Billings (elev. 3,117 feet) is Montana’s largest city, with a population of more than 130,000 in the greater urban area. Billings’s physical setting is striking: The Rimrocks —sandstone cliffs several hundred feet high—ring the city; from them, five mountain ranges are visible. The Yellowstone Valley here is wide and green.
Billings is primarily a sales and trade center, with some oil refining and energy generation enlivening its economy.
Billings makes much of being the largest city in the vector north of Denver and between Spokane and Minneapolis, and boasts of being the capital of the “Midland Empire,” a vague principality consisting of eastern Montana, northern Wyoming, the western Dakotas, and on an expansive day maybe even some of Canada’s prairie provinces.
Certainly, to judge by the license plates at the stockyards or at one of the shopping malls, Billings is the service center for much of the northern plains. It’s a city that is proud of its comparative wealth and growth, and as the center of a vast agricultural area, it has a strong sense of purpose and vitality.
Billings is also home to two institutions of higher learning.
The state’s oldest, Rocky Mountain College, was founded in 1878. Rocky Mountain, affiliated with the United Methodist and Presbyterian Churches and the United Church of Christ, has 800 students.
Montana State University at Billings, formerly Eastern Montana College, offers two- and four-year degrees to some 4,500 students.