Missoula, with a population of about 45,000, sits on the Clark Fork River at the intersection of ﬁve river valleys. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, the university town (the University of Montana spreads across 150 acres) is unquestionably one of Montanas most attractive communities. Missoula, intellectually and artistically oriented, is perhaps Montanas most cultured town. Jeanette Rankin, the ﬁrst women representative in the U.S. Congress, was born in Missoula.
This colorful city is also in the heart of some of the most beautiful outdoor splendor. The Rattlesnake Wilderness area, which bans motorized travel, begins just a mile from the city. The broad Clark Fork ﬂows through Missoula, making Missoula truly a mecca for backpacking, river rafting, and ﬁshing. Within minutes one can leave the conveniences of the city and be amidst secluded forests, pristine rivers or rugged mountains.
Missoula is known as the Garden City for its imported Vermont maple trees, profuse ﬂower gardens and lush, green landscape. The city is the hub of shopping, recreation, education and entertainment for western Montana. A shoppers paradise, Missoula has a variety of specialty shops, art galleries, as well as a modern mall with over one hundred stores.
The town acquired its name from the British explorer David Thompson who mapped the area in 1812 and dubbed it Ne-Missoula-Takoo, meaning at the cold chilling waters in the Salish language. Another theory is that it came from the Salish In mis sou let ka, meaning river of awe. In 1860 the ﬁrst settlement made its home here and the town developed quickly as a regional center for mining, logging, and the railroad industry.
If you're a history buff, you'll love Missoula. Twenty-seven city buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the old Northern Paciﬁc Depot. Other highlights are The Missoula Museum of Arts, Historical Museum of Fort Missoula, Missoula Memorial Rose Garden, and the Smokejumper Training Center and Aerial Fire Depot largest smoke-jumper base in the United States.