With a land area of 145,552 square miles (376,978 km²) the state of Montana is the fourth largest in the United States (after Alaska, Texas, and California). To the north, Montana and Canada share a 545 mile (877 km) border. The state borders the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, more provinces than any other state. To the east, the state borders North Dakota and South Dakota. To the south is Wyoming and to the west and southwest is Idaho.
The topography of the state is diverse, but roughly defined by the Continental Divide, which runs on an approximate diagonal through the state from northwest to south-central, splitting it into two distinct eastern and western regions. Montana is well known for its mountainous western region, part of the northern Rocky Mountains. However, about 60% of the state is actually prairie, part of the northern Great Plains. Nonetheless, even east of the Continental Divide and the Rocky Mountain Front, there are a number of isolated "Island Ranges" that dot the prairie landscape.
The Bitterroot Mountains divide the state from Idaho to the west with the southern third of the range blending into the Continental Divide. Mountain ranges between the Bitterroots and the top of the Continental Divide include the Cabinet Mountains, the Missions, the Garnet, Sapphire, Flint Creek, and Pintlar ranges.
The northern section of the Divide, where the mountains give way rapidly to prairie, is known collectively as the Rocky Mountain Front and is most pronounced in the Lewis Range located primarily in Glacier National Park. Due to the configuration of mountain ranges in Glacier National Park, the Northern Divide (which begins in Alaska's Seward Peninsula) crosses this region and turns east in Montana at Triple Divide Peak. Thus, the Waterton, Belly, and Saint Mary rivers flow north into Alberta, Canada, joining the Saskatchewan River and ultimately emptying into Hudson Bay.
East of the Divide, several parallel ranges march across the southern half of the state, including the Gravelly Range, the Tobacco Roots, the Madison Range, Gallatin Range, Big Belt Mountains, Bridger Mountains, Absaroka Mountains, and the Beartooth Mountains. The Beartooth Plateau is the largest continuous land mass over 10,000 feet (3,000 m) in the lower 48 states and contains the highest point in the state, Granite Peak, 12,799 feet (3,901 m) high.
Between the mountain ranges are many scenic valleys, rich in agricultural resources and rivers, and possessing multiple opportunities for tourism and recreation. Among the best-known areas are the Flathead Valley, Bitterroot Valley, Big Hole Valley, and Gallatin Valley.
East and north of this transition zone are expansive sparsely populated Northern Plains, with rolling tableland prairies, "island" mountain ranges, and scenic badlands extending into the Dakotas, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Wyoming. The isolated island ranges east of the Divide include the Castle Mountains, Crazy Mountains, Little Belt Mountains, Snowy Mountains, Sweet Grass Hills, Bull Mountains. The Pryor Mountains South of Billings and, in the southeastern corner of the state near Ekalaka, the Long Pines and Short Pines.
The area east of the divide in the north-central portion of the state is known for the dramatic Missouri Breaks and other significant rock formations. Three stately buttes south of Great Falls are familiar landmarks. These buttes, Square Butte, Shaw Butte, and Crown Butte, are made of igneous rock, which is dense and has withstood weathering for many years. The underlying surface consists of shale. Many areas around these buttes are covered with clay surface soils. These soils have been derived from the weathering of the Colorado Formation. Farther east, areas such as Makoshika State Park near Glendive, and Medicine Rocks State Park near Ekalaka also highlight some of the most scenic badlands regions in the state.
Montana also contains a number of rivers, many of which are known for "blue-ribbon" trout fishing, but which also provide most of the water needed by residents of the state, as well as being a source of hydropower. Montana is the only state in the union whose rivers form parts of three major North American watersheds: The Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay which are divided atop Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park.
West of the divide, the Clark Fork of the Columbia (not to be confused with the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River) rises in the Rocky Mountains near Butte and flows northwest to Missoula. There it is joined by the Blackfoot River and Bitterroot River and further downstream by the Flathead River before entering Idaho near Lake Pend Oreille, becoming part of the Columbia River, which flows to the Pacific Ocean. The Clark Fork discharges the greatest volume of water of any river exiting the state. The Flathead River and Kootenai River also drain major portions of the western half of the state.
East of the divide, the Missouri River, formed by the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers, crosses the central part of the state, flows through the Missouri breaks and enters North Dakota. The Yellowstone River rises in Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, flows north to Livingston, Montana, where it then turns east and flows across the state until it joins the Missouri River a few miles east of the North Dakota boundary. The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed, free-flowing river in North America. Other major Montana tributaries of the Missouri include the Milk, Marias, Tongue, and Musselshell Rivers. Montana also claims the disputed title of possessing the "world's shortest river," the Roe River, just outside Great Falls, Montana. These rivers ultimately join the Mississippi River and flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
Water is of critical importance to the state for both agriculture and hydropower. In addition to its rivers, the state is home to Flathead Lake, the largest natural fresh-water lake in the United States west of the Great Lakes. Man-made reservoirs dot Montana's rivers, the largest of which is Fort Peck Reservoir, on the Missouri river, contained by the largest earth-filled dam in the world.
Vegetation of the state includes ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, larch, fir, spruce, aspen, birch, red cedar, ash, alder, rocky mountain maple and cottonwood trees. Forests cover approximately 25% of the state. Flowers native to Montana include asters, bitterroots, daisies, lupins, poppies, primroses, columbine, lilies, orchids and dryads. Several species of sagebrush and cactus and many species of grasses are common. Many species of mushrooms and lichens are also found in the state.
Montana contains Glacier National Park and portions of Yellowstone National Park, including three of the Park's five entrances. Other federally recognized sites include the Little Bighorn National Monument, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Big Hole National Battlefield, Lewis and Clark Caverns, and the National Bison Range. Montana has eight National Forests and over 20 National Wildlife Refuges. The Federal government administers 36,000,000 acres (146,000 km²). 275,000 acres (1,100 km²) are administered as state parks and forests.
Areas managed by the National Park Service include:
Several Indian reservations are located in Montana: Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Crow Indian Reservation, Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and the Flathead Indian Reservation.
Montana is a large state with considerable variation in geography, and so the climate is equally varied. The western half is mountainous, interrupted by numerous large valleys. Eastern Montana is plains, badlands, broken by hills and isolated mountain ranges, and has a continental climate The Continental Divide runs north-south through the western mountainous half, and has a large effect on the climate. It restricts the flow of warmer air from the Pacific from moving east, and cooler, drier continental moving west. West of the divide the climate is described as modified northern Pacific coast climate, with milder winters, cooler summers, less wind, and a longer growing season. In the winter Valley fog and low clouds often form in the valleys west of the divide, but this is rarely seen in the east.
Average daytime temperatures vary from 28 degrees in January to 84.5 degrees in July. The variation in geography leads to great variation in temperature. Hot weather occurs in the eastern plains on occasion; the highest observed being 117° at Glendive on July 20, 1893, and Medicine Lake on July 5, 1937. Throughout the state summer nights are generally cool and pleasant. Temperatures decrease with altitude, and hot weather is unknown above Snowfall is not unknown any month of the year in the central part of Montana, but is quite rare in July and August.
The coldest temperature on record for Montana is the coldest temperature for the entire continental U.S. On January 20, 1954 -70 °F was recorded at a gold mining camp near Rogers Pass. Temperatures vary greatly on such cold nights, and Helena, to the southeast had a low of only . Winter cold spells last a week or so. They are the result of cold continental air coming south from Canada. The front is often well defined, causing a large temperature drop in a 24 hour period. Conversely, air flow from the southwest results in "Chinooks". These steady 25-50mph (or more) winds can suddenly warm parts of Montana, especially areas just to the east of the mountains, where temperatures sometimes rise into the 50's and 60's.
Average annual precipitation is , but great variations are seen. The mountain ranges block the moist Pacific air, holding moisture in the western valleys, and creating rain shadows to the east. Heron in the west receives the most precipitation, 34.70 inches. On the east side of a mountain range the valleys are much drier; Lonepine averages 11.45, and Deer Lodge 11.00 inches of precipitation. The mountains themselves can get over , for example the Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park gets . Perhaps the driest is an area southwest of Belfry that averaged only over a 16 year period. Most of the larger cities get 30 to of snow each year. Mountain ranges themselves can accumulate of snow during a winter. Heavy snowstorms can occur as early as September or as Late as May, but most snow falls from November to March.
The climate has become warmer in Montana and continues to do so. The glaciers in Glacier National Park have receded and are predicted to melt away completely in a few decades. Many Montana cities set heat records during July 2007, the hottest month ever recorded in Montana. Winters are warmer, too, and have fewer cold spells. Previously these cold spells had killed off bark beetles which are now attacking the forests of Western Montana. The combination of warmer weather, attack by beetles, and mismanagement during past years has led to a substantial increase in the severity of forest fires in Montana.
Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the state of Montana. Groups included the Crow in the south-central area, the Cheyenne in the southeast, the Blackfeet, Assiniboine and Gros Ventres in the central and north-central area and the Kootenai and Salish in the west. The smaller Pend d'Oreille and Kalispel tribes lived near Flathead Lake and the western mountains, respectively.
Montana east of the continental divide was part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Subsequent to the Lewis and Clark Expedition and after the finding of gold and copper (see the Copper Kings) in the state in the late 1850s, Montana became a United States territory (Montana Territory) on May 26, 1864, and the 41st state on November 8, 1889.
Fort Shaw (Montana Territory) was established in Spring 1867. It is located west of Great Falls in the Sun River Valley and was one of three posts authorized to be built by Congress in 1865. The other two posts in the Montana Territory were Camp Cooke on the Judith River and Fort C.F. Smith on the Bozeman Trail in south central Montana Territory. Fort Shaw, named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first all African-American regiments, during the American Civil War, was built of adobe and lumber by the 13th Infantry. The fort had a parade ground that was 400 ft² (120 m²), and consisted of barracks for officers, a hospital, and a trading post, and could house up to 450 soldiers. Completed in 1868, it was used by military personnel until 1891.
After the close of the military post, the government established Fort Shaw as a school to provide industrial training to young Native Americans. The Fort Shaw Indian Industrial School was opened on April 30, 1892. The school had at one time 17 faculty members, 11 Indian assistants and 300 students. The school made use of over 20 of the buildings built by the Army.
The revised Homestead Act of the early 1900s greatly affected the settlement of Montana. This act expanded the land that was provided by the Homestead Act of 1862 from to . When the latter act was signed by President William Howard Taft, it also reduced the time necessary to prove up from five years to three years and permitted five months' absence from the claim each year.
In 1908, the Sun River Irrigation Project, west of Great Falls was opened up for homesteading. Under this Reclamation Act, a person could obtain 40 acres (16 ha). Most of the people who came to file on these homesteads were young couples who were eager to live near mountains where hunting and fishing were good. Many of these homesteaders came from the Midwest and Minnesota.
Montana was the scene of the Native Americans' last effort to keep their land, and the last stand of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer was fought near the present day town of Hardin. Montana was also the location of the final battles of the Nez Perce Wars.
Cattle ranching has long been central to Montana's history and economy. The Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Deer Lodge Valley is maintained as a link to the ranching style of the late 19th century. It is operated by the National Park Service but is also a 1,900 acre (7.7 km²) working ranch.
As of 2006, Montana has an estimated population of 997,670, which is an increase of 8,750, or 0.9%, from the prior year and an increase of 33,475, or 3.7%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 13,674 people (that is 58,001 births minus 44,327 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 21,074 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 2,141 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 18,933 people. 16,500 of state residents are foreign-born, accounting for 1.8% of the total population.
While German ancestry is the largest reported European-American ancestry in most of Montana, residents of Scandinavian ancestry are prevalent in some of the farming-dominated northern and eastern prairie regions. There are also several predominantly Native American counties, mostly around each of the seven Indian reservations. The historically mining-oriented communities of western Montana such as Butte have a wider range of ethnic groups, particularly people of Eastern European and Irish ancestry, as well as people who originally emigrated from British mining regions such as Cornwall. Montana is second only to South Dakota in U.S. Hutterite population with several colonies spread across the state. Many of Montana's historic logging communities originally attracted people of Scandinavian and Scots-Irish descent. Montana's Hispanic population is particularly concentrated around the Billings area in south-central Montana, and the highest density of African-Americans is located in Great Falls.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 169,250; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 50,287; and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 32,726.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Montana's total state product in 2003 was $26 billion. Per capita personal income in 2003 was $25,406, 47th in the nation. However, this number is rapidly increasing. According to the Missoulian, the economy has grown rapidly since 2003; in 2005, Montana ranked 39th in the nation with an average per capita personal income of $29,387.
The economy is primarily based on agriculture--wheat, barley, sugar beets, oats, rye, seed potatoes, honey, cherries, cattle and sheep ranching -- and significant lumber and mineral extraction (gold, coal, silver, talc, and vermiculite). Tourism is also important to the economy with millions of visitors a year to Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, the Missouri River headwaters, the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.
Montana's personal income tax contains 7 brackets, with rates ranging from 1% to 6.9%. Montana has no sales tax. In Montana, household goods are exempt from property taxes. However, property taxes are assessed on livestock, farm machinery, heavy equipment, automobiles, trucks, and business equipment. The amount of property tax owed is not determined solely by the property's value. The property's value is multiplied by a tax rate, set by the Montana Legislature, to determine its taxable value. The taxable value is then multiplied by the mill levy established by various taxing jurisdictions -- city and county government, school districts and others.
In addition, Amtrak's Empire Builder train runs through the north of the state, stopping in the following towns: Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier Park, Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Havre, Malta, Glasgow, and Wolf Point.
Montana's three largest commercial airports serve Bozeman, Billings, and Missoula; smaller airports in Kalispell, Helena, and Butte also serve multiple commercial carriers. Eight smaller communities have airports designated for commercial service under the Essential Air Service program.
Historically, the primary east-west highway route across Montana was U.S. Route 10, which connected the major cities in the southern half of the state. Still the state's most important east-west travel corridor, the route is today served by Interstate 90 and Interstate 94. U.S. Routes 2 and 12 and Montana Highway 200 also traverse the entire state from east to west.
The state was the first to elect a female member of Congress (Jeannette Rankin) and was one of the first states to give women voting rights (see suffrage). Despite its sizable American Indian population, Montana is one of the most Homogenous states — nearly 90% of its residents are of European descent, with a large number of immigrants of German, Irish, Welsh, English, Italian, Slovak and Scandinavian heritage arriving in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A significant portion of Chinese (Cantonese) immigrants also came and left an indelible mark on the state, especially in the mining cities of Helena, Butte, and Anaconda.
Historically, Montana is a Swing state of cross-ticket voters with a tradition of sending "conservatives to Helena (the state capital) and liberals to Washington." However, there have also been long-term shifts of party control. During the 1970s, the state was dominated by the Democratic Party, with Democratic governors for a 20-year period, and a Democratic majority of both the national congressional delegation and during many sessions of the state legislature. This pattern shifted, beginning with the 1988 election, when Montana elected a Republican governor and sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate for the first time since the 1940s. This shift continued with the reapportionment of the state's legislative districts that took effect in 1994, when the Republican Party took control of both houses of the state legislature, consolidating a party dominance that lasted until 2004. The state last supported a Democrat for president in 1992, when Bill Clinton won a plurality victory.
In recent years, Montana has been classified as a Republican-leaning state, and the state supported President George W. Bush by a wide margin in 2000 and 2004. However, since the 2000 reapportionment plan went into effect in 2004 the state currently has a Democratic governor (Brian Schweitzer), elected in 2004. In the 2006 midterm elections, Democratic candidate Jon Tester narrowly defeated (by only 3000 votes) incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns ,one of several crucial races that allowed the Democratic Party to win the majority in the U.S. Senate. Montana's lone US Representative, Republican Denny Rehberg, easily won reelection. The state Senate is (as of 2007) controlled by the Democrats and the State House of Representatives is controlled by the Republicans.
On April 17th, 2007, Montana became the first state to pass legislation against the federal government's Real ID Act. Gov. Schweitzer signed a bill banning the Montana Motor Vehicle Division from enforcing the new regulations.
Montana is an Alcoholic beverage control state.
Some of the cities in Montana are:
Some of the major towns in Montana are:
|1||Yellowstone County||136,691||29||Powell County||6,999|
|2||Missoula County||100,086||30||Blaine County||6,629|
|3||Flathead County||83,172||31||Teton County||6,240|
|4||Cascade County||79,569||32||Pondera County||6,087|
|5||Gallatin County||78,210||33||Chouteau County||5,463|
|6||Lewis and Clark County||58,449||34||Toole County||5,031|
|7||Ravalli County||39,940||35||Broadwater County||4,517|
|8||Silver Bow County||32,982||36||Musselshell County||4,497|
|9||Lake County||28,297||37||Phillips County||4,179|
|10||Lincoln County||19,193||38||Mineral County||4,014|
|11||Hill County||16,304||39||Sweet Grass County||3,672|
|12||Park County||15,968||40||Sheridan County||3,524|
|13||Glacier County||13,552||41||Granite County||2,965|
|14||Big Horn County||13,149||42||Fallon County||2,717|
|15||Fergus County||11,551||43||Judith Basin County||2,198|
|16||Custer County||11,267||44||Wheatland County||2,037|
|17||Jefferson County||11,170||45||Liberty County||2,003|
|18||Sanders County||11,057||46||Meagher County||1,999|
|19||Roosevelt County||10,524||47||Daniels County||1,836|
|20||Carbon County||9,902||48||McCone County||1,805|
|21||Rosebud County||9,212||49||Powder River County||1,705|
|22||Richland County||9,096||50||Carter County||1,320|
|23||Deer Lodge County||8,948||51||Garfield County||1,199|
|24||Beaverhead County||8,773||52||Golden Valley County||1,159|
|25||Dawson County||8,688||53||Prairie County||1,105|
|26||Stillwater County||8,493||54||Wibaux County||951|
|27||Madison County||7,274||55||Treasure County||689|
|28||Valley County||7,143||56||Petroleum County||470|
The state-funded Montana University System consists of:|
Major Tribal Colleges in Montana include:
Major Private Colleges and Universities include:
Since 1988, the Montana High School All Class Wrestling Tournament has been held in Billings at MetraPark. This event remains one of the most popular high school events each year in Montana.
Montana has several ski areas including: