By area Montana is the fourth largest U.S. state. With an average of just six people per square mile, it is one of the country’s least densely populated states. The name Montana is derived from the Spanish montaña (“mountain” or “mountainous region”). Montana is abode to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, which memorializes the historic 1876 battle between the Sioux tribe and U.S. Army, often referred to as “Custer’s Last Stand.” Yellowstone National Park, located in southern Montana and northern Wyoming, was the first national park established in the United States. Montana got statehood on November 8, 1889.
Montana is bounded by Idaho to the west, Wyoming to the south, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan to the north.
The state economy is primarily based on agriculture, including cattle ranching and cereal grain farming. Other major economic resources are oil, gas, coal, hard rock mining, and timber. In recent years, tourism is on the rise as the fastest-growing sector.
Montana has a couple of nicknames, although none are official, including “Big Sky Country” and “The Treasure State”, and slogans that include “Land of the Shining Mountains” and more recently “The Last Best Place.” The state capital is Helena and Oro y Plata (“Gold and Silver”) is the state motto.
Since the 1880s, the railways have been a means of important transport in Montana. Historically, the state was crossed by the main lines of three east-west transcontinental routes: the Milwaukee Road, the Great Northern, and the Northern Pacific. Today, the BNSF Railway is the state’s largest railroad, its main transcontinental route incorporating the former Great Northern main line across the state. Montana RailLink, a privately held Class II railroad, operates former Northern Pacific trackage in western Montana.
In addition, Amtrak’s Empire Builder train runs through the north of the state, stopping in Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier Park, Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Havre, Malta, Glasgow, and Wolf Point.
U.S. Route 10 is the primary east-west highway route across Montana, connecting the major cities in the southern portion of the state. It is the state’s most important east-west travel corridor, the route is today operated by Interstate 90 and Interstate 94 which roughly follow the same route as the Northern Pacific. U.S. Routes 2 and 12 and Montana Highway 200 also traverse the entire state from east to west.
Montana’s only north-south Interstate Highway is Interstate 15. Other major
Interstate highways are as follows:
I-15– Monida, Sweetgrass
I-115– Butte, Downtown Butte
I-315– Great Falls, Downtown Great Falls
I-90– Mullan, Ranchester
I-94– Billings, Beach
The major and busiest airport in the state of Montana is Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Montana’s other major airports include Missoula International Airport, Great Falls International Airport, Glacier Park International Airport, Helena Regional Airport, Bert Mooney Airport and Yellowstone Airport. Eight smaller communities have airports designated for commercial service under the Essential Air Service program. Commercial air travel is common in Montana and there are up to 71 public and private airports in the state.
The Port of Montana is strategically located in the southwest section of the state. Montana at the intersection of Interstates 90 and 15 and is served by both BNSF, the largest freight railroad network in North America, and UP railroads. The port operates full-phase service transload, distribution, warehouse and storage facility.