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The entire state of Montana is a Kodak moment. Encompassing ridges of craggy, snow-mantled peaks dominate the western half, while stretching horizons of blond colored grassy plains veined with historic rivers―Yellowstone, Powder, Missouri―dress Montana's eastern side. Flawless forests and streams serve as wildlife dormitories, making Montana one of the nation's greatest hubs for elk, trumpeter swans, loons, wolves, moose, eagles, and black and grizzly bears. And arts and culture thrive in its urban areas, prompting noted author John Updike to describe Missoula as the "Paris of the 1990s."
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For the uninitiated, Montana causes knee-jerk visions of lasting winters of Siberian cold and chin-deep snowdrifts. But in reality, Montana is rather mild for a northern state. Yes, winter brings cold, but warm, Chinook winds mitigate the bite, lending a tug-of-war personality to Montana's winters. The high peaks absorb the brunt of the snow, while the valleys and eastern plains are arid. Montana, as a whole, only annually averages 15 inches of precipitation. Summers are dry and range from warm in the west to hot in the east. Average daytime temperatures span from 28 degrees in January to 84 degrees in July.
Due to Montana's scenic wow-status, its cultural offerings tend to get dwarfed―but creativity thrives here. Outdoor summer symphony concerts amid Montana's mountain backdrops border on celestial. The Red Lodge Music Festival, an annual event since 1964, features more than 200 student and professional musicians. Cowboy poetry gatherings are not only entertaining, but underscore Montana's western heritage. The Billings Yellowstone Art Museum meshes contemporary with traditional and exhibits the world's largest collection of work by cowboy illustrator Will James.
Montana's epic scenery fosters a fertile artistic atmosphere that has attracted world-applauded painter, Russell Chatham, and best-selling authors Thomas McGuane and Jim Harrison as full-time residents. You can learn more at the Montana Art Council's website.
Attractions are the norm rather than the exception. Glacier National Park, outside of Kalispel, enjoys do-not-miss status. Simply put, it looks like how Beethoven's Ninth Symphony sounds. Yellowstone National Park is claimed by Wyoming but the north and west access points begin within Montana's boundaries. To the east of Billing's towers Pompey's Pillar National Monument, famous for a towering slab of sandstone that William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame, carved his name into. And just south of Billings lies the sobering Battle of Little Bighorn site.
- Forty-six of Montana's 56 counties average six or fewer people per square mile.
- Montana's Yogo Sapphire is the only North American gem in England's Crown of Jewels.
- Glacier National Park, which harbors 250 lakes, is its most visited attraction.
- Montana boasts the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.
- Montana is home to seven Indian reservations
- Montana is Spanish for "mountain."
- Montana's elk, deer and antelope populations outnumber humans.
- It is the only state with a triple divide. Water from it flows west to the Pacific, east to the Atlantic, and north to Hudson Bay.
- Famous citizens born in Montana: actor Gary Cooper; painter C.M. Russell; director David Lynch; and daredevil Evel Knievel.