Missoula /mɪˈzuːlə/ (listen) is a city in the U.S. state of Montana and is the county seat of Missoula County. It is located along the Clark Fork River near its confluences with the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers in western Montana and at the convergence of five mountain ranges, thus it is often described as the “hub of five valleys”. In 2018, the United States Census Bureau estimated the city’s population at 74,428 and the population of the Missoula Metropolitan Area at 118,791. After Billings, Missoula is both the second largest city and metropolitan area in Montana. Missoula is home to the University of Montana, a public research university.
Missoula is located at the western edge of Montana approximately 45 miles (70 km) from the Idaho border. The city is at an elevation of 3,209 feet (978 m) above sea level, with nearby Mount Sentinel and Mount Jumbo steeply rising to 5,158 feet (1,572 m) and 4,768 feet (1,453 m) respectively. According to the Census Bureau’s 2015 figures, the city had a total area of 29.08 square miles (75.3 km), of which, 28.90 square miles (74.9 km) was land and 0.184 square miles (0.48 km) was water.
Approximately 13,000 years ago, the entire valley was at the bottom of Glacial Lake Missoula and, as could be expected for a former lake bottom, the layout of Missoula is relatively flat and surrounded by steep hills. Evidence of the city of Missoula’s lake-bottom past can be seen in the form of ancient horizontal wave-cut shorelines on nearby Mount Sentinel and Mount Jumbo. At the location of present-day University of Montana, the lake once had a depth of 950 feet (290 m). The Clark Fork River enters the Missoula Valley from the east through Hellgate Canyon after joining the nearby Blackfoot River at the site of the former Milltown Dam. The Bitterroot River and multiple smaller tributaries join the Clark Fork on the western edge of Missoula. The city also sits at the convergence of five mountain ranges: the Bitterroot Mountains, Sapphire Range, Garnet Range, Rattlesnake Mountains, and the Reservation Divide, thus is often described as being the “hub of five valleys”.
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. 40.3% of Missoula residents age 25 and older have a bachelor’s or advanced college degree.
As of 2010’s census, there were 66,788 people, 29,081 households, and 13,990 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,427.8 inhabitants per square mile (937.4/km). There were 30,682 housing units at an average density of 1,115.3 per square mile (430.6/km). The racial makeup of the city was 92.1% White, 0.5% African American, 2.8% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.5% from other races, and 2.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.9% of the population.
There were 29,081 households of which 23.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.4% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 51.9% were non-families. 35.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.82.
In the city, the population was spread out with 17.9% of residents under the age of 18; 19.7% between the ages of 18 and 24; 29.6% from 25 to 44; 22.1% from 45 to 64; and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age in the city was 30.9 years. The gender makeup of the city was 49.9% male and 50.1% female.