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Retirement Living In North Central Montana or the Hi-Line of Montana

Jump to: Area, Characteristics, Cost, Amenities, Climate, Demographics, Housing, Assistance

Area Description

North-Central Montana is characterized by gently rolling grass prairies adjoining the rough, broken landscape near the Missouri and Milk Rivers flowing west to east.

Malta is the center of this agriculture community and denotes the heart of Dinosaur Country in Montana. Some of the worlds most significant dinosaurs ever discovered are unearthed in the Judith River Rock Formation in the northern portion of our region.

Phillips County includes approximately 1.6 million acres of public lands intermingled with 1.7 million acres of private and state lands. Land use is principally farming and ranching with mineral activity (natural gas) near Saco and Whitewater. Population for the county is approximately 5,100 - less than 1 person per square mile. Malta, the county seat, is at the crossroads of US Highway 2 and 191, providing direct highway access to two national parks (Yellowstone and Glacier) and the U.S./Canadian border at the Port of Morgan. Amtrak provides daily rail passenger service to Malta.

Famous for our wide-open spaces and diversity in landscape, we offer a variety of wildlife and cultural history. We are host to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (40 miles south on US 191) and the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge (7 miles east of Malta, just off US 2). Both refuges offer self-guided auto tours and opportunities to view abundant wildlife in their natural setting. The Little Rocky Mountains, 40 miles south of Malta, are rich in mining and outlaw history. Nestled in these "island mountains" you will find the communities of Zortman and Landusky. Both have exceptional campsites managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Activities in the Little Rocky Mountains include hiking, horseback riding on the many trails, gold panning, and presentations at the Lewis and Clark Amphitheater in Zortman.

Fisherman find Nelson Reservoir (17 miles east of Malta), the two rivers, and local ponds a haven for walleye, northern pike, historic paddlefish, trout, and many more varieties. Marian Hills Golf Course is a challenging 9-hole public course located on the south edge of town. Destination attractions in Malta include the Phillips County Museum and historic H.G. Robinson House & Gardens and the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum & Field Station. Both are located on US 2 within city limits.

Activities and/or guided services for this area include ranch vacations and activities, hiking and riding on natural trails, boating, hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, photography, golf, natural hot springs, dinosaur digs, and paleo-education programs.

The City of Malta offers all amenities for travelers and visitors. For additional information on either museum, lodging, dining, or recreational opportunities in the area, contact the Malta Chamber of Commerce at (406) 654-1776 or email at malta@itstriangle.com.

Region Characteristics

Area Amenities

Things to Do, Recreation & Fitness

   Outdoor recreational opportunities are plentiful in our region. Each of the towns in Phillips County has several city-maintained parks with recreational playground equipment for children.

The Malta Trails, Inc. is a locally founded group whose mission is to raise funds and construct walking trails in the city of Malta. In the past three years they have constructed several miles of walking/biking and running paths. In addition, every year they sponsor hiking and kayaking events in the nearby Little Rocky Mountains and at Nelson Reservoir.

Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is just 7 miles east of Malta. It provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species including 263 species of birds, over 26 species of mammals, and several species of reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Activities such as photography, hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing, wildlife observation, and bird hunting can be enjoyed on the refuge.

Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing and photography along the 15 mile self-guided auto tour route or the .4 mile accessible trail which is located near headquarters. Public hunting of waterfowl and upland game birds is permitted on a portion of the refuge. Guided refuge tours and environmental education programs are available upon request. Availability of staff and size of group may influence these activities.

In and of itself, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is over 120 miles long and encompasses over 2,000 square miles, which makes it bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware.

A car tour route begins just north of the Fred Robinson Bridge south of Malta. It takes the visitors through habitats from ponderosa pines to thick sagebrush and grass land prairie, while offering spectacular views of the Missouri River and the Missouri River Breaks

Every year, starting in early September, the "Slippery Ann Bottoms" is a safe haven where hundreds of elk gather for their annual mating ritual. The viewing area is accessible from the auto tour route, just north of the river. It is recommended to arrive in the late afternoon and stay until dusk for the best viewing.

Said to be the 3rd largest National Wildlife Refuge, it is open for public big game and upland bird hunting. The CMR NWF contains approximately 1.1 million acres, including the 245,000 acres Fort Peck Reservoir. The refuge includes native prairies, forested coulees, river bottoms, and the badlands so often portrayed in the paintings of Charlie Russell, the colorful western artist for whom the refuge is named.

Hunting: Region 6 has about 275 ranches enrolling about 1.2 million acres in Block Management. These areas offer excellent opportunities to hung whitetail and mule deer, elk, antelope, upland game birds, and waterfowl. Our Block Management Areas (BMA) are open from September 1st to December 31st. Some landowners, including those not enrolled in Block Management, may be able to accommodate hunters with special needs. Hunters are encouraged to contact our regional FWP Office to determine if opportunities exist to meet specific needs.

Montana has approximately 23,000 landowners who own nearly 60 million acres of private land, much of which offers excellent hunting opportunities. Hunters must obtain landowner permission to hunt on all private land, which often can be obtained through simple courtesy and communication between the hunter and the landowner. Remember, while orange paint and "No Trespassing" signs indicate that the land is private, they do not necessarily mean that no hunting is allowed. Ask first, and the gate may open.

- Fishing -
Anglers target walleye, northern pike, Chinook salmon, lake trout and small mouth bass in Fort Peck Reservoir, and the Missouri River both above and below the lake offers great fishing for a variety of native and introduced species. Smaller reservoirs, such as Nelson near Malta and Fresno and Beaver Creek near Havre, provide more good fishing.

Hunters and anglers rarely experience crowding in this least populous region of the state, but the communities along Montana’s Hi-Line offer plenty of accommodations and amenities for visitors and residents alike.

Nelson Reservoir is located 18 miles east of Malta off US Highway 2. This reservoir, with 4,320 surface acres and 30 miles of shoreline, offers good fishing for walleye, perch, and northern pike. Concrete boat ramp, campground, and picnic shelters.

- Golfing- Marian Hills is a challenging Par 36, 9-hole public course located on the south edge of Malta just off US Highway 191. The Tin Cup Bar and Grill, driving range, and club and cart rentals are available.

Cultural Activities

Dinosaurs -
Malta is a premier site along the Montana Dinosaur Trail which showcases many of Montana's finest dinosaur specimens.

- Museum - The museum and adjacent, recently renovated, historic home with beautiful gardens are easily found on Highway 2 East in Malta. 2009 renovations have transformed the museum's primary exhibit area and visitors will have new experiences within the life-size replicas of a cowboy bunkhouse, one-room schoolhouse, church, and mercantile.

- Explore the Mountains -Little Rocky Mountains,are the historic and picturesque "island mountains" and communities of Zortman and Landusky, south of Malta 45 miles off US Highway 191. Enjoy hiking, bird and wildlife viewing, fossil hunting, gold panning, hunting and fishing, horseback and ATV trails, historic St. Joseph's "church on the hill", and the Lewis and Clark Amphitheater. Camp Creek (located 1 mile northeast of Zortman) and Montana Gulch (1 mile south of Landusky) are public campgrounds managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

- Motor Sports - Hi-Line Drag Strip and Phillips County Motor Sports provide fast action and record-setting paces are the highlights of this IHRA sanctioned drag strip located on the south edge of Malta, just off US 191 near the National Guard Armory. This short track is popular among drivers and fans for its record times, spectacular views, and accommodations. Weekend races begin in June each year and continue various weekends through fall.

- Other Local Attractions -Trafton Park is located just north of the Malta Rest Stop and the rail underpass in Malta is a public park with primitive camping, water, picnic shelters, and BBQ grills. Overnight parking is allowed for a small fee. Adjacent to the park area is Trafton Arena, which hosts traditional rodeo events during the summer season.

Town of Saco and the Restored School House is located 27 miles east of Malta on US Highway 2. Chet Huntly, renowned newscaster, attended the now restored school house. We welcome to visit their website for additional information.

Fort Belknap Indian Reservation offers buffalo tours, pow wows, and other events.

Public transportation

The Phillips County Transit Authority is an on-call transit authority. They have several vehicles that will pick you up and take you where you need to go. They also offer transportation to the two large cities in Montana (Billings and Great Falls) as well as services to Havre and Glasgow (nearest neighbor towns).

In addition to the transit service, Malta has an Amtrak station. Amtrak's Empire Builder Direct daily service to Malta Station Building (with waiting room)
51 South 1st Street East
Malta, MT 59538

The Malta Depot is an unmanned Amtrak Station opening one hour before and after each train departs. The station features an enclosed seating area and restrooms. There is no ticket agent on-site, however, you can purchase tickets locally through Gina at the Travel Haven - (406) 654-1638. The Travel Haven is located at 121 South 2nd Street East and is within walking distance to the station.
NOTE: Malta is a brief stop along the Amtrak route so it is important to be ready when the train arrives. You will be met by a friendly Amtrak official once on board who will help you store your luggage and locate your seat or sleeper car. FYI - There are currently no vehicle rental establishments located in Malta! Please keep this in mind when making travel plans.

Via Commercial Air -
Billing Logan International Airport
Billings, Montana
200 miles south of Malta, Montana
Serviced by Alaska/Horizon, Allegiant Air, Corporate Air, Delta, Frontier, Northwest,
SkyWest, and United.
Great Falls International Airport
Great Falls, Montana
200 miles west of Malta, Montana
Serviced by Alaska/Horizon, Allegiant Air, and Delta.

Connecting flights to Glasgow (70 miles east of Malta) and Havre (90 miles west of Malta) are available through Cape Air Airlines.

Travel to Canada
Port of Morgan (U.S.) & Port of Monchy (Canada)
Located 55 miles north of Malta on US Highway 191
Operational Hours:
9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
7 days a week
September 16th - May 31st
8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)
7 days a week
June 1st - September 15th
You are now required to have a passport to travel to Canada.

Medical Facilities

Malta is home to a regional hospital. Phillips County Hospital is a small Critical Access Hospital (CAH), Rural Health Clinic (RHC) and Long Term Care Facility (NH) located in North Central Montana. They are dedicated to providing quality essential medical services to people living in our area. The campus includes departments which enable professional, competent personnel to provide the continuum of care for patients in need of medical assistance.

What Will The Climate And Weather Be Like If I Retire In North Central Montana or the Hi-Line of Montana?

The Milk River and several tributaries flow through Phillips County. We experience spring run-off flooding occurrences. The rare flood usually affects agricultural land and does not affect the towns in the area. On the rare occasion a small tornado may be spotted in the area. These tornadoes are very small and very short lived.

Monthly Temperature Ranges

 Month  Low  Avg  High
 Jan  4  15  27
 Feb  9  21  33
 Mar  20  33  45
 Apr  32  46  60
 May  42  56  69
 Jun  51  64  77
 Jul  57  71  86
 Aug  54  70  85
 Sep  43  58  73
 Oct  31  45  60
 Nov  18  30  42
 Dec  6  18  29

Monthly Average # of Hot and Cold Days

 Month  Days Greater Than 90 F°  Days Less Than 32 F°  Days Less Than 0 F°
 Jan  0  30  12
 Feb  0  27  7
 Mar  0  28  2
 Apr  0  15  0
 May  1  3  0
 Jun  3  0  0
 Jul  10  0  0
 Aug  10  0  0
 Sep  2  3  0
 Oct  0  17  0
 Nov  0  27  3
 Dec  0  31  9

Rain & Humidity

 Month  Rainfall  Rainy Days  Humidity
 Jan  0 "  4  9 %
 Feb  0 "  3  12 %
 Mar  1 "  4  20 %
 Apr  1 "  5  27 %
 May  2 "  9  36 %
 Jun  3 "  10  46 %
 Jul  2 "  6  48 %
 Aug  1 "  5  45 %
 Sep  1 "  5  38 %
 Oct  1 "  4  29 %
 Nov  0 "  4  20 %
 Dec  0 "  4  11 %


 Month  Snowfall  Snow On Ground Days  Snowy Days
 Jan  3 "  13  2
 Feb  2 "  9  1
 Mar  2 "  5  1
 Apr  1 "  1  0
 May  1 "  0  0
 Jun  0 "  0  0
 Jul  0 "  0  0
 Aug  0 "  0  0
 Sep  0 "  0  0
 Oct  1 "  1  0
 Nov  3 "  4  1
 Dec  4 "  10  2

Natural Disaster Areas

Cost of Living for North Central Montana or the Hi-Line of Montana

North Central Montana or the Hi-Line of Montana cost of living for Housing, Healthcare, Transportation, Taxes, Utilities, etc.:

Cost of Living




Political Party


Senior Housing Options

Senior Assistance in North Central Montana or the Hi-Line of Montana

North Central Montana or the Hi-Line of Montana offers the following assistance for seniors:

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