Ravalli County is located in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Montana. Ravalli County is part of a North/South mountain valley bordered by the Sapphire Mountains on the East and the Bitterroot Mountains on the West. It is often referred to as the Bitterroot Valley and is named for the Bitterroot Flower. As of 2000, the population was 36,070. Its county seat is Hamilton.
Ravalli County was created by the Montana Legislature on March 3, 1893. It is named after the Italian Jesuit priest Father Antony Ravalli, who came to the Bitterroot valley in 1845.
The historical economy of Ravalli county lies predominantly in agriculture and timber. Marcus Daly, one of three Butte copper kings, funded logging operations in the Bitterroot valley. The lumber was necessary for the Butte copper operation. Recently, more of Ravalli County's economy stems from tourism. The valley borders the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and offers a wide variety of wildlife, including some of the few remaining Grizzly Bear and Wolf populations in the contiguous states.
There were 14,289 households out of which 30.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.30% were married couples living together, 7.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.70% were non-families. 24.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 2.94.
In the county the population was spread out with 25.60% under the age of 18, 6.20% from 18 to 24, 24.70% from 25 to 44, 28.00% from 45 to 64, and 15.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 98.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.40 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $31,992, and the median income for a family was $38,397. Males had a median income of $30,994 versus $19,987 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,935. About 9.60% of families and 13.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.10% of those under age 18 and 6.30% of those age 65 or over.