Beaverhead County is Montana’s largest county by area, covering 5,542 square miles. Approx. 2/3 of the land area contained in Beaverhead County is comprised of public lands, including Beaverhead Deer Lodge National Forest, Bureau of Land Management and State of Montana Lands. Beaverhead County is the 24th most populous county in the State of Montana, with an estimated 8,804 residents as of July 1st, 2007. Average population density for Beaverhead County is 1.7 persons per square mile!
Dillon, the county seat of Beaverhead County, is Montana’s 21st largest city, with a population estimated at 4,106 in 2007. Other cities and towns in Beaverhead County include Dell, Glen, Jackson, Lima, Polaris, Wisdom, and Wise River.
Beaverhead County is the top cattle-producing county in Montana, making agriculture one of the staples of the county’s economy. Beaverhead County is also home to Barretts Minerals, one of the world’s largest talc mines. Gold and precious gemstones are also mined in Beaverhead County.
Dillon is known as the economic center for the Southwest Montana region, being the largest city in a 60 mile radius, with diversified services and retail businesses serving southern Butte -Silver Bow County, Western Madison, and Southern Jefferson Counties. Dillon is also home to the University of Montana-Western Montana College, which reported an enrollment of 1,190 students for the Fall 2008-2009 semester.
Beaverhead County Statistics: (2007 Census)|
- A total of 431 Farms and Ranches combine to cover over 1.25 million acres, with an average farm / ranch size being 2,875 acres. Since Beaverhead County is home to some of the largest Farms and Ranches in the State of Montana, the median farm / ranch size is approx. 230 acres.
- Beaverhead County is home to over 137,000 head of Cattle and Calves, 14,000+ Sheep, and 2,200+ Horses.
Topography of Beaverhead County ranges from rugged alpine peaks in it many mountain ranges, to lush river bottom pastures along the many creek and river drainages, which constitute the origin and headwaters to the Missouri River.
The Beaverhead Valley is located at approx. 1 mile above sea level, offers a very mild climate and easy transportation access via Interstate Highway, State Highways, and Rail. The Beaverhead Valley is bisected by the Beaverhead River, with lush river bottom farms and ranches, and surrounding "benches" home to highly productive irrigated farm lands.
The Beaverhead County Airport features paved runway extending 6,500 feet, and is commonly visited by large corporate jet aircraft as well as other light aircraft.
The Grasshopper Valley is this areas 4-season recreation destination! The "Upper Grasshopper Valley" is home to Maverick Mountain Ski Area
, as well as Elkhorn Hot Springs
, numerous large cattle ranches and many seasonal and full time residential and recreational homes. The Grasshopper Valley is the gateway to the Pioneer Mountains, where nearly limitless recreational opportunities await.
The Big Hole Valley, in the extreme western portion of Beaverhead County, is a high elevation mountain valley comprised primarily of large working cattle ranches.
The Big Hole River originates in the southern edge of this valley and flows North to Wisdom, Easterly to Wise River and Divide, Montana, turning south to Melrose and finally easterly and northerly to Twin Bridges to form 1/3 of the confluence of the Jefferson River. The Big Hole River is one of the only un-dammed rivers in the lower 48 states. The Big Hole Valley is also home to the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge
The Centennial Valley in the extreme southern area of Beaverhead County is a very sparsely populated and seasonally accessible area, and is comprised primarily of large summer pasture ranches for livestock which winter in the Beaverhead or other nearby valleys. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
, which is comprised of over 40,000 acres, is home to the rare Trumpeter Swan, is also located in the Centennial Valley.
Other sparsely populated valleys in Southern Beaverhead County include the Big Sheep Creek Basin, Medicine Lodge Valley and Horse Prairie Valley, each of which are primarily farm and ranch areas.