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City of Missoula, Montana
—  City  —
Downtown Missoula

Nickname(s): The Garden City, Zoo Town
Location of Missoula in Montana
Coordinates: 46°51′45″N 114°0′42″W / 46.8625°N 114.01167°W / 46.8625; -114.01167Coordinates: 46°51′45″N 114°0′42″W / 46.8625°N 114.01167°W / 46.8625; -114.01167
Country United States
State Montana
County Missoula
Founded 1866
 - Mayor John Engen (D)
 - City 23.9 sq mi (61.9 km2)
 - Land 23.8 sq mi (61.6 km2)
 - Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 3,209 ft (978 m)
Population (2000)
 - City 57,053
 Density 2,397.1/sq mi (925.6/km2)
 Metro 107,320
Time zone Mountain (UTC-7)
 - Summer (DST) Mountain (UTC-6)
Area code(s) 406
FIPS code 30-50200
GNIS feature ID 0787504

Missoula (pronounced /mɨˈzuːlə/) is a city in and the county seat of Missoula County, Montana, United States.[1] The population was 57,053 at the 2000 census The 2008 Census Bureau estimate puts the city's metropolitan area population at 107,320 as of July 1, 2008 [2], making it the second-largest city and metropolitan area in Montana. It is the largest media market in the state.[3] Missoula is the home of the University of Montana. Missoula is the birthplace of Jeannette Rankin (1880–1973), the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. Missoula is nicknamed the Garden City. Local news sources include the Missoulian and the Missoula Independent. It is served by Missoula International Airport. Missoula was recently ranked number 10 in CNNMoney's list of the best places to launch small businesses.[4]



The first inhabitants of the Missoula area were American Indians from the Salish tribe. The name "Missoula" is thought to come from the Salish (also known as Flathead) word nmesuletkʷ, the Salish name for the Clark Fork river (Flathead Nation Salish Dictionary). It is commonly believed that this word translates as "river of ambush/surprise," a reflection of the inter-tribal fighting common to the area. However, the word actually has the approximate meaning of "place of freezing/cold liquid", or more roughly "cold water" (cf. Interior Salishan locative marker n-, Southern Interior Salishan sul, 'cold/frozen', and -etkʷ, 'liquid'). This name is thought by some Salish tribal members to refer to glacial lake Missoula. The Indians' first encounter with whites came in 1805 when the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through the Missoula Valley.

There were no permanent white settlements in the Missoula Valley until 1860 when C. P. Higgins and Francis Worden opened a trading post called the Hellgate Village on the Blackfoot River near the eastern edge of the valley. It was followed by a sawmill and a flourmill, which the settlers called "Missoula Mills". The first post office in the area was named Hellgate and was established November 25, 1862, with Worden as the first postmaster. The name was changed to Missoula, May 14, 1866.[5]

The completion of the Mullan Road connecting Fort Benton, Montana with Walla Walla, Washington and passing through the Missoula Valley meant fast growth for the burgeoning city, buoyed by the U.S. Army's establishment of Fort Missoula in 1877, and the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883. With this Missoula became a trading center in earnest, distributing produce and grain grown in the agriculturally prosperous Bitterroot Valley. Businessmen A. B. Hammond, E. L. Bonner, and R. A. Eddy established the Missoula Mercantile Company in the early 1880s.

Missoula County Courthouse

The city's success was aided by two other factors. First was the opening of the University of Montana in September 1895, serving as the center of public higher education for Western Montana. Then, in 1908, Missoula became a regional headquarters for the Forest Service, which began training smokejumpers in 1942. The Aerial Fire Depot was built in 1954, and big industry came to Missoula in 1956, with the groundbreaking for the first pulp mill.

Logging remained a mainstay industry with log yards throughout the city until the 1970s. Many ran teepee burners to dispose waste material, contributing to the smoky haze that sometimes covered the town. However, by the early 1990s, changes in the economic fortunes in the city had shut down all the Missoula log yards.

With the loss of the log yards,[6] other industries, such as tourism,[7] have arisen. Missoula is located within the flyfishing Golden Triangle and is a popular area for outdoor activities including hunting, skiing, and camping.

Geography and climate

Fall colors in Missoula

Missoula is located at 46°51′45″N 114°0′42″W / 46.8625°N 114.01167°W / 46.8625; -114.01167 (46.862633, -114.011593),[8] at an altitude of 3,209 feet (978 m).[9]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.9 square miles (61.9 km²), of which 23.8 square miles (61.6 km²) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) (0.46%) is water. Missoula is located in a deep valley in the western part of the state, near where the Clark Fork River is joined by the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers.

Because it is located in a valley, Missoula suffers from smoke, soot, and occasional fog inversion during the winter months. There have been emissions restrictions placed on various industries and the burning of wood in wood stoves. In recent years, these restrictions have resulted in significant improvement in the problem.[citation needed]

During the last Ice Age, a lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet blocked the Clark Fork river near what is now Clark Fork, Idaho. The resulting lake, Glacial Lake Missoula, extended approximately 320 kilometers (200 mi) eastward, filling the Missoula Valley. Its former shorelines can now be seen as horizontal lines on nearby mountains.[10]

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 59 66 78 87 95 98 107[11] 105 99 85 73 60
Norm High °F 30.8 37.4 48.1 58 66.1 74.5 83.6 83.2 71.5 57.4 40 30.3
Norm Low °F 16.2 20.5 27.1 32.4 39.3 45.9 50.2 49.3 40.6 31.4 24 16.5
Rec Low °F -33 -27 -13 14 21 30 31 30 20 0 -23 -30
Precip (in) 1.06 0.77 0.96 1.09 1.95 1.73 1.09 1.15 1.08 0.83 0.96 1.15


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1870 400
1880 347 −13.3%
1890 3,426 887.3%
1900 4,366 27.4%
1910 12,896 195.4%
1920 12,668 −1.8%
1930 14,657 15.7%
1940 18,449 25.9%
1950 22,485 21.9%
1960 27,090 20.5%
1970 29,497 8.9%
1980 33,388 13.2%
1990 42,918 28.5%
2000 57,053 32.9%
Est. 2007 67,165 17.7%

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 57,053 people, 24,141 households, and 12,336 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,397.1 people per square mile (925.6/km²) in 2000. There were 25,225 housing units at an average density of 1,059.8/sq mi (409.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.57% White, 2.35% Native American, 1.23% Asian, 0.36% African American, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 0.51% from other races, and 1.87% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.76% of the population.

There were 24,141 households out of which 24.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.9% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.9% were non-families. 33.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.88.

The Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula

In the city the population was spread out with 19.7% under the age of 18, 20.7% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 10.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,366, and the median income for a family was $42,103. Males had a median income of $30,686 versus $21,559 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,166. About 11.7% of families and 19.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.5% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over. 38% of Missoula residents age 25 and older have a bachelor's or advanced college degree.


Between 2004 and 2006, the northwestern region of Montana, which includes Missoula, reported the highest rate of illicit drug use in the nation, 13.8%. Marijuana accounted for 9.5% of use.[16] In 2006, voters in Missoula County passed Initiative 2, which made marijuana possession the lowest priority for law enforcement. However, in 2008 a committee established to oversee progress on the initiative found that marijuana arrests rose in the 2 years since its passage. It also concluded, "In short, the lowest priority recommendation issued to public officials by voters in 2006 continues to be mostly disregarded."[17]

City police chief Mark Muir defended criticism of the rising number of arrests, saying the rise could be attributed to "some people [being] more flagrant in their pot smoking because they wrongly believe the initiative protects them within the city."[18]

Local attractions

Missoula is located near the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, two areas that protect Missoula's municipal watershed and serve as wildlife habitat and recreational areas. The Forest Service's smokejumper base, the largest of its kind, is located near the Missoula airport. Free tours of the base are popular with tourists during the summer wildfire season. A walking bridge over the downtown yards of the Montana RailLink railroad is a popular destination for railfans. The Missoula Osprey are the local minor league baseball team. Missoula is also home to the Missoula Phoenix, a AAA semi-pro football team in the Rocky Mountain Football League.

Missoula is considered by many to be the mecca of bicycle travel, because of the presence of Adventure Cycling Association [3] (formerly known as Bikecentennial), North America's largest cycling membership organization. Thousands of bike travelers come through Missoula and stop at Adventure Cycling's downtown headquarters (in a former church at 150 E. Pine Street) for free ice cream, advice, and the chance to be photographed.

The sports teams of the University of Montana compete in Missoula.


Missoula is home to the main campus of the University of Montana. There are four public high schools: Hellgate High School, Sentinel High School, Big Sky High School, and Willard Alternative High School. There are also several private schools: Missoula International School, Sussex School, Valley Christian School, Loyola Sacred Heart High School, Clark Fork School and Next Step Prep, a performing arts high school opened in 2009 by Missoula Children's Theatre.


Missoula has a thriving arts scene. The International Wildlife Film Festival,[19] the largest animal-themed film festival in the world, is held annually at the historic Wilma Theatre. The Missoula Children's Theatre [4] is an international touring program that visits nearly 1,000 communities per year. The Children's Theatre routinely has residencies in all fifty states, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, and many other countries. The Missoula Art Museum [5], exhibits a variety of contemporary art. The museum was founded in 1975, and in 2005 the facilities were renovated and expanded. The museum offers art classes, tours, gallery talks, and has free admission.

The city is frequently mentioned in novels of Ernest Hemingway, Stephen Frey, Chuck Palahniuk, James Lee Burke, James Crumley, and former resident Norman Maclean. In his novel, A River Runs Through It, Maclean wrote that "The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana."

Missoula is home to a diverse and influential music scene. Members of bands such as Deranged Diction (Jeff Ament), which formed in Missoula, later moved to Seattle and became key members of groups such as Green River, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam, Silkworm, and Love Battery, playing an important role in the birth of the grunge movement. The city is prominently featured in "Apology Song" by Oregon indie-band The Decemberists. Prior to moving to Portland, Decemberist frontman Colin Meloy studied at the University of Montana. In Missoula, Meloy formed the pop band Tarkio.[citation needed] Wantage Record hostsTotalfest, a yearly diy music festival featuring local and touring acts, in Missoula.




  • The Missoulian
  • Missoula Independent

AM radio

FM radio

  • KUFM-FM 89.1, University of Montana-Missoula
  • KBGA 89.9, University of Montana, Missoula College Radio
  • KGGL 93.3, Cherry Creek Radio
  • KYSS 94.9, GapWest Broadcasting
  • KBAZ 96.3, GapWest Broadcasting
  • KDXT 97.9, Mountain Broadcasting
  • KXDR 98.7, Cherry Creek Radio
  • KZOQ 100.1, Cherry Creek Radio
  • KVWE 101.5, GapWest Broadcasting
  • KMSO 102.5, Mountain Broadcasting
  • KDTR 103.3, Spanish Peaks Broadcasting
  • KKVU 104.5, Spanish Peaks Broadcasting
  • KYJK 105.9, Spanish Peaks Broadcasting
  • KBQQ 106.7, Cherry Creek Radio
  • KENR 107.5, GapWest Broadcasting
  • KHDV 107.9, Mountain Broadcasting


Government and politics

Missoula is governed via the mayor council system. There are twelve members of the city council who are elected from one of six wards. Each ward elects two council members. The mayor is elected in a citywide vote.[20] Missoula is known as a more liberal area than the rest of the state, having 14 Democrats and one Republican in its state legislative delegation.[21]

Notable residents

Organizations and non-profits

NORML's state office is located in Missoula. Other organizations that call Missoula home include the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Boone and Crockett Club, Forward Montana, Western Montana Gay & Lesbian Community Center, the Montana Justice Foundation and the American Indian Business Leaders which is housed at the University of Montana.

Missoula is also home to Missoula Correctional Services a non-profit company that runs a Pre-Release Center for the Montana Department of Corrections and coordinates various city and county programs such as Community Service, Misdemeanor Probation, Pretrial Supervision and the Alternative Jail Program.


Missoula is served by Mountain Line public transportation system. Mountain Line operates twelve bus routes throughout the area. The Associated Students of the University of Montana [6] also operate four bus routes that serve the university area.

There is a network of bicycle and pedestrian trails throughout the community, and there is a large population that walks and bike for pleasure and commuting.

A number of transportation-oriented organizations are located in Missoula as well. Free Cycles [7] is a community-based bike shop that provides bikes, parts, and help for those in need. The Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula[22] aims to enhance biking and walking in Missoula. Missoula in Motion[23] operates an incentive-based program for commuters who choose not to drive alone, and the Missoula Ravalli Transportation Management Association provides vanpool and other transportation demand management services.

Missoula is also home to the Missoula International Airport. Greyhound Lines and Rimrock Trailways provide intercity bus transportation to and from Missoula.

There is no passenger rail service in Missoula, but there is an ongoing effort to restore such service along the former North Coast Hiawatha route. This route, operated by Amtrak until 1979, passed through Missoula and several other Montana cities.

The following major highways pass through Missoula:

Sister cities

Missoula has two sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Missoula Independent Online - Superfraud
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Lutz, Dennis J. (1986). Montana Post Offices & Postmasters, p. 26, p. 35. Minot, North Daokta: published by the author & Montana Chapter No. 1, National Association of Postmasters of the United States.
  6. ^ About MAEDC
  7. ^ City of Missoula, Credit Profile
  8. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  9. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: Missoula, Montana
  10. ^ "Section D: Background". 1993-02-17. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  11. ^ "July 2007 was a record setting month in terms of temperatures across western Montana and north central Idaho". National Weather Service. 2007-08-12. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ Moffatt, Riley. Population History of Western U.S. Cities & Towns, 1850-1990. Lanham: Scarecrow, 1996, 133.
  14. ^ "Subcounty population estimates: Montana 2000-2007" (CSV). United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  16. ^ SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies. "Section C - Substate Estimates from the 2006 NSDUH, SAMHSA Office of Applied Studies". Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  17. ^ Initiative 2 Community Oversight Committee (2009-08-01). "Report on the Implementation of Missoula Marijuana Initiative". Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  18. ^ Matthew Frank, New West Missoula (2008-12-05). "Missoula Marijuana Arrests Up, Report Suggests". Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  19. ^ "International Wildlife Media Center: Wildlife, Habitat & Culture". Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Missoula reputation tough to overcome for local candidates". Missoulian. 2007-12-23. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  22. ^ "Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula - Home". Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  23. ^ "Missoula In Motion". Missoula In Motion. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 

External links


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