91 Interesting Facts About Montana

Last updated on March 27th, 2023

Montana is the 43rd most populous and the 4th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It lies is in the Northwestern United States. Montana attained statehood on November 8, 1889, becoming the 41st state to join the union. Its four bordering states are South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and North DakotaSee the full list of the 50 states and their borders here. Montana (nicknamed: the Treasure State) has 56 counties. The state’s capital is Helena. The abbreviation for Montana is MT.

Interesting facts about Montana

1. The name Montana has a Spanish origin. The earliest Spanish settlers named the state “montaña” and it means mountain in Spanish. Montana is one of the nine mountainous states located in the western United States.

2. The motto of Montana is “oro y plata” and this means “gold and silver” in Spanish. This motto is taken from the gold and silver deposits in the state. Gold was first discovered in Montana in 1852.

Montana on the map

3. The land has an average of 7.4 people per square mile. Only Alaska and Wyoming have fewer people per square mile than Montana. The national average is 75 people per square mile. The state with the densest population is New Jersey, which has an average of 7,354 people per square mile.

4. About 48 percent of Montana residents live in rural areas, compared to a national average of 25 percent. Around 80 percent of Montana communities have populations of 3,000 or fewer.

5. Beaverhead County, with 5,542 square miles, is Montana’s largest county, equal in size to the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. It’s the 40th largest county in the U.S. (San Bernardino County, east of L.A., is the biggest at 20,160 square miles.)

Butte, Montana
Butte, Montana. Facts about Montana.

6. Butte, Montana is called the “richest hill on planet earth”. This is because of the rich mining history of this city.

7. Montana is the only state that is exactly one time zone wide. The state’s eastern border marks the line of Central Time and the western boundary marks Pacific Time. Montana is entirely within the Mountain Time Zone.

8. Montana is one of twelve states with a single area code for telephones. 406 covers the entire state.

9. California is the only state that has more hiking trails than Montana’s 15,000 miles of trails.

10. Montana has a very low population density. Of the state’s 56 counties, 46 counties have average populations of just 6 people or less per square mile. This is why these counties are considered “frontier counties”.

11. Only four of Montana’s 56 counties have populations over 100,000. Top on the list is Yellowstone County (Billings) with 163,593 people, followed by Missoula County (Missoula), Gallatin County (Bozeman), and Flathead County (Kalispell).

12. Four of Montana’s 56 counties have fewer than 1,000 residents. The least populous is Petroleum County, with just 496 residents, making it the eighth-least populous county in the U.S. The population density is 0.3 inhabitants per square mile. Also located in eastern Montana are Treasure County, Golden Valley County, and Garfield County, all with populations under 1,000.

13. Montana has a large population of grizzly bears. This is probably why the grizzly bear is the state animal of Montana. An estimated 1800 grizzly bears are thought to be alive today.

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, Montana.
Interesting facts about Montana. Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, Montana.

14. Montana has huge deposits of natural and mineral resources. Some of these resources are zinc, copper, silver, lead, oil, manganese, gold, timber and zinc.

15. The largest city in Montana is Billings and the capital city is Helena. Billings is the only city in Montana to have a population of more than 100,000 people while approximately 75,000 people live in Helena. Just over 10 percent of the population of Montana lives in Billings. The state capital of Helena is the 6th largest city with 32,000 people. Nearly 75 percent of the population of Montana lives within a 250-mile radius of Helena. 

16. Montana has two popular nicknames. It is called the “Big Sky Country” and it is also called “The Treasure State”.

17. Montana is the 41st state to be formed in the U.S. preceded by South Dakota and succeeded by Washington. It was incorporated into the union on November 8, 1889.

18. Montana has a large international border with Canada. It is the only state in the U.S. to share a land border with three Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan).

Flag of Montana

Flag of Montana

19. Cascade County, home of Malmstrom Air Force Base, reports the greatest number of UFO sightings in the state. Malmstrom AFB controls the many nuclear missile silos in the state.

20. The shoreline of Fort Peck Reservoir is equal in length to the California coastline. They are both about 1,500 miles long.

21. From the source of a river to the point where it exits the state, the average descent in altitude for a typical Montana river is about 3,000 feet.

22. About 70 percent of Montana’s streamflow originates from melting snow. 98 percent of all water used in the state goes towards agricultural irrigation.

23. Cows outnumber humans in Montana more than two to one. Black Angus and Hereford are the most popular breeds. Miles City bills itself as the “cow capital of the world” while Drummond boasts that they are “world-famous bull-shippers.”

24. The folks in Saco (pop. 159) set a record in 1999 by cooking a 6,000-pound hamburger. Seventeen cows went into that burger. The next day, leftovers included biscuits and gravy for breakfast and sloppy joes for dinner.

25. Coal lies underneath about thirty-five percent of Montana, part of what may be the largest coal basin on earth. If all of Montana’s coal reserves were mined and the mines continued production at their current rate, the coal would run out in about 3,000 years.

26. Montana is one of only five states with no sales tax, along with Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Oregon.

27. Montana has more cars registered per capita than any other state, with 184 vehicles for every 100 people. That’s nearly triple New York’s rate of car ownership of only 58 cars for every 100 citizens.

28. Just over 34 percent of vehicles on the road in Montana are pickup trucks. The only state with more pickup trucks per capita is Wyoming, where it’s 38 percent. In 50th place is New Jersey with only 8 percent. The national average is 17 percent.

sika deer crossing road
Facts about Montana. Photo © Wirestock

29. Montana ranks second in the nation for collisions with animals, averaging 17,000 yearly in a state with just over 800,000 licensed drivers. The only state where motorists are more likely to strike an animal is West Virginia. The animal most frequently involved is a deer. November is the peak month.

30. There are about twice as many boats as snowmobiles registered in the state with around 25,000 snowmobiles and 51,207 boats. Montana ranks 18th in the nation for number of boats per capita with 47 boats for every 1,000 residents. Minnesota comes in first with 143.

Facts about Montana (31 – 50)

31. There are almost three times as many miles of railroad tracks in Montana than there are miles of interstate highways: 3,300 miles of rails but only 1,200 miles of interstate. There are almost three times as many miles of groomed snowmobile trails as interstate highways at 3,700 miles.

32. At an elevation of 7,651 feet above sea level, the tiny community of Cooke City (pop. 77) near Yellowstone National Park is the highest in the state. Montana’s highest elevation is the top of Granite Peak near Yellowstone, at 12,799 feet. The lowest point in the state is where the Kootenai River exits the northwest corner of the state at 1,800 feet.

33. Montana has two important revenue-generating industries. They are mining and agriculture.

34. Montana is the first state in the United States to elect a woman to Congress. Montana native, Jeanette Rankin was elected to Congress in 1916 and re-elected in 1940. Jeanette Rankin was against the World Wars and also opposed the U.S. attack on Pearl Harbour. Her’s was the only vote against the war and she faced furious opposition for her views.

35. Approximately 10,000 white pelicans migrate from the Gulf of Mexico to Medicine Lake, Montana every spring. These birds are striking because they have wingspans of about nine feet.

A Pelican in Montana.
A Pelican in Montana. Interesting facts about Montana.

36. There are more cattle than human beings in Montana. This is not surprising because the state is an important center of livestock farming.

37. The largest snowflake ever observed was seen in Fort Keogh, Montana. This snowflake had an incredible diameter of 15 inches.

38. One of the largest steer in world history rests in the O’Fallon Museum in Montana. This steer was about six feet tall and weighed an impressive 3,980 pounds.

39. The Lewis and Clark expedition stopped at Travelers Rest in Lolo, Montana. This is the only site that has physical proof of the presence of these explorers.

40. In Loma, Montana (pop. 121) the temperature rose 103°F in a single 24-hour period, rising from -54°F at 9 am on January 14, 1972, to 49°F by 8 am on January 15. This event still stands as a world record for the greatest change in temperature ever measured on earth in a single 24-hour period.

41. Montana holds the record for the all-time coldest temperature in the Lower 48 at -70°F set at Rogers Pass on the Continental Divide on January 20, 1954. It may have been colder than that, but that was the lowest temperature reading on the thermometer. Montana’s record high is 117°F, for a temperature range of 187 °F. No other state has a larger temperature range than that. North Dakota comes in second place with a range of 181°F and Alaska is third with 180°F.

42. The town of Browning, near Glacier National Park, holds the national record for the greatest drop in temperature in twenty-four hours, for a 100-degree drop on January 23, 1916. The temperature went from 44°F to -56°F in a single day. 

43. Montana has a unique feature called a triple divide. This triple divide allows water to flow into the Atlantic Ocean, The Hudson Bay (when considered an Arctic tributary) and the Pacific Ocean. The continental divide is responsible for an extreme climate since the opposing Arctic and Pacific atmospheres link up to create a dramatic weather clash. Visitors are advised to carry rain gear and warm clothes when visiting Kalispell’s backyard treasure.

44. In 1888, there were more millionaires per capita in Helena, Montana than any other city on earth. Most of these millionaires made their money from gold.

45. Jordan, Montana is one of the remotest county seats in the United States. The nearest airport is 175 miles away while the nearest bus line is 85 miles away.

46. Part of the Yellowstone National Park is located in Montana. The park experiences 1000-3000 earthquakes annually and is also home to super volcanoes. It is the first national park in the U.S. Montana is also home to the “Crown of the Continent” – the Glacier National Park.

47. Montana is large enough to contain six American states. You can fit the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia into Montana.

48. The Great Falls on the Missouri River is actually in Montana. It is the biggest waterfall on this river.

49. Montana has a huge population of wild buffalo. You can see many of these animals at the National Bison Range close to Missoula.

Montana on the map with neighboring states.
Montana (in red) on the map with neighboring states.

50. Montana has many lakes. In fact, the Glacier National Park is host to 250 lakes and many of them are within Montana’s boundaries.

Interesting facts about Montana

51. Montana has the largest variety of mammals in the United States. Some of these animals are elk, bison (the largest land mammal in North America), grizzly bears and buffaloes.

52. The tallest point in Montana is the Granite Peak. It stands at a height of 12,807 feet. It is the tenth highest point in the U.S.

53. Montana has the largest population of golden eagles in the United States. You can see more eagles on a single day here than anywhere else in the United States.

54. Montana is home to approximately 8,000 moose. This animal was once considered extinct but it is alive in well in Montana.

Large Antlered Bull Moose in Yellowstone National Park
Large Antlered Bull Moose in Yellowstone National Park.

55. Montana has one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaur fossils. The Museum of the Rockies alone has 13 T-Rex specimens.

56. Montana is home to one of the largest earth-filled dam in the world. This dam is the Fort Peck Dam located in northeast Montana.

A sight of the Beaver Creek Park, Montana. Montana fact file.
Interesting facts about Montana. A sight of the Beaver Creek Park, Montana. Image credit – ramendan

57. Montana has the largest County Park in the United States. This park is the Beaver Creek Park located in Hill County, Montana.

58. The Yellowstone River runs through parts of Montana. This river is definitely the longest un-dammed river in the lower 48 states.

59. Montana has a large population of native Americans. This state has at least eight federally recognized Native American tribes.

60. Bannack is the first territorial capital of Montana. It is preserved as a ghost town today.

61. The legendary Native American chief Sitting Bull has a town named after his daughter. The town of Ekalaka in Montana is named after the daughter of this famous chief.

62. The smokestack in Anaconda, Montana is one of the tallest brick structures in the world. It stands 585 feet high.

63. Only one gem from North America is included in the Crown Jewels of England. This is the Montana Yogo Sapphire.

64. Montana is the home of the world’s First International Peace Park. This park is a combination of Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and the Glacier National Park in Montana.

65. Montana also has two popular slogans associated with its name – the “land of the shining mountains” and the “last best place.” Montana has more than a 100 mountain ranges in its western half.

66. In the area, it is slightly larger than Japan. It is also the largest landlocked U.S. state.

An eastbound BNSF shuttle train rolls along the Clark Fork River on MRL's 4th Subdivision near Eddy.
An eastbound BNSF shuttle train rolls along the Clark Fork River on MRL’s 4th Subdivision near Eddy. Facts about Montana. Image credit – Jerry Huddleston.

67. The Clark Fork discharges the greatest volume of water of any river exiting the state.

68. There are more than 3000 named lakes and reservoirs in Montana. These include the Flathead Lake, which is the largest natural freshwater lake in the U.S.

69. Fork Peak Reservoir of Missouri River is the largest reservoir in the state.

70. July 2007 was the hottest month ever recorded in Montana.

71. The Desert Land Act of 1877, allowed settlement of Arid Lands and allocated 640 acres to settlers for a fee of $0.25 per acre and a promise to irrigate the land.

72. About 65 percent of Montana households have at least one gun, the highest in the nation. Just over 38 percent of residents own firearms suitable for hunting.

73. During World War I, approximately 1500 Montanans died and 2437 were injured. Almost 40,000 Montanans volunteered or drafted for the war. This is a huge contribution of manpower by any state in the U.S. during the time.

. . . continue reading facts about Montana on the next page (find about Montana state: size, population, demonym, highest and lowest point, length and width, National Parks, governor, motto, tree, song, bird, butterfly, fish, flower, fossil, gem, grass, mammal, Time Zone etc.)