August 9, 2012

Montana – “The Treasure State”


Montana Map


Just the Facts…


bird – Western Meadowlark
flower – Bitterroot
tree – Ponderosa Pine
capital – Helena
union – 41st state on November 8, 1889
population – almost 1 million



The Basics 

Montana is in the Western United States.  It has a lot of mountain ranges – thus its name (“Montana” is Spanish for “mountainous country.”)  Montana was almost named something else because people in Washington DC did not think the name fit – first, only a portion of the land is actually mountainous; second, a Native American word should be used instead of a Spanish one.  But, no one came up with a different name so “Montana” it was!

Montana is in the very northern part of America – right below Canada.  There are over 70 different mountain ranges in western Montana – together they all are part of the northern Rocky Mountains.  Valleys connect all those mountain ranges, many of which are famous for their scenery (including lush forests, lakes and rivers).  Most of the eastern part of the state is prairie – it is actually part of the Great Plains.


Its Claim to Fame

Glacier National Park is sometimes called the “Crown of the Continent.”  It has over 700 miles of hiking trails.   Glacier is home to many different kinds of wild animals, such as the mountain goat, grizzly bear, wolverine and lynx.  After the Park was established, the Great Northern Railroad built many hotels to encourage tourism – the Glacier Park Lodge being the biggest.  The Great Northern created a destination which, at the time, was only accessible by its railroad – it wanted people to travel to Glacier National Park on its trains and then stay at their hotels.

Montana is home to a mountain called the “Triple Divide Peak.”  Three continental divides meet on this mountain (a continental divide is the point at which water on earth flows in different directions).  As a result, the water flowing down from Triple Divide Peak will end up in three different oceans – the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic!

The Missouri River starts in the Rocky Mountains in western Montana.  For many years, people thought that the Missouri River led to the Pacific Ocean, creating the Northwest Passage that so many explorers sought after.  In fact, when Lewis and Clark explored the Northwest Territory and beyond, they spent much of their time following the Missouri River.  Once they reached its headwaters in Montana, they realized that it would not lead them to the Pacific Ocean.


What Makes it Tick

About two-thirds of Montana’s land is either part of a ranch or part of a farm.  In Montana, ranches raise cattle and farms grow crops.  Montana farms grow a wide range of crops, such as wheat, oats, barley, hay, potatoes, and sugar beets.  But, cattle is the big business in Montana – the cattle industry is as big as all the crops grown by Montana farms combined.  Most of Montana’s land is rangeland, where cattle roam and graze.  Some ranchers even pay the government a fee to let their cattle graze on federal or state land.

Butte, Montana was the center of mining operations in the state.  A number of minerals have been mined in Montana over the years – gold, silver, copper, zinc and even some quartz gemstones.  Copper was what put Montana on the map, though – America needed a lot of it once the light bulb was invented.  You may be wondering how the discovery of electricity and copper are “connected.”  Well, copper is literally the connector between a source of electricity and a light bulb (or anything else that requires electricity, for that matter, like a toaster or TV).   Copper conducts electricity very well and so most electrical wires are made out of copper.  I bet you have a lot of copper wires in your house, connecting all the outlets and light fixtures to an electrical source!


If You Visited

If you visited Montana, you might travel the Dinosaur Trail – Montana is home to many famous dinosaur fossil discoveries.   There are over 10 museums in Montana that highlight the dinosaur remains that have been found in Montana.  In fact, the first dinosaur bones were found in Montana before it even became a state!

You might also go to a dude ranch.  Montana is home to many dude ranches, which are like ranch resorts – they welcome visitors and show them what it is like to live in the wild west.  If you went to a dude ranch, you would probably spend a lot of time on horseback.  You might even round up some cattle!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Montana state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Montana?  Or, maybe you have visited Montana?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite place in Montana?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Montana to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Montana.  Visit these websites to learn more: