Missoula is a city located in Missoula County Montana. It is also the county seat of Missoula County. With a 2020 population of 76,784, it is the 2nd largest city in Montana (after Billings) and the 464th largest city in the United States . Missoula is currently growing at a rate of 0.83% annually and its population has increased by 14.97% since the most recent census, which recorded a population of 66,788 in 2010. Missoula reached it's highest population of 76,784 in 2021. Spanning over 35 miles, Missoula has a population density of 2,228 people per square mile.
The average household income in Missoula is $68,404 with a poverty rate of 17.52%. The median rental costs in recent years comes to $859 per month, and the median house value is $279,700. The median age in Missoula is 32.8 years, 31.7 years for males, and 34.6 years for females.
Over 95% of residents at least 25 years old have at least a high school education, while 45.7% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, exceeding both the state and national averages. The city’s largest employers include Missoula County Public Schools, the city’s hospital and the University of Montana.
Missoula Population Growth
Missoula started quite small, with a population of just 400 in 1870. This number decreased further in 1880. However, the community jumped by over 887% in 1890, bringing the population to over 3,400. Though the city never saw growth quite this substantial again, it has seen continuous growth throughout its history. In 1950, the city’s population exceeding 22,000. This number rose to over 57,000 in 2000. Recent estimates show that the population has risen 7.9% since the last census was taken in 2010.
Evidence shows that the area that is now Missoula was first inhabited about 12,000 years ago. In the 18th century, the city was primarily occupied by native tribes including the Shoshone, Blackfeet, and Salish.
The first citizens of the United States came to the area during the expedition of Lewis and Clark of the 19th century, where they camped nearby during their westbound trip and their return. In 1860, Hell Gate Village was established by Frank Worden and Christopher Higgins. It was originally located about five miles west of the current-day downtown area, but the need for a water supply led to relocation just four years later.
Missoula Mills was established in 1866 and was the county seat. Fort Missoula was created during the next decade to offer protection for settlers. The area continued to grow when the Northern Pacific Railway arrived, and during the same year, Missoula was designated as a town. Many sawmills were opened during this period because of the need for lumber to construct bridges and railways. This launched the city’s lumber industry, which was an essential part of the economy through the 20th century.
Logging was a primary industry throughout the mid-20th century with the opening of the Hoerner-Waldorf pulp mill, although the pulp mill severely impacted the air quality. However, the lumber industry was affected by a recession in the 1980s, which led to the city focusing on other sectors.
Today, education and health care are the primary drivers of the economy. The University of Montana is a higher education institution that has been expanded and renovated significantly in recent years. The city’s hospital, St. Patrick Hospital, and Health Sciences Center, was founded in 1873 and has since gone through several expansions.