Flathead County, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana
Flathead Lake

Flathead County is in northwestern Montana around the north side of Flathead Lake. Whitefish Mountain Resort is here. Named for the Flathead (Salish) Nation of Native Americans, Flathead County was formed in 1893 and contains 5,098 square miles of land and 158 square miles of water. The county seat is Kalispell.

One of the main features of Flathead County is Flathead Lake. As Flathead Lake is about 1/2 mile in surface area larger than Lake Tahoe, it is the largest freshwater lake in the western 48 states. At about 3.5 miles in width and 5 miles in length, it is also one of the cleanest lakes on Earth for its size and depth.

A large part of Flathead County is contained within the Rocky Mountain Trench, a geological formation that came into being at the same time as the Ancestral Rocky Mountains, 60-65 million years ago. During the last ice age, the trench in this area was occupied by a huge glacier that reached as far south as Polson, Montana (on the southern shore of Flathead Lake). As that glacier retreated at the end of the ice age, Flathead Lake filled with meltwater, up to about 500' above today's water level. At a certain point, that meltwater broke through the glacial moraines surrounding the lake and began to drain away. However, a rise in the bedrock beneath the moraine kept the lake depression from completely draining and now we have this beautiful Flathead Lake.

Flathead Lake, Montana
Flathead Lake from space, May, 1985 (not a true color image - north is to the upper left)
Fast Facts about Flathead County, Montana
Resident Racial Breakdown:
White Non-Hispanic: 94.0%
Hispanic: 1.7%
Native American: 1.6%
Two or More Races: 1.8%
Asian: 0.5%
Types of Jobs:
Private Sector, wages or salary: 75%
Government Sector: 12%
Unincorporated, Self-Employed: 13%
Population Density: 17 People per Square Mile
2011 Cost of Living Index for County: 90.6
2009 Estimates:
Population: 89,624
Males: 44,454
Females: 45,170
Median Resident Age: 39.0 Years
Estimated Median Household Income: $46,400
Estimated Median Home Value: $234,800
Major Industries:
Lodging & Food Services, Health Care, Educational Services, Construction, Wood Products, Agriculture & Forestry, Finance & Insurance Services, Professional Services, Miscellaneous Manufacturing, Retail Services, Social Services
Photo of Flathead Lake courtesy of Matthew MacManes, © 2005. CCA ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Photo of Flathead Lake from space courtesy of NASA.
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