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.
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.
More Montana Facts & Trivia
1) The state of Montana is nicknamed "The Treasure State" and "Big Sky Country".
2) The capital city of Montana is Helena and the largest city is Billings.
3) The state encompasses a total area of 147,042 sq miles, which makes it the 4th biggest state of the country.
4) The state of MT was incorporated into the Union on November 8, 1889 and became the 41st state.
5) Montana is bordered by Canada, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, and Wyoming.
6) The official flower is the Bitterroot.
7) The official motto is "Gold and Silver".
8) The official bird is the Western Meadowlark.
9) The official anthem is "Montana".
10) The official mammal is the Grizzly Bear.
11) The official butterfly is the Mourning Cloak.
12) Famous natives of the state include Gary Cooper and Martha Raye.
13) Mining and agriculture are two important industries in the state of Montana.
14) The official fish is the Blackspotted Cutthroat Trout.
15) Sited at a height of 12,807 feet, the tallest point in MT is the Granite Peak.
16) The state tree is the gigantic Ponderosa Pine.
17) The state houses various mineral and natural resources such as copper, silver, oil, gold, zinc, manganese, lead, and timber.
18) The variety of mammals found in the state is unparalleled.
19) Miles City is nicknamed as the Cowboy Capital of the World.
20) The official state gemstones are Agate and Yogo Sapphire.