Chanler Biggs

Chanler C. Biggs

Great Falls —Chanler Clarence - "Chan" - Biggs passed away early Sunday after a long illness. He was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1942, and spent most of his youth through high school in Deadwood, SD. Chan served in the U.S. Navy before graduating from Oregon State University and joining the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. He spent much of his career with the BLM working on the Missouri River and the Fort Benton and Lewis & Clark Visitors Centers.

Chan's knowledge of the Missouri River Breaks' flora, fauna, geology and history was encyclopedic. In 1984 he accompanied Jacques Cousteau and a film crew as they travelled the Missouri River between Fort Benton and Fort Peck dam filming a documentary about the Mississippi-Missouri system. He was also co-author of the 2001 book Montana's Wild and Scenic Upper Missouri River Guidebook, and was featured in William Least Heat-Moon's 1999 book River Horse. Chan cared passionately about the preservation of Montana's natural and cultural heritage and public understanding of that heritage. He was an active member in the National Association of Interpreters and served as the group's president in 1998.

Chan took great joy in introducing his children and other family and friends to the Missouri River, and his children believe to this day that teaching them to maneuver a jet boat through rocky waters or a canoe through rapids was his way of preparing them for life's challenges.

Chan's family will also remember him fondly for his supporting role in the B movie "Ski Troop Attack", a 1960 "classic" filmed in the Black Hills near Deadwood. Chan's full bio on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) reads: "Chan Biggs is an actor, known for Ski Troop Attack (1960)." The curious and the doubters are invited to view the full length movie on YouTube.

One of his other great loves was singing in a barbershop quartet, performing at events large and small. He was also an honorary member of the Great Falls Garden Club, designing award winning yearbooks for their events.

Chan is survived by his wife, Patricia, children Michelle "Shelby" Zenahlik and Daniel Biggs, and three grandchildren, as well as three siblings: sisters Barbara Biggs (Denver), Patrice Williamson (Spearfish, SD) and brother Gary (Omaha). He was preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Frances Biggs, his brother Byron, and wife Kally.

Chan's family will welcome friends to an Open House in his honor on Saturday, February 15, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at 3925 6th Avenue South, Great Falls, MT. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations in Chan's honor be made to the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument ( and the River And Plains Society, Inc. of Fort Benton, MT. Contributions can be sent to the family or directly to these organizations.

Condolences to the family may be shared at


Funeral Home

Croxford Funeral Home and Crematory
1307 Central Avenue Great Falls, MT 59401
(406) 453-0315

Published in Great Falls Tribune on Feb. 12, 2014