Malta was one of the very first towns I ever saw in Montana. During my first visit to Montana in 1996, when I was moving to Idaho at the time, I visited this area of Montana just to “see what was there.” As I traveled extensively on the dirt and back roads that exist, I had managed to avoid every town along the way, with the exception of a quick pass through Fort Peck.
Probably because I had spent five days out in the middle of no-where, camped in the northern part of the Charles Russell Wildlife Refuge, when I arrived in Malta it seemed liked “paradise lost” to me. True, Malta is a small town, with a population of only 2100 people. And the county Malta is located in, Phillips County, is hardly bursting with people either (total county population of 5100 people). Yet after spending several days in the boonies of the Montana prairie, Malta had everything that someone longing for civilization could ever want.
Like most of the “larger” eastern Montana towns, Malta is self-contained. While it is lacking in the retail box stores and other big retail establishments, Malta has all the basic stores a person needs, including a small movie theatre. Several small restaurants are also in town, some of which are decent. Moreover, Malta itself is just a nice, clean town. A great little park is located right downtown, too.
Similar to other eastern Montana towns, Malta has had to deal with population decline due to the consolidation of the agricultural industry. As such, you will find some empty buildings in and around the downtown area. Moreover, Malta and Phillips County in general has, at least so far, been unsuccessful in attracting new businesses and industries (unlike Glasgow has). The largest employer in the county is the school system followed by county government.
For those in search of outdoor recreation, Malta has a decent location. The 15,000 acres Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge is located just to the east of town and provides some splendid hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities. More than half the refuge is considered wetlands. At the refuge, 260 species of birds are present, making it an ideal place for bird watching. Other wildlife present on the refuge includes whitetail deer, upland birds and pronghorn antelope.
Malta is also becoming known as the “dinosaur capital” of Montana. The Phillips County Museum contains a large and growing collection of dinosaur artifacts. The museum is also home to the Judith River Dinosaur Institute. Visitors to Malta can sign up for dinosaur exploration tours with the Institute.
Overall, Malta is an interesting town. Admittedly, it probably isn’t high on the list of attractions for tourists. Moreover, many tourists probably don’t even see downtown Malta since the downtown area is located on the “other side of the tracks” from Highway 2. Yet the downtown area of Malta is a town worth seeing. It’s small, compact and it has some nice parks, one of which is downtown.
Visit the Malta, Montana Photo Gallery, too.
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