Missoula (listen) is a city in the U.S. state of Montana; it is the county seat of Missoula County. It is located along the Clark Fork River near its confluence with the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers in western Montana and at the convergence of five mountain ranges, thus it is often described as the "hub of five valleys". In 2019, the United States Census Bureau estimated the city's population at 75,516 and the population of the Missoula Metropolitan Area at 118,791. After Billings, Missoula is the second-largest city and metropolitan area in Montana. Missoula is home to the University of Montana, a public research university.
The Missoula area was first settled in 1858 by William T. Hamilton with a trading post near current Missoula along the Rattlesnake Creek, by Captain Richard Grant, who settled near Grant Creek, and by David Pattee, who settled near Pattee Canyon. Missoula was founded in 1860 as Hellgate Trading Post while still part of Washington Territory. By 1866, the settlement had moved east, 5 miles (8 km) upstream, and had been renamed Missoula Mills, later shortened to Missoula. The mills provided supplies to western settlers traveling along the Mullan Road. The establishment of Fort Missoula in 1877 to protect settlers further stabilized the economy.