Pondera County is located in a region of North Central Montana known as the Golden Triangle. The name Golden Triangle is derived from the golden-yellow color of the crops grown in this area. The Hard Red Winter Wheat grown in this area is some of the best winter wheat grown in the United States.
The County is primarily a rural agricultural county covering approximately 1,640 square miles with land areas of 1624.668 square miles and water areas of 15.159 square miles. Altitude varies from flat land to the Continental Divide, 5,236 feet above sea level, in the Lewis and Clark Forest bordering Glacier National Park. Federal land comprises 270,687 acres: U.S. Forest Service land - 106,639, Bureau of Land Management - 1,405 acres, and Blackfeet Reservation and Bureau of Indian Affairs - 162,643 acres. State land comprises 56,730 acres and Burlington Northern Santa Fe 606 acres. The western portion of the County contains part of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
The population for the County as a whole is 6,032. The population of Conrad, the County Seat, is 2,577. The only other incorporated municipality in the County is Valier, with a population of 469. Unincorporated municipalities include Brady, Dupuyer, Heart Butte and Ledger. Pondera County is also home to several Hutterite Colonies: Birch Creek Colony, Kingsbury Colony, Midway Colony, New Miami Colony and Pondera Colony.
Agriculture -- small grains and cattle -- is the largest income producing segment of the Pondera County economy. Most farms are family-owned and of above average size. Crops include wheat, barley, hay and livestock. In recent years, there has been an increase in such alternative crops as oilseeds, peas, and lentils.
Although there are several large employers in the County, including Pondera Medical Center, small businesses and oil and natural gas producers make up the majority of employers. There are several manufacturing plants located north and east of Conrad. Approximately fifteen percent (15%) of the total work force is employed by state and local government.
Three highways traverse Pondera County. US Highway 89 runs north/south in the western end of the County and I-15 runs north/south in the eastern end. State Highway 44 connects US 89 and I-15 and runs through Valier. Burlington Northern Santa Fe is the only railroad in the County and runs north and south through Conrad with a spur running west to Valier. There is no passenger service. The County has two civilian airports, one located at the west edge of Conrad with a blacktop strip 4,600 feet long, suitable for light and twin engine aircraft. The second airport is located at the edge of Valier with a grass strip. In addition, there are various private sod strips located throughout the County. Commercial airline service is available in Great Falls, 60 miles south of Conrad.
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