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Welcome to Montana

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Montana State Flag
Montana State Flag
Montana State Seal
Montana State Seal
Montana Location
Montana Location


Montana is a state in the western United States. The name probably comes from the Spanish word montaņa ("mountain"). The state ranks fourth in size but has a low population and population density, with much of the state being rural. The economy is primarily ranching-based, with some agricultural crops (wheat, barley, sugar beets) and a significant lumber and mineral industry.

The western one-third of the state is primarily mountainous terrain, while the eastern two-third is part of the northern Great Plains. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, modern-day Montana became Montana Territory in 1864 and later became the 41st state in 1889. The state became the first to elect a female member of Congress, Jeannette Rankin. Montana's people are largely homogenous, with 89.5 percent of the population white (but with a sizable American Indian representation at 6.2 percent). The state is generally regarded as Republican; many are surprised to hear that the state has a Democratic governor (Brian Schweitzer), Democratic-controlled legislature (the Montana State Legislature), and one Democratic U.S. Senator (Max Baucus).

The state capital is Helena. The largest city is Billings. Its U.S. postal abbreviation is MT.

The USS Montana was named in honor of the state.

Capital Helena  
Largest City Billings
Largest metropolitan area  
Governor (2005) Brian Schweitzer
- Total
- Land
- Water
- % water

381,156 kmē (4th)
377,295 kmē
3,862 kmē
- Total (2000)
- Density

926,865 (44th)
2.39 /kmē (48th)
Admittance into Union
- Order
- Date

November 8, 1889
Time zone Mountain: UTC-7/DST-6
44°26' N to 49° N
104°2' W to 116°2' W
- Highest
- Mean
- Lowest
410 km
1,015 km

3,901 m
1,035 m
549 m
ISO 3166-2 US-MT
State Bird Western Meadowlark
State Fish Blackspotted Cutthroat Trout
State Flower Bitterroot
State Tree Ponderosa Pine
State Animal Grizzly Bear
Shortest River in the World The Roe River
In the movie 'Star Trek: First Contact', Montana is the location of the historical first contact between humans and an alien race, the Vulcans.


Montana and Canada share a 877km (545-mile) northern border. The state borders the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. To the east is the border with North Dakota; to the southeast is a short border with South Dakota. In the south is the Wyoming border, and on the west and southwest is the Idaho border, marked by the Bitterroot River.

With a land area of 376,978 kmē (145,552 square miles), Montana is the fourth largest in the United States (after Alaska, Texas, and California). Major rivers in the state include the Missouri, Clark Fork of the Columbia, Milk, Flathead and Yellowstone. Montana is also one of many areas to claim the disputed title of "world's shortest river" (the Roe River).

Montana contains Glacier National Park and portions of Yellowstone National Park. Other sites include the Little Bighorn National Monument, Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area, Big Hole National Battlefield, and the National Bison Range. There are also a number of national forests and National Wildlife Refuges. The Federal government administers 36,000,000 acres (146,000 kmē). 275,000 acres (1100 kmē) are administered as state parks and forests.

The surface of the state is highly diverse. In the west it is extremely mountainous. The Bitterroot Mountains from the western boundary line, and east of this the main chain of the Rocky Mountains cross the state. Between these ranges is a great basin, forming one-fifth of the entire area. East of the Rocky Mountains is a rolling tableland, traversed by several large rivers. In the south near the Yellowstone River the mountains reach an altitude of 10,000 feet and the peaks are perpetually covered with snow. Besides the prominent mountain ranges there are many spurs, detached ridges, and smooth, sloping buttes. The mountains are intersected by numerous valleys and canyons, through which flow most beautiful rivers. The highest point in the state, Granite Peak, is 12,799 feet high.

The principal river systems in Montana are the Clark Fork of the Columbia, the Missouri, and the Yellowstone. The Clark Fork rises in the Rocky Mountains near Butte, and after flowing west turns north and forms portion of the Idaho boundary. The Missouri river, formed by the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers crosses the northeastern part of the state and enters North Dakota. The Yellowstone, a tributary of the Missouri, rises in the Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, flows northeast across the state through grand canyons and gorges, and enters the Missouri, a few miles east of the North Dakota boundary.

Vegetation of the area includes pine, larch, fir, spruce, aspen, birch, cedar, ash, and alder trees. Additionally, flowers native to Montana include asters, bitterroots, daisies, lupines, poppies, primroses, columbine, lilies and dryads. Sagebrush and various species of grass are common plants in the region, and forests cover 1/4 of the state.



Native Americans were the first inhabitants of modern-day Montana. Groups included the Crows in the south-central area, the Cheyenne in the southeast, the Blackfeet, Assiniboine and Gros Ventres in the central and north-central region and the Kootenai and Salish in the western sector. The smaller Pend d'Oreille and Kalispel tribes were found around Flathead Lake and the western mountains, respectively.

Montana became a United States territory (Montana Territory) on May 26, 1864 and the 41st state on November 8, 1889.

Montana was the scene of the Native Americans' last effort to keep their land. For instance, the last stand of U.S. Army Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer was fought in Montana 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 1900-acre (7.7 kmē) working ranch.

Law and Government

The capital of Montana is Helena and its current Governor is Brian Schweitzer (Democrat) who was sworn in on January 3, 2005. Its two U.S. senators are Max Baucus (Democrat) and Conrad Burns (Republican).

Several Indian reservations are located in Montana: Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Crow Indian Reservation, Rocky Boys Indian Reservation, Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and the Flathead Indian Reservation.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Montana's total state product in 2003 was $26 billion. Per capital personal income in 2003 was $25,406, 47th in the nation. Its agricultural outputs are cattle, wheat, barley, sugar beets, hay, and hogs. Its industrial outputs are mining, lumber and wood products, food processing, and tourism.


Racial makeup

As of 2003, the population of Montana is 917,621.

The racial makeup of the state is:

  • 90.6% White, non-Hispanic
  • 0.3% Black
  • 6.2% American Indian/Alaskan native
  • 2.0% Hispanic, of any race
  • 0.5% Asian
  • 1.7% Mixed race

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000.

The five largest ancestry groups in Montana are: German (27%), Irish (14.8%), English (12.7%), Norwegian (10.6%), American (5.1%).


The religious affiliations of the citizens of Montana are:

  • 55% Protestant
  • 27% Roman Catholic
  • 3% Other Christian
  • 0% Other religions
  • 11% Non-religious

The three largest Protestant denominations in Montana are: Lutheran (12% of the total state population), Methodist (9%), Baptist (4%).

Important Cities and Towns


Colleges and Universities

  • Carroll College
  • Flathead Valley Community College
  • Montana State University System
    • Montana State University - Billings
    • Montana State University - Bozeman
    • Montana State University Northern
  • Rocky Mountain College
  • Miles Community College
  • Salish Kootenai College
  • University of Great Falls
  • University of Montana System
    • University of Montana
    • Montana Tech of The University of Montana
    • Western Montana College of The University of Montana  

The Minor League Baseball Teams

  • Missoula Osprey
  • Great Falls White Sox
  • Helena Brewers
  • Billings Mustangs

Ski areas

Montana has several ski areas including:


Major highways include:

  • Interstate 15
  • Interstate 90
  • Interstate 94
  • U.S. Highway 2
  • U.S. Highway 212
  • U.S. Highway 93

Further reading

  • Howard, Joseph Kinsey. Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome. Bison Books: 2003. ISBN 0803273398.
  • Lang, William L., et. al. Montana: A History of Two Centuries. University of Washington: 1991. ISBN 0295971290.
  • Toole, Kenneth Ross. Montana: An Uncommon Land. University of Oklahoma: 1984. ISBN 0806118903.
  • Doig, Ivan, Dancing at the Rascal Fair.
  • Doig, Ivan, English Creek.
  • MacLean, Norman, A River Runs Through It.
  • MacLean, Norman, Young Men and Fire.

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