Colstrip is a city of 2,300 people (2018) in Southeastern Montana. Established in 1924 and incorporated as a city in 1998, Colstrip is the largest city in Rosebud County with 24% of the total population. Colstrip's primary industries are coal mining and electricity production. The entire community celebrates Colstrip Days annually on the weekend prior to the 4th of July.
Colstrip, Montana was established in the early 20th century at the edge of Armell's Creek. The nearest towns are Lame Deer, Montana and Forsyth, Montana. Colstrip's rolling grass hills have sandstone outcroppings, ponderosa pines, and sagebrush. It is near a coal strip mine, and coal-powered electricity generating plants. You may be visiting relatives, interviewing for a job, seeing a high school game, or just driving through, and you should enjoy Colstrip while you are here.
In 2014, Sports Illustrated Magazine named Colstrip the top sports town in Montana.
Colstrip was established by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1924 as a company town to provide coal for their steam locomotives. The mining at Rosebud Mine two miles south of the town is open pit strip mining, where draglines remove soil above the layer of bituminous coal from the Fort Union Formation.
During World War II, the Colstrip mine was identified as strategically important because it supplied coal for the Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotives hauling military equipment for the war effort. The mine was guarded from sabotage, and the employees were not allowed to quit their jobs.
In 1958 the railroad switched to using diesel locomotives and the Colstrip mine was shut down. In 1959 Montana Power Company purchased the rights to the mine and the town, and resumed mining operations in the 1970s with plans to build coal-fired electrical plants.
The power plants were built in the 1970s and 1980s by a collection of contractors including Bechtel. During this construction period Colstrip was a boomtown, with a large increase in population. Plants 1 & 2 were operational in 1975 and 1976, and plants 3 & 4 were operational in 1984 and 1986.
Colstrip is 29 miles south of Interstate 94 on highway 39. There are no commercial buses, flights, or trains that service Colstrip. The nearest large city with a commercial airport is Billings, which is 120 miles from Colstrip.
There is no taxi service for Colstrip. You should have your own car or motorcycle, or rental to get around.
- Contact Westmoreland Mining Company [formerly dead link] subsidiary Western Energy for a tour of the Rosebud Mine.
- Contact PPL Pacific Power & Light [formerly dead link], owners of the Colstrip power plants, for a tour
Every year on the last weekend in June, the town celebrates Colstrip Days. This is great opportunity to visit Colstrip, since there are tours, parades, plays, and other special events.
- Colstrip Town Pump, ☏ .
- Colstrip Super Stop, ☏ .
- Rosebud IGA, Inc., ☏ .
- Coal Bowl. Bowling center, bar, restaurant
- Miner House Bar
- Whisky Gulch Saloon
A good starting point for travel contacts is the Colstrip Chamber of Commerce [formerly dead link].
Be careful when visiting bars in and around Colstrip. Be respectful, and if you enter a bar that has tree stumps chained to the floor for bar stools, be very respectful.
Nearby Forsyth Montana is a pleasant river town on the Yellowstone River, and seat of the Rosebud County. Nearby Lame Deer is located on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, and in the summer hosts a great Pow Wow.