People Are Leaving These Five Montana Towns as Quickly as Possible


Montana, a state recognized for its various landscapes, is experiencing a sharp contrast between booming metropolitan areas and declining rural villages.

While some cities entice immigrants with their natural beauty, cultural attractions, and economic opportunities, others struggle with issues such as outmigration, aging populations, and insufficient services. According to the most recent census statistics, these five Montana municipalities are suffering significant population declines.

1. Wibaux County

Wibaux County is located in eastern Montana and borders North Dakota. It is part of the Bakken oil sector. Despite its closeness, the county’s population declined by 6.6% between 2010 and 2020, down to 958 inhabitants. Wibaux, the county seat, has had a population reduction from 589 in 2010 to 536 in 2020.

While agriculture is the backbone of the economy, the county faces challenges such as poor crop prices, drought, and insect infestations. Wibaux County faces issues due to insufficient housing, infrastructure, and services, as well as competition from surrounding North Dakota municipalities.

2. Prairie County

Prairie County, in eastern Montana, is also seeing a persistent population drop. The county’s population was 1,046 in 2020, down from 1,179 in 2010 and much below its peak of 4,685 in 1920. Terry, the county seat, has had a population fall from 605 in 2010 to 554 in 2020.

Agriculture is the key economic driver, although the county is dealing with poor commodity prices, drought, and depopulation. Furthermore, Prairie County faces additional issues due to a lack of services such as healthcare, education, and entertainment, as well as a high median age of 53.9 years.

3. Liberty County

Liberty County, located in north-central Montana, has had the state’s largest population reduction, dropping by 9.4% between 2010 and 2020. Chester, the county seat, has had a population fall from 847 in 2010 to 781 in 2020.

The local economy, which is mostly based on agriculture, confronts issues such as poor commodity prices, drought, and competition from larger farms. Furthermore, the county lacks basic amenities like healthcare, education, and entertainment, making it less desirable to both young families and retirees.

4. Carter County

Carter County, in southern Montana, is one of the most isolated and thinly inhabited counties in the lower 48. While its population climbed from 1,160 in 2010 to 1,415 in 2020, it remained much lower than its high of 3,972 in 1920.

Factors contributing to recent expansion include a freshly built road that improves access to eastern South Dakota, transit fees from energy pipelines, and dinosaur tourism. However, maintaining the county’s population presents issues such as outdated infrastructure, inadequate services, and environmental damage.

5. Petroleum County

Central Montana’s Petroleum County is the state’s least populated county, with just 475 persons in 2020, down from 494 in 2010. Contrary to its name, the county does not produce oil or gas and relies mainly on ranching and hunting to support its economy.

Winnett, the county seat, saw a fall in population from 182 in 2010 to 163 in 2020. The region lacks facilities, having just a grocery shop, petrol station, school, and bar, and no healthcare, banking, or internet services. Isolation, severe weather, and wildlife conflicts all add to the county’s hardships.


In conclusion, Montana faces a sharp difference between thriving metropolitan regions and dwindling rural counties, as seen by large population decreases in Wibaux, Prairie, Liberty, Carter, and Petroleum Counties. These locations confront economic difficulties, depopulation, insufficient services, and environmental problems. The complex dynamics reflect the state’s variety while also emphasizing the challenges rural regions face in maintaining and increasing their populations in the face of shifting economic environments and evolving societal demands.

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