connecticut River Greenway State Park. DCR park staff work closely with the Friends Group to create a welcoming and lively experience at the center through visitor services, interpretive programming, exhibit design, and groundskeeping. The center is accessible and child-friendly. Visit the mass.gov website for the Great Falls Discovery Center, to learn more about DCR offerings.
About the Canalside Rail Trail
The Canalside Rail Trail follows a former rail bed for an easy-riding 3.7 miles and it takes you right past the Great Falls Discovery Center. Follow the trail over the Connecticut River and along scenic natural and post-industrial views. The trail is also great for walking or even a picnic.
About the Connecticut River Greenway State Park
The Connecticut River Greenway State Park connects parks and other areas along the Connecticut River. The Greenway includes popular destinations like the Great Falls Discovery Center, Mt. Sugarloaf State Reservation in South Deerfield, and the Norwottuck Rail Trail connecting Northampton and Amherst. Up to 8 properties are accessible from the Greenway as you follow it along the river valley. You’ll find river access with public boat ramps all along the river.