About Gallatin County

Located in a sweeping valley in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Gallatin County is the most populated and fastest growing county in scenic southwest Montana. The County Seat of Bozeman at large encompasses over 90,000 people, yet has a small town feel. Located in a breathtaking Rocky Mountain setting, it is close to world-class downhill skiing, blue ribbon trout streams, Yellowstone National Park and a multitude of other outdoor activities in the pristine nearby wilderness areas.

Gallatin County covers over 2,500 square miles of mountain lands varying in topography and climate from temperate river valleys to snow-capped peaks and open ranch lands. Nearly half of all the land in Gallatin County is under public ownership by the Gallatin National ForestState of MontanaBureau of Land Management or the National Park Service.

Gallatin County is large and diverse, featuring everything from the spectacular scenery of Yellowstone National Park (our first National Park) to lush farmland, and a growing economy of high-tech industries. Skiers, outdoor enthusiasts, wildlife watchers, mothers and fathers, business owners, vacationers, ranchers, retirees, students and many others have grown to love Gallatin County‘s boundless opportunities.


Gallatin County, named after President Madison’s Seceretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, is brimming with history. It was an area that was once home to very early native peoples dating back thousands of years. Tribal bands including the ShoshoneNez Perce,BlackfootFlathead, and Sioux, date back several hundred years. The area was rich with game, water, and plants used by the natives.

Europeans may have entered the valley in the late 1700s as they searched and trapped for beaver pelts to send back East for hats and coats. The Lewis and Clark party left the first written description of the valley in both 1805 and 1806 during their epic journey.

When gold was discovered 60 and 80 miles to the west, the rush was on over the newBozeman Trail, established by John Bozeman, a Georgian also looking for gold. Many who followed this trail for gold returned to the valley to take up farming and business. So began the town of Bozeman in 1864.

The town grew slowly, reaching a population of 3,500 by 1900. The Northern Pacific Railroad had completed its line through the town in 1883, and Montana Agricultural College held its first classes in 1893.


Established in 1863, Gallatin County is located in the southwest part of MontanaGallatin County encompasses 2,517 square miles. To put this in perspective, Gallatin County is larger than the states of Rhode Island or Delaware. Much of the county is fertile farm fields, and over 40% is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Bozeman Trail was the northern spur off of the Oregon Trail. This trail began at Lankrock and ended at Virginia City, MontanaJohn Bozeman began to lead new settlers over this trail in 1864. It was open for three years until it was closed by the Sioux andCheyenne Indians who wanted to stop the immigration of new settlers into the area.

In 1883 the Northern Pacific Railroad finished its pathway to Bozeman through what is now known as the Bozeman Pass. This route paralleled the Bozeman Trail and is nowInterstate 90.

On July 7, 1864, Daniel E. Rouse and William J. Beall drafted plans for the townsite. The name of Bozeman was chosen August 9, 1864, and named the Gallatin County seat in 1867.

Established in 1868 by Captain R. S. LaMotte and two companies of the 2nd Cavalry of Fort Shaw, Fort Ellis was named for Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis who was killed in the line of duty at Gettysburg. The Fort was established after the death of John Bozemanand considerable political disturbance. Local settlers felt a need for added protection in the Gallatin area.

Yellowstone National Park came about after the establishment of Fort Ellis and the quieting of political turbulence in the Gallatin area. A growing curiosity over the rumors coming out of nearby Yellowstone Valley prompted a group of leading citizens to explore the region. It was decided around a campfire to preserve this wondrous area for the enjoyment of all people. This group of men, known as the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition, brought about the establishment of Yellowstone National Park on March 2, 1872 – the first National Park.

Lewis and Clark passed through what is now known as the Gallatin Valley on their epic journey across the western United States during the early 1800s.

Montana State University was founded in 1893 as a land grant college. Originally named Montana State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Montana State University today offers baccalaureate degrees in 50 fields with many different options, master’s degrees in 39 fields, and doctoral degrees in 13 fields.

Special thanks to the Gallatin County website for the information and maps.