Three Forks, Montana
Three Forks and the Tobacco Root Mountains
Location of Three Forks, Montana
|• Type||Montana Incorporated City, Elected Mayor and City Council|
|• Mayor||Sean Gifford|
|• Total||1.49 sq mi (3.86 km2)|
|• Land||1.43 sq mi (3.71 km2)|
|• Water||0.06 sq mi (0.15 km2)|
|Elevation||4,075 ft (1,242 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||1,435.06/sq mi (553.96/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-7 (Mountain (MST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-6 (MDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0777603|
Three Forks is a city in Gallatin County, Montana, United States and is located within the watershed valley system of both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers drainage basins — and is historically considered the birthplace or start of the Missouri River. The population was 1,869 at the 2010 census. The city of Three Forks is named so because it lies geographically near the point, in nearby Missouri Headwaters State Park, where the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers converge to form the Missouri River — the longest single river in North America, as well as the major portion of the Missouri-Mississippi River System from the headwaters near Three Forks to its discharge into the Gulf of Mexico. Three Forks is part of the Bozeman, MT Micropolitan Statistical Area of approximately 100,000 people and located thirty miles west of Bozeman.
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The three rivers, west to east, were named by Meriwether Lewis in late July 1805 for President Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State James Madison, and Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin which was in the times the genesis of a mild controversy and eventually spawned a modern-day geographical controversy—in both cases regarding length comparisons between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Today the two confluences are incorporated inside Missouri Headwaters State Park, which is also a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
The Lewis and Clark expedition visited the site on July 28, 1805. Meriwether Lewis in his journal entry wrote:
- "Both Capt. C. and myself corrisponded in opinion with rispect to the impropriety of calling either of these [three] streams the Missouri and accordingly agreed to name them after the President of the United States and the Secretaries of the Treasury and state..."
One consequence of their decision to designate, map and name the Jefferson—the largest— as a separate tributary river, is that today the Mississippi river can arguably be called longer than the Missouri river because extensive re-channelization of the streambed for hydroelectric power projects has shortened the river while the Mississippi Delta has grown lengthening the rival river.
Honored in Three Forks, the Indian woman Sacagawea is best known as the interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 1800, she was captured by the Mennetaree tribe near the present site of Three Forks. She later returned to this area with Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. A statue of Sacagawea now sits in a park off Main Street.
The present-day city of Three Forks was founded September 17, 1908 by John Q. Adams, a Milwaukee Road land agent. The Milwaukee (Railroad) Land Co., platted the town and held a lot sale that day. Some buildings were moved to the present city from "Old Town Three Forks", a mile to the northeast. The city became a division point on the Milwaukee Road's Rocky Mountain Division and was an important hub for the railroad during the existence of the Milwaukee in Montana (1908-1980).
Two banks for the town were chartered in 1909 and 1910; John Q. Adams financed construction of the latter one, the Three Valleys State Bank, whose building survives, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and serves as a local history museum. The town's early growth prospects foundered from the effects of economic depression, crop failures, and an earthquake that hit the town on June 27, 1925, damaging all of its brick buildings. The town's population never reached the 10,000 level that some once hoped for, and dropped to about 1,000. Some prosperity returned during and after World War II, and population has grown modestly since.
Three Forks is located at (45.891334, -111.551532).
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,869 people, 785 households, and 524 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,297.9 inhabitants per square mile (501.1/km2). There were 850 housing units at an average density of 590.3 per square mile (227.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.1% White, 0.2% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.5% Asian, and 0.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.1% of the population.
There were 785 households, of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.2% were married couples living together, 9.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 33.2% were non-families. 28.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.90.
The median age in the city was 40.8 years. 24.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.5% were from 25 to 44; 28.4% were from 45 to 64; and 15.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.9% male and 50.1% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,728 people, 686 households, and 469 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,360.7 people per square mile (525.3/km2). There were 726 housing units at an average density of 571.7 per square mile (220.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.57% White, 1.10% Native American, 0.17% Asian, 0.23% Pacific Islander, 0.35% from other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.33% of the population.
There were 686 households, out of which 35.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.3% were married couples living together, 5.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.5% were non-families. 26.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.08.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 28.4% under the age of 18, 6.0% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 102.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,212, and the median income for a family was $39,938. Males had a median income of $30,086 versus $19,196 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,362. About 5.5% of families and 7.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.6% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.
The City of Three Forks is a Mayor–council government form of government in which the City Council is chaired by an elected Mayor. These two entities form the legislative and executive branches of the government. There are six elected City Council members.
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In recent years Three Forks has increased in size exponentially due to the booming economy of the nearby city of Bozeman. Many major subdivisions such as Rolling Glen Subdivision are expected to increase the city's population threefold putting a burden on area schools, and law enforcement.
Area attractions such as Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park have made Three Forks and the surrounding area a hub for tourism. Being at the cross-roads of Interstate 90 and U.S. Route 287, Three Forks is a stopping point for many travelers.
Also adding to the prosperity of Three Forks are flourishing businesses, including the Three Forks Voice weekly newspaper established October 17, 2018 after the long-standing Three Forks Herald went out of business.
The Three Forks High School mascot is the Wolves.
- "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition 28 July 1805. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
- Marcia Fairhurst; Kate Hampton (January 2005). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Three Valleys State Bank / American National Bank; First Security Bank; Headwaters Historical Society; Headwaters Heritage Museum". National Park Service. Retrieved September 1, 2019. With accompanying five photos from 2004
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
- "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 2, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "Census & Economic Information Center". Retrieved July 3, 2015.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
- "Three Forks City Government". City of Three Forks. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
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