Missoula is the 2nd largest city in Montana, right under Billings and the 464th largest in the United States. The 2020 population was 76,784 with a population density of 2,228 people per square mile, spanning over 35 miles. It’s located on the western edge of Montana, 45 miles from the Idaho border. The elevation of the city is 3,209 feet above sea level.

About 13,000 years ago, the whole valley was at the bottom of Glacial Lake Missoula. You can see ancient horizontal shorelines on nearby Mount Sentinel and Mount Jumbo. Archaeological artifacts date back to 12,000 years ago with settlements as early as 3500 BCE. The Salish, Kootenai, Pend d’Oreille, Blackfoot and Shosone tribes inhabited the area from the 1700’s until the 1850’s. The name Hellgate came about after French fur traders referred to the eastern entrance of Missoula as Porte de l’Enfer, translated to “Gate of Hell”. The area had an alarming number of human bones.

The expedition of Lewis & Clark brought the first US citizens to Missoula. They camped at Travelers’s Rest twice on their journey, first in September 1805 and again, on their return, in June/July of 1806.

In 1858, William Hamilton set up a trading post along the Rattlesnake Creek, Richard Grant settled near Grant Creek and David Pattee settled near Pattee Canyon. It was officially founded in 1860 as Hellgate Trading Post and was still part of Washington Territory, at the time. Hellgate Village was established just west of present-day downtown by Christopher Higgins and Frank Worden. In 1866, settlement had moved east about 5 miles and was renamed Missoula Mills, then later just Missoula. The mills provided supplies to settlers traveling along the Mullan Rd. Fort Missoula was established in 1877. In 1883, the Northern Pacific Railway brought rapid growth and the start of the local lumber industry. Montana Legislature chose Missoula as the site for the University of Montana in 1893. The University, along with the U.S. Forest Service headquarters and the lumber industry, remained the basis of the local economy for the next 100 years. In 2009, the largest employers were the University, Missoula Country Public Schools and the two hospitals. There are 400 acres of parkland, 22 miles of trails and almost 5,000 acres of open space conservation land. Missoula’s climate has hot and dry summers, short spring and fall and typically mild winters compared to the rest of the state. Winter snowfall averages over 39 inches, usually between late October and mid April. Average temperatures 23 degrees F in December to 66 degrees F in July. The lowest recorded temperature was on February 2, 1989 with -13 degrees F and the highest is 107 degrees F on July 6, 2007.

The median household income is $68,404. Over 95% of residents, that are at least 25 years old, have a high school education and 45.7% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. This exceeds state and national averages. Demographics can be seen here


Missoula’s Demographics