Montana Geography

Montana Geography

With an area of ​​376,978 km², according to Abbreviationfinder, Montana is the fourth largest state in the United States(after Alaska, Texas and California). In the north, Montana has an international border with Canada – 877 km of border, the longest border in the world without defense -, bordering the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, more provinces than any other US state. In addition, Montana borders the states of North Dakota and part of South Dakota to the east; with Wyoming to the south and Idaho to the west.


The relief of the state is diverse, but very defined by the continental divide of the Americas, which runs through the state in a diagonal direction crossing it from the northwest to the center-south, and dividing it into two different areas: the eastern regions, and the regions of the West. Montana is well known for its mountainous western part, most of which is geologically and geographically part of the Rocky Mountains. However, about 60% of the state is actually prairie, part of the northern Great Plains. Despite this, to the east of the Continental Divide and the Rocky Mountain Front, there are numerous microclimate areas where grasslands are abundant.

Between the mountain ranges there are numerous valleys, rich in agricultural resources and rivers, and possess multiple opportunities for tourism and leisure. Among the best known areas are the valleys of Flathead, Bitterroot, Great Hole and the Gallatin Valley.

The east and north of this transition zone is commonly known as the northern plains, with prairies and plateaus, with some mountains and badlands, and it spans the Dakotas, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Wyoming.

The small and rare mountains that are organized east of the continental divide are:

  1. The Crazy Mountains,
  2. The Little Belt Mountains,
  3. The Snowy Mountains,
  4. The Sweet Grass Hills,
  5. The Bull Mountains and, in the southeastern corner of the state, near Ekalaka, the Long Pines and the Short Pines.

The eastern part of this area, in the north central area of ​​the state, is known as Missouri Breaks. Here, near Great Falls, you can find three buttes (in Spanish, “volcanic neck”, mountain or small hill with vertical walls), in addition to impressive cliffs. These three, Square butte, Corona butte, and Shaw’s butte, are made of very dense magmatic rock and have resisted erosion for a very long time. The fundamental surface is composed of slate. Many areas around these buttes are covered by clay. These lands are derived from the Colorado Formation. In the far east, areas such as Makoshika State Park, near Glendive, and Medicinal Rocks State Park near Ekalaka are also prominent badlands in Montana.


Montana also has many rivers, many of them known as the “blue belt”, which are suitable for trout fishing, but they also supply water to most of the residents, as well as hydraulic power. Montana is the only state that has rivers that will flow into the three great American watersheds: the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Hudson Bay, which are divided by the Triple Division Peak, in Glacier National Park.

East of the divide, the Missouri River, formed by the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers, crosses the central part of the state, flows through the Missouri Breaks, and enters North Dakota. The Yellowstone River begins in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, flows north to Livingston in Montana, where it turns east and runs through the state until it empties into the Missouri River, a few miles east of the North Dakota border. Other important tributaries of the Missouri River that flow through Montana are the Milk River, the Marías River, the Tongue River, and the Musselshell River. Montana also claims the title of having the “smallest river in the world,” the River Roe, just outside Great Falls. All these rivers end at Mississippi River, and therefore, to the Gulf of Mexico.

Water is of vital importance to this state, both for agriculture and for hydropower. In addition to rivers, this state is home to Lake Flathead, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes. Many reservoirs have been built, the largest being Fort Peck, built on the Missouri River.

Economic development

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the GDP of the state of Montana was 26 billion dollars in 2003. The income per capita in this same year was 25,406, 47th in the United States. However, this number is growing faster and faster. According to the Missoulian, the economy has grown rapidly since 2003. In 2005, Montana ranked 39th in the country with a per capita income of $ 29,387.

The economy is based mainly on agriculture – wheat, barley, beets, oats, rye, potatoes, honey and cherries – sheep farming and very significant extraction of wood and minerals (gold, coal, silver, talc and vermiculite.

Tourism is also very important to the economy with millions of visitors a year to Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, the Little Big Horn battlefield and Yellowstone National Park.

Montana income tax rates range from 1% to 6.9%. This state does not have taxes on sales. In Montana, buildings are exempt from property taxes. However, these taxes apply to livestock, farm machinery, heavy equipment, cars, trucks, and business equipment. The amount of the property tax is not determined solely by the property value.


In 2005, Montana had an estimated population of 935,670, which represents an increase of 8,750 residents, or 0.9% over the previous year, and an increase of 33,475 residents and 3.7% since 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 13,674 (58,001 births minus 44,327 deaths) and another due to the immigration of 21,074 people to this state. Immigration from outside the United States has provided an increase of 2,141 residents, and immigration from the same country to this state is 18,933 people. 16,500 of the residents of this state were born abroad, accounting for 1.8% of the total population. According to, Helena is the state capital of the U.S. state of Montana and the county seat of Lewis and Clark County.

While German ancestry is the most numerous among the Euro-American groups, residents of Scandinavian descent predominate in the areas where there is farm, the north and the east, on the prairie. There are also several counties where Amerindians predominate, mostly around each of the seven Indian reservations.

Historically, mining oriented western Montana communities like Butte to have a wider range of ethnic groups, particularly people from Eastern Europe and Irish Americans, as well as people who migrated from English mining regions, such as Cornwall. Montana is the second state in the United States (only surpassed by South Dakota), with several colonies spread throughout the territory. Montana’s Hispanic population is mostly located around the Billings area, and in Beaverhead County, in the south-central and south-western part of the state, and the highest density of African Americans is located in Great Falls.

Montana Geography

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