U.S. Census: Kalispell Population Growing at Rapid Rate

Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls growing at faster rates than most Montana cities

By Dillon Tabish
Development on Kalispell's north end. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Following a countywide trend, the city of Kalispell is growing at one of the fastest population rates in Montana, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kalispell’s population increased by 709 people from July 2015 to July 2016, reaching 22,761 people. Since 2010, the city has grown by more than 2,709 people, a 13.5 percent increase. Kalispell’s population is based on residents living within city limits, which does not include Evergreen or other surrounding communities in the county’s jurisdiction.

Among Montana’s largest municipalities, only Bozeman has experienced a greater growth rate than Kalispell. Bozeman and the entire Gallatin County continue to balloon, and the city added 1,845 people from 2015 to 2016, according to Census data. Since 2010, Bozeman has added more than 7,900 residents, a 21.4 percent growth rate.

Among smaller cities, Whitefish and Columbia Falls are both growing at significant rates as well, compared to others.

Whitefish gained 206 new residents from 2015 to 2016. Since 2010, the city has added more than 918 residents, a 14.3 percent growth rate. The population was 7,279 people last July.

Columbia Falls’ population grew by 148 people from 2015 to 2016, reaching 5,241 people. Since 2010, the city has added 531 people, an 11.3 percent growth rate.

Other cities of note, Missoula gained 1,342 new people from 2015 to 2016 and has a six-year growth rate of 8 percent; Billings has grown by 5.8 percent since 2010 and remains the largest city in Montana with more than 110,000 residents. Great Falls lost an estimated 460 people from 2015-2016.

Individual population data was not available for other Northwest Montana cities, such as Bigfork, Polson, Libby and Eureka.

The growth of individual cities in the Flathead Valley mirrors a county-wide trajectory. The population in Flathead County grew by roughly 2,000 people from 2015 to 2016, the largest year-to-year increase in a decade and one of the biggest gains in Montana. As of July 1, 2016, Flathead County was home to an estimated 98,082 people. At that pace, Flathead County is poised to reach 100,000 residents for the first time this summer.

The latest Census data, which detailed individual city population increases, shows 10 of the 15 fastest growing large cities in the U.S. were located in the South. Four of the top five were in Texas. Four cities in the West — Bend, Ore.; Buckeye, Ariz.; Lehi, Utah; and Meridian, Idaho — were among the top 15 fastest growing cities.

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