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Montana is a Western U. S. state whose name is derived from the Spanish word for mountain, or more broadly, "mountainous country,” due to the numerous mountain ranges that make up roughly one third of the state. Montana has several nicknames, including "Big Sky Country" and "The Treasure State." This large, landlocked state borders North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south and Idaho to the west and southwest. About 60 percent of the eastern part of the state is part of the Great Plains, where a number of isolated island ranges interrupt the prairie landscape, and the west is primarily dominated by the Rocky Mountains.
With great variation in geography comes great variation in temperature. The highest observed summer temperature was 117 °F at Glendive on July 20, 1893. The coldest temperature on record for Montana is was −70 ° F on January 20, 1954 at a gold mining camp near Rogers Pass, and it also the coldest temperature for the entire contiguous U.S. Snowfall has been recorded in all months of the year in the more mountainous areas of central and western Montana.
Railroads were an important part of Montana’s history. Tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Montana from the west in 1881 and from the east in 1882, and the railroad played a major role in sparking tensions with Native American tribes in the 1870’s. In the early 1900s, James J. Hill of the Great Northern and began promoting settlement in the Montana prairie to fill his trains with settlers and goods, and other railroads followed suit.
State resources include gold, silver, and coal. Montana is a relative hub of beer microbrewing, ranking third in the nation in number of craft breweries per capita in 2011. Tourism plays a significant role in the economy with millions annually visiting Glacier National Park, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Yellowstone National Park. The state capital, Helena, is the principal city of the Helena Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Lewis and Clark and Jefferson counties.
Many well-known artists, photographers and authors, such as Charles Marion Russell and Evelyn Cameron, have documented the land, culture and people of Montana in the last 100 years. Notable Montana authors have been inspired by life in Montana in both fiction and non-fiction works, such as James Willard Schultz from Browning and Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Earle Stegner from Great Falls. Some other notable people from Montana include Evel Knievel, Dana Carvey, Gary Cooper, and Patrick Duffy.