We do magic to Maps
Montana (MT) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Montana is a Mountain State located right smack dab in the middle of the longest land border between Canada and the United States. Roughly a third of Montana, on the western side, is made up of several mountain ranges, while the rest is somewhat less rugged. The climate is rather dry, but goes through many extremes of temperature.
Counties and Regions: Montana has 56 counties, but the state is usually distinguished by the differences between the mountains in the west and the flatter parts in the east. The general areas of Montana are often said to be:
- Bighorn Country (Southern Montana)
- Eastern Montana
- The Flathead (Northwestern Montana)
- Glacier Country
- Glacier National Park
- South Central Montana
- Southwestern Montana
- Western Montana
Population: Montana is home to barely one million people, and since it has such a large area, this means that it has the third-lowest population density in the United States.
Major Cities: The largest city in Montana, Billings, is the center of the largest metropolitan area in over 500 miles. It is home to just about half a million people. The capital of the state, Helena, has about 75,000 people in its metropolitan area.
Story Behind the Name: Montana’s name is taken from the Spanish word for “mountain,” montaña. It was so called by Spanish explorers when they first encountered its many mountain ranges.
History and Colonization: Present-day Montana is in a distant part of the United States, and so it was not colonized early in its history. French, Spanish, and American explorers like Lewis and Clark made inroads into the region, but non-Native Americans did not put down roots there until the middle of the nineteenth century. The United States gained control of the area through the Louisiana Purchase, but mostly ignored it until after the trauma of the American Civil War.
As travel to Montana became easier, settlers and miners flocked to the territory to plunder its mineral wealth, causing trouble with the local Native Americans. The United States military began a campaign in the area to remove or otherwise neutralize the natives. The most famous consequence of this was the destruction of the infamous George Armstrong Custer and nearly all of his men at Custer’s Last Stand, which unfortunately led to an even stronger governmental response. Most of the Native Americans who lived in the region were forcibly confined to reservations, where they remain to the present day.
Montana’s population grew as veins of valuable minerals and precious ores were discovered in the mountains. Farmers came as well, looking to exploit the high price of wheat, but they discovered that Montana’s climate was dry and harsh, making farming much more difficult than in states like Iowa and Nebraska. During the 1930s, the agricultural aspect of Montana’s culture took even more of a beating as the Dust Bowl stripped away topsoil and ruined farming families. Like many other areas of the U.S., though, Montana saw a rebound on the onset of World War II.
Today, Montana is perhaps the most famous for two things: rugged natural beauty and dinosaur fossils. Nature preserves, including part of the internationally known Yellowstone Park, are spread across several areas within the state. Montana’s buttes, mountains, and lakes draw more and more of a tourist presence each year. Promising grounds for fossil hunting can be found in certain areas of the state, and it has yielded some of the nation’s most important paleontological discoveries.