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Treasure State, Big Sky Country™

Montana is located in the Pacific Northwest and Great Plains regions of the United States of America. The central and western thirds of the state have numerous mountain ranges (approximately 77 named) of the northern Rocky Mountains; thus the state's name, derived from the Spanish word montaña ("mountain"). The state nickname is the "Treasure State." Other nicknames include "Land of Shining Mountains," "Big Sky Country," and the slogan "the last best place." The state ranks fourth in area, but 44th in population, and therefore has the third lowest population density in the United States. Tourism is important to the economy, with millions of visitors each year to Glacier National Park, the Battle of Little Bighorn site, and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

Montana is a large state with considerable variation in geography, and so the climate is equally varied. The western half is mountainous, interrupted by numerous large valleys. Eastern Montana is plains, badlands, broken by hills and isolated mountain ranges, and has a continental climate. The Continental Divide runs north-south through the western mountainous half, and has a large effect on the climate. It restricts the flow of warmer air from the Pacific from moving east, and cooler, drier continental moving west. West of the divide the climate is described as modified northern Pacific coast climate, with milder winters, cooler summers, less wind, and a longer growing season. In the winter Valley fog and low clouds often form in the valleys west of the divide, but this is rarely seen in the east.

Average daytime temperatures vary from 28 degrees in January to 84.5 degrees in July. The variation in geography leads to great variation in temperature. Hot weather occurs in the eastern plains on occasion; the highest observed being 117° at Glendive on July 20, 1893, and Medicine Lake on July 5, 1937. Throughout the state summer nights are generally cool and pleasant. Temperatures decrease with altitude, and hot weather is unknown above 4000 ft. Snowfall is not unknown any month of the year in the central part of Montana, but is quite rare in July and August.

The Hell Creek Formation is a major source of dinosaur fossils. Paleontologist Jack Horner, of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, brought this formation to the world's attention with several major finds. For example, Jane was discovered in 2001 in Hell Creek and is the world's most complete juvenile tyrannosaurus rex.

In 1902, a group of female students from the Fort Shaw Indian Industrial School began playing basketball and traveled throughout Montana, defeating high school teams and some college teams. In 1904, the girls' basketball team traveled by train to the St. Louis World's Fair. Over a period of five months, the team was challenged by numerous other basketball teams and won every contest, returning to Fort Shaw with the "world champion" trophy. On May 1, 2004, a monument in honor of the basketball team was unveiled at the entrance of the present-day Fort Shaw Elementary School.

In the movie 'Star Trek: First Contact', Montana is the location of the fictitious first contact between humans and an alien race, the Vulcans. Star Trek producer Brannon Braga is originally from Bozeman, Montana. However, no Montana locations were used in the shooting of the film.

Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.

Montana's triple divide allows water to flow into three oceans: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Mexico), and the Arctic Ocean (Hudson Bay). This phenomenon occurs at Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park.

Montana is one of two states in the continental United States which, in addition to not having a major metropolitan area over 1,000,000 in population, also does not border a state that does have one (Maine is the other). However, it does border the Canadian Provinces Alberta (population in 2005 of 3,237,000) and British Columbia (population in 2006 of 4,292,000, which have a combined three cities with a metro population of over 1,000,000 each.

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