Fun Facts About Montana: Outlaws, UFOs and Wilderness
(Plus a few tips for tourists visiting Montana you won’t want to miss)
“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.” –John Steinbeck
Montana is known as Big Sky Country and one of the last best places, but there’s much more to the state than that. After a recent visit home to the Flathead, I decided to dig up some facts about Montana to share- many of these surprised me. Did you know…?
The Basics about Montana
“Montanans love to fish, and the state boasts an impressive number of places for anglers to go — four million acres of coldwater lakes, 15,000 miles of coldwater streams, and 6100 miles of warm-water rivers and streams.” –Montana Almanac
Montana is slightly larger than Japan and slightly smaller than the size of Finland or Germany.
The population is often joked about because elk and cows outnumber people. The actual ratio is just 6 people per square mile.
Montana and gems go hand-in-hand: Glacier Park is called ‘the Crown Jewel of the Continent’ and the Montana Yogo Sapphire is the only North American piece in the Crown Jewels of England.
There are 7 recognized Indian Reservations and 11 native languages spoken in Montana.
The Museum of the Rockies holds one of the largest dinosaur fossil collections- on earth- including a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Montana’s native nickname isn’t just the Treasure State, but also the Land of Shining Mountains because of the sunrise over the Rockies.
The deepest known cave (‘Tears of the Turtle) in the Continental U.S. takes 5 hours to reach bottom and is 1,629 feet down.
Endangered species in Montana include: the Piping Plover, the Eskimo Curlew and the Pallid Sturgeon. The Pallid Sturgeon can live up to 50 years, can grow to 6 feet and can weigh up to 75 pounds.
Montana has had: blizzards, floods, forest fires, tornadoes and earthquakes. We’re only missing volcanoes and hurricanes.
Interesting History of Montana
“Into the sleigh and started our ride – very crowded – about 18 inside. Rode all through the streets, Took possession of several saloons. Had a carousing time.” from The Road to Virginia City – the Diary of James P. Miller
The name Montana came from J.M. Ashley, who chose the word (montaanus = mountains) from a Spanish/Latin dictionary in 1889.
The Battle of Little Big Horn aka Custer’s Last Stand- in Lakota, the Battle of the Greasy Grass,-only took 20-30 minutes. Custer really misjudged the situation.
In the 1890s, Montana was known as ‘the Stub Toe State’ because of the steepness of the mountains.
Between 1974-1977, there were 67 bizarre cow mutilations that were never explained.
In the 1920s, nearly half the population of Montana was foreign-born. They came from Ireland, Sweden, England and Germany.
A hotel in Superior was the first place to provide Gideon bibles.
Henry Plummer was the sheriff Bannock, Montana. The interesting thing? A Bannock posse hanged him for his second job: being an outlaw.
Huckleberries (dark blueberries) that are found in Montana used to be common in phrases: ‘I’m your huckleberry’ (I’m the right person) and ‘That’s a huckleberry over my persimmon’ (it’s beyond my abilities).
“Men and women are like right and left hands; it doesn’t make sense not to use both.” –Jeannette Rankin
Gary Cooper, actor
Dana Carvey, comedian
Jeff Ament, bassist for Pearl Jam
Michelle Williams, actress
Jeannette Rankin, 1st woman in Congress
David Lynch, director
Colin Meloy, singer/songwriter for the Decemberists
Christopher Paolini, author
Other Fascinating Facts about Montana
“I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?” –The Hunt for Red October
Montana has a quirky collection of town names: Kremlin; Butchertown; Pray (named for Charles Nelson Pray); Manhattan; Amsterdam-Churchill (‘church hill’); Stoner Place; and Joe/Ismay. Ismay, by the way, has the smallest population: just 19 people.
We attract some crazies: Ted Kaczynski of Unabomber fame was found in Montana, but born in Chicago and the Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard spent part of his childhood in Montana.
Great Falls, Montana has had the most UFO sightings in North America: just over 100.
Billings has a law (Sec. 4-304) that prohibits people from having pet rats. But it is ok to keep them for feeding birds, reptiles or scientific research.
Excelsior Springs has a law that says ‘Worrying of squirrels will not be tolerated.’ (Does anyone know what this might mean-?)
Some of the languages spoken in Montana include French, Japanese and multiple Slavic tongues (Russian, Czech and Polish).
Montana is referenced a lot in pop culture: the Simpsons, X-Files, Supernatural and X-men to name a few. Not to mention films.
Interesting Events/Sites in Montana
“If you like bears in your city parks and full access to winter sports, welcome to Missoula.” –Spin Magazine
Martin City’s Cabin Fever Days features a barstool skiing contest.
Utica has a hay-sculpting contest (called ‘What the Hay’) held the second Sunday in September.
Bearcreek has a restaurant with live pig races you can bet on.
Fort Shaw has a monument to the World’s Greatest Girls Basketball Team of 1904.
One of the only ‘Hobbit Houses’ outside of New Zealand is in Trout Creek, Montana.
The American Computer History Museum in Bozeman is the oldest working museum about computer history, world-wide.
A Few Tips for Tourists Visiting Montana
“Our land is everything to us. I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember that our grandfathers paid for it with their lives.” –John Woodenlegs
Other tips tourists need to beware of before arriving in Montana:
The wild animals are not pets. Don’t feed them, try to take selfies or chase after them. We have: black bears; grizzly bears; bison; elk; moose; mountain lions (cougars); and rattlesnakes. Every single one is dangerous, and every year tourists get attacked.
Montana is not a good place to try extreme sports on your own. From drowning accidents to hiking and climbing fatalities, to even getting burns from natural hot springs- don’t go it alone.
Driving in Montana is the #1 cause of injuries. Especially for tourists. Don’t take photos while you’re driving- especially along the main visitor’s route (there’s a reason we have bumper stickers that say ‘Pray for Me I Drive Hiway 93!’).
That’s it for our facts about Montana and tips for tourists. Did we miss anything or do you have anything to add? No problem! Let us know in the comments below.
-Westfalia Digital Nomads