Montana has several unofficial nicknames,
including “Big Sky Country,” and “The Treasure State.” “Treasure” refers to
the state’s rich mineral reserves – gold, silver, platinum…but the real treasure is
the wealth of wildlife. There are more deer, elk, and antelope in Montana than people!
This state also boasts the nation’s largest populations of golden eagles, trumpeter swans,
and nesting common loons. And its grizzly bear population is second only to Alaska. Montana has a bounty of protected lands, including dozens of state parks and wildlife preserves.
Yellowstone National Park, which starts in southern Montana and spills over into Wyoming,
was the first National Park in the US. Glacier National Park in the northwest part of the
state is home to grizzly bears and more than 50 glaciers. In 1932 Glacier National Park
combined with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park to form the world’s first International
Peace Park. The name “Montana” comes from montaña,
the Spanish word for “mountain.” The Rocky Mountain range in the western third of Montana
IS very mountainous, but the name doesn’t apply so much to the eastern part of the state.
The Continental Divide runs through Montana, roughly splitting the state into two geographically
distinct areas. Rivers to the west of the Continental Divide empty into the Pacific
Ocean, while rivers to the East of the Continental Divide empty into the Atlantic Ocean. And
did you know, Montana is the only state with a TRIPLE divide! At the Triple Divide Peak
in Glacier National Park, water flows into the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Hudson
Bay. Major events in Native American history took
place in Montana. Tensions between the various Plains Indians tribes and European settlers
led to the Sioux Wars in the latter half of the 1800s. Little Bighorn Battlefield National
Monument marks the site of Custer’s Last Stand, where in 1876, US Cavalry forces, including
Lieutenant Colonel George Custer were defeated by the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho.
In 1877, Chief Joseph led his Nez Perce tribe on a 1600 mile-long retreat. He surrendered
in 1877 at Bear Paw, saying “I will fight no more…forever.”