Montana Facts


Montana Facts

(Montana Fun Facts)

Paradise Valley, Montana

The Yellowstone River in Montana is the longest river in the lower 48 that has no dams.

Montana Facts

(Montana Fun Facts)

Montana Facts are always fun because there are so many "biggest", "largest", and "mosts". As we list these Montana Facts (Montana Fun Facts), you'll quickly determine that this is a very unique and wondrous state, that is fascinating, beautiful, and rich in history as well as rich in magnificent sweeping landscapes that are world renowned.  Montana is the 3rd most sparsely populated state in the country and yet it is the fourth largest state,  which means there is a ton of wide open, untouched spaces which is a big part of Montana's identity.  Our list of Montana Facts (Montana Fun Facts) is one that will help you understand just how unique and magnificent the State of Montana truly is, and will in turn create a desire for you to come and visit this great state!

Where did the term "Big Sky" come from?
Here's an interesting Montana Fact: The term "Big Sky" was originally used by Pulitzer Prize winning author A.B. Guthrie in his book "The Big Sky", which was written in 1947.  This book is regarded as a national treasure, and if you're fascinated about the discovery and development of Montana, we highly recommend that you read this book, as well as the others in this series by A.B. Guthrie.  The term "Big Sky Country" is now an iconic nickname for the state of Montana... and if you've ever visited this remarkable state, you'll know why we call it this.

Brief History of Montana

About 12,500 years ago humans first came to the region that is now Montana, and eventually Native American tribes such as the Blackfeet, Crow, Cheyenne, Flathead and Kalispel called Montana their home for thousands of years.nThese are known as the Plains Indians.

Montana State FlagFor thousands of years Montana remained vastly unexplored by people in the outside world until the Lewis and Clark Expedition came through the state with there Native American guide Sacagawea in 1805 following the Louisiana Purchase.

Then in 1862 gold was discovered on Grasshopper Creek near Bannack, Montana, and the rush was on.   And by the way, the gold found here was more pure than any other gold found in the United States prior to this strike.  Just two years later, in 1864, Montana became a U.S.Territory.  From there, settlers came to the state for not only the additional gold and silver strikes of Virginia City, Helena, Butte and other areas, but these early gold camps became the foundation for present day Montana, and is the origin of the nickname, "The Treasure State".  In time, cattlemen came in and settled much of Eastern Montana, the Copper Kings of Butte, Montana created one of the most lucrative and massive copper strike in world history, and then the farmers followed after the promise of fertile land during the Homestead Era was marketed throughout the country.

The main early gateway to the state of Montana during the early years was the Missouri River.  Steamboats brought thousands of people into the state, as well as the heavy mining equipment.  This 2,500+ mile route from the Mississippi River Delta (Gulf of Mexico) up to the Missouri River to Fort Benton, Montana was and still is the longest sea port in the world.

One of the most famous early day events that put Montana on the map was General George Armstrong Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 (east of Billings, Montana).  This battle is without question the most famous military battle in U.S. History, where the 7th Calvary was defeated by a large group of Lakota Souix, Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians.  200 troops, including General George Armstrong Custer, were killed within 20 minutes.  The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is where it all happened.

Battle of the Little Bighorn

Battle of the Little Bighorn (Custer's Last Stand) is one of the most famous battles in U.S. history.  This re-enactment of the battle happens every year near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

Our List of Montana Facts...

(Montana Fun Facts)

Montana Facts- General Fun Facts

1. Montana became a state on November 8, 1889.

2. Montana's first territorial capital was Bannack, Montana in 1862, which was where gold was first discovered in Grasshopper Creek.  Bannack is now a well-preserved ghost town at Bannack State Park.

3. The origin of the name "Montana" comes from a Spanish word meaning "mountainous"

4. Montana State Motto:  "Oro y Plata", which means "gold and silver"

5. Montana State Capital: Helena

6. Montana Nicknames:  Treasure State, Big Sky Country

7. Montana Slogans:  The Last Best Place, Land of the Shining Mountains

8. Montana State Tree:  Ponderosa Pine

9. Montana State Flower:  Bitterroot

10. Montana State Bird:  Western Meadowlark

11. Montana State Animal:  Grizzly Bear

12. State Song:  "Montana"

Makoshika State Park

Makoshika State Park, is Montana's largest state park and is a gorgeous example of the badlands country of Eastern Montana.

Montana Facts About It's Population

13. Montana is the fourth largest state in the country being 147,040 square miles in size.

14. Montana is 630 miles from east to west, and 255 miles from north to south.

15. Montana is the 3rd most sparsely populated state in the country.

16. Just over a million people live in Montana.

17. With a population density of only 6 people per square mile, there are more elk, deer and antelope in Montana than there are humans.

18. The largest city in Montana is Billings, having a population of just over 100,000 people.

19. Number of Named Mountain Ranges in Montana: 77

20. Number of Counties in Montana: 56

21. Number of State Parks in Montana: 43

22. Number of Montana Scenic Byways: 25

23. Montana has 7 Indian Reservations.

24. Montana is borders by North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming and Idaho to the south, Idaho to the west and Canada to the north.

Lewis and Clark Caverns

Lewis and Clark Caverns is Montana's oldest state park.

Montana Facts- Glacier Park and Yellowstone Park

25. Montana has two national parks:  Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, which are among the most visited national parks in the country.

26. Glacier National Park has the all time annual visitation record of any U.S. National Park with 3.8 million visitors, which happened in 2017.

27. The Going To The Sun Road in Glacier Park is the only road in the United States that is registered as a National Historic Landmark, a National Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Place. It is regarded as one of the most scenic roads in the world.

28. Glacier National Park in Montana, which borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, is where the first International Peace Park was created.

29. Montana is home to 3 of the 5 entrances into Yellowstone National Park.

30. Yellowstone National Park is the world's first national park, being founded in 1872.

31. The Roosevelt Arch, located in Gardiner, Montana, was built in 1903 and marks the original entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  This North Entrance is still one of the busiest of the 5 entrances to the park.

Wild Goose Island

Wild Goose Island Overlook in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Roosevelt Arch

Roosevelt Arch at Gardiner, Montana, marks the original entrance into Yellowstone Park.

Montana Fun Facts- Mountains, Forests, Prairies, Lakes and Streams

32. The western third of Montana is mountainous (Northern Rocky Mountains), and the eastern two thirds are mainly part of the Northern Plains, with islands of mountains found interspersed throughout it as well as remarkable badlands.  Makoshika State Park is a wonderful example of these scenic badlands.

33. The Continental Divide runs through the state of Montana, beginning at Glacier National Park and ending at Yellowstone National Park.

34. Triple Divide Peak located in Glacier Park is the only peak in the world where two Continental Divides meet.  If you poured a bucket of water over its summit, a third of the water would end up in the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Mexico), a third into the Pacific Ocean and a third into the Arctic Ocean (Hudson Bay).

35. The North Face of Mount Siyeh and the North Face of Mount Cleveland, both located in Glacier National Park, are tied for being the tallest walls in the Continental United States at over 4,000 vertical feet!

36. Flathead Lake of Northwest Montana is the largest fresh water lake  in the United States west of the Mississippi River.  This massive lake is over 200 square miles in size and have 186 miles of shoreline.

37. The highest point in Montana is Granite Peak in the Beartooth Mountains, at 12,799 feet above sea level.

38. The lowest point in Montana is the at the Kootenai River near the Idaho border, where it is 1,804 feet above sea level.

39. There are 300+ peaks in Montana that are 9,500 feet high or higher.

40. Big Sky Ski Resort south of Bozman, Montana boasts "The Biggest Skiing in America" as it has the most vertical drop of any ski resort in the country (4,350 vertical feet) and the largest acreage of any ski resort in the nation (5,800 acres).

41. The Beartooth Plateau in Montana's Beartooth Mountain Range is the largest mass of land over 10,000 feet in the Continental United States. The Beartooth Scenic Highway crosses this amazing plateau.

The Beartooth Plateau

The Beartooth Plateau, where the Beartooth Scenic Highway is located, is the largest expanse of land over 10,000 feet in the Continental United States.

42. The Yellowstone River in Montana is the longest major river that is undammed in the United States.

43. Montana has over 450 miles of "blue-ribbon" trout fishing streams.

44. Montana has the shortest river in the world, and is located at Giant Springs in Great Falls, Montana.  The Roe River is only 58 feet in length, but it is in direct competition with the D River in Oregon.  The debate lives on.

45. Giant Springs at Giant Spring State Park in Great Falls, Montana is the largest freshwater spring in the country.

Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls, Montana

Giant Springs at Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls, Montana is the largest freshwater springs in the country, and is also home to the Roe River, which is the shortest river in the United States.

46. Montana has over 17 million acres of National Forest Land.

47. Montana has over 3.5 million acres of Designated Wilderness Land.

48. 35% of Montana's land is administered by government agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service, which is over 31 million acres.

49. Montana is home to over 3,200 lakes.

50. Montana is home to over 80 major rivers.

51. Montana is home to the largest hydraulically filled dam in the United States, being 21,026 feet long and 250 feet high.  Located near Glasgow, Montana, the Fort Peck Dam is the highest of the six major dams found along the Missouri River, and it creates the fifth largest man-made lake in the country.  Fort Peck Reservoir has 1,520 miles of shoreline!

52. The Lewis and Clark Caverns is the oldest state park in Montana. It never actually visited by Lewis and Clark.  However, it's location overlooks about 50 miles of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake is the largest fresh water lake in the United States other than the Great Lakes.

Montana Fun Facts- Animals

53. Montana is home to the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.

54. Montana is home to the largest elk migration in the country.

55. Montana has the largest number of animal species in the country.

56. Montana famous people include Evel Knievel (Daredevil), Chet Huntley (newscaster), Gary Cooper (actor), A.B. Guthrie (Pulitzer Prize winning author), Jeannette Rankin (first woman elected to Congress), Alex Lowe (mountain climber), Will James (artist) and Charles M. Russell (cowboy/western artist), just to name a few.  

57. Montana is home to the world's largest steer. Located in Baker, Montana at the O'Fallon Museum, this huge animal weighed a remarkable 3,980 pounds.  He was 5'9" tall and over 10 feet long!

grizzly bear

Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.

Montana Fun Facts- Additional Fascinating Montana Facts...

58. Miles City, Montana is known as the "Cowboy Capitol of the World".

59. Montana is home to some of the largest and intact dinosaur fossils in the United States. One of the most famous collections is located at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.

60. Great Falls, Montana holds the world's largest collection of Charles M. Russell paintings, sketches and sculptures, as well as his original log-cabin studio at the Charles M. Russell Museum Complex.

61. The Montana Yogo Sapphire is unique to Montana, and is found in England's Crown Jewels... which is the only North American gemstone on the entire crown.

62. The gold discovered at Grasshopper Creek at Bannack, Montana, which launched the Montana Gold Rush, was the purest gold ever found during a U.S. gold rush.

63.  On August 17, 1959, an earthquake struck the Hebgen Lake area of Montana, just north of Yellowstone Park.  At a Richter Scale reading of 7.8, it is one of the largest earthquakes to ever hit the Continental United States.  The Madison River was dammed, creating Earthquake Lake.  A memorial and visitor center is located at Earthquake Lake to honor the 28 people who died in this massive quake.

64. At 11,538 acres in size, Makoshika State Park is the largest state park in Montana. 

65. Butte Montana, which is known as "The Richest Hill On Earth", during the late 1800s due to the massive copper deposits here, was the largest city and largest hub between New York and San Franscisco... even larger than Denver, Colorado.

66. At 585 feet tall, the Anaconda Smelter Stack located just east of Butte, Montana is the tallest masonry structure in the world.  It was built in 1919 to process the copper that was being mined at nearby Butte, Montana.

67. There are over 10,000 miles of underground mine shafts still remaining underneath the city of Butte, Montana.

68. The oldest standing structure in Montana is the bastion at Old Fort Benton, which was built in 1846.  Located in the town of Fort Benton along the Missouri River, this is actually one of the oldest standing structures in the entire west.

69. Virginia City, Montana, a gold rush town founded in 1863, is the largest and most complete original ghost town of its kind in the United States.

70. The Hornaday Smithsonian Buffalo Collection located at the Montana Agricultural Museum in Fort Benton, Montana was collected in 1886 from the last remaining wild buffalo herd in the nation by William T. Hornaday.  Many historians feel this is the most significant collection of American Buffalo in the world.

71. The only physical evidence of the entire Lewis and Clark Expedition is located at Pompey's Pillar along the Yellowstone River near Billings Montana, where Captain William Clark carved his name into a sandstone pillar.

Virginia City, Montana

Virginia City, Montana is the largest intact ghost town in the United States.


72. Montana holds the world record for the greatest temperature variation in a 24 hour period. This occurred on January 14th and 15th, 1972 when the temperature climbed from -54 F to +49 F.  This was a 103 F change in temperature, and it occurred at Loma, Montana.

73. Montana holds the biggest drop in temperature in the United States, which as 84 degrees F in only 12 hours.  This happened at Fairfield, Montana (those lucky ducks!)

74. Montana also holds the record for the biggest range between the coldest and hottest temperatures.  The coldest was in 1954 on Rogers Pass, which was -70 F. The hottest was at Medicine Lake in 1937 where it reached +117 F.  That is a 187 degree F temperature range, which is the biggest in the United States.

75. Montana has the coldest recorded temperature in the Continental United States, which was -70 degrees F at Rogers Pass.

76. Montana also holds the record for the fastest temperature change in the country when in only 7 minutes the temperature rose 47 degrees.  This happened in Great Falls, Montana on January 11, 1980, where it started out at -32 F and in seven minutes the temperature climbed to +15 degrees.  This is the most rapid air change in the history of the country.

77. Cut Bank, Montana experienced category three hurricane winds in 1989, reaching 124 miles per hour.

78. West Yellowstone, Montana is the most consistent town to be the coldest spot in the Continental United States on a daily basis.

79. The largest snowflake supposedly ever recorded was nearly 15 inches in size on January 28, 1887.

80.  Fort Benton, Montana along the Missouri River is the most inland seaport in the entire world.

Captain William Clark's name carved in Pompey's Pillar near Billings, Montana

Captain William Clark's name carved in Pompey's Pillar near Billings, Montana is the only remaining physical evidence of the entire Lewis and Clark Expedition.

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