Getting to Know Missoula’s Neighborhoods: Miller Creek
If you jumped in a time machine in 1980 in the Miller Creek Neighborhood and jetted ahead to 2023 you'd likely think that you had left Missoula altogether. That's because Miller Creek is the neighborhood that's probably seen some of the Garden City's most significant change, as it transitioned from largely agricultural land to an area of upscale homes and parks. And that change continues to accelerate with new development.
You can't visit the stock car track, or catch the Aber Day Keggers of the 1970s anymore. But you can settle into some of the best homes Missoula offers.
In the series, we're analyzing information from the City of Missoula's Neighborhood Profiles for each of Missoula's neighborhoods, including data specific to Miller Creek.
Where is the Miller Creek Neighborhood?
Miller Creek Neighborhood is named for Miller Creek itself, one of the last significant tributaries to enter the Bitterroot River before it merges with the Clark Fork. Its western edge borders the river, south to county lands along Miller Creek, east to Miller Creek Road, and north to the wetlands and open space along the Lower Bitterroot. It includes the extensive developments completed in the 1990s and early 2000s along Linda Vista Boulevard and the Maloney Ranch development constructed about 15 years ago. Since 2008, hundreds of homes have also been constructed after being approved by the City Council in one of the largest expansions the city had seen up to that time.
Although historically the area didn't have much commercial development outside of the public Linda Vista golf course and the popular Miller Creek cafe, a new "neighborhood commercial" development recently opened at the intersection of Miller Creek Road and Linda Vista.
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Who Lives in the Miller Creek Neighborhood?
While Miller Creek's homes are popular with retirees, especially professionals who've recently stopped work, it's still where many doctors, dentists, lawyers, and others with families choose to live. The median age hits 34.9 years, just above the citywide average. 97% of Miller Creek residents have a high school diploma, or higher, with 61% or more having at least a college degree. Median household income tops $86,000 a year.
What is Housing Like in the Miller Creek Neighborhood?
The demand for larger homes, combined with the newer houses, is driving up prices. The median home price hit $660,000 in 2022. Even 20-plus-year-old homes, which make up more than 500 of the 1,690 homes in Miller Creek, have seen robust price jumps over the past 5 years. Multi-family units are available with more coming online, but rental homes and apartments aren't what Miller Creek is known for. 78% of the units are owner-occupied.
That's all creating pressure on roads and schools. Jeanette Rankin Elementary, which opened in 2018, is already feeling the squeeze, with a 12% neighborhood growth rate over the past 12 years, and hundreds more units coming online with new development next door. The biggest debate in recent years, and one that still hasn't been resolved, is the "one-way in and one-way out" issue. Without a bridge over the Bitterroot, all of that existing and new population is only able to access, and exit during an emergency, via Miller Creek Road, or through the narrow neighborhood roads through Moose Can Gully.
Key Feature of the Miller Creek Neighborhood: Trails and Parks
Yet even with growth pressures, Miller Creek is maintaining some of the rural aesthetics. The neighborhoods are crisscrossed with walking and bike trails that offer nice views of Blue Mountain, Mount Dean Stone, and north across the Missoula Valley. When you run out of trails, more than 23 miles of sidewalks in good repair make these neighborhoods great for evening walks, albeit with a lot of hills.
In addition to the new elementary school playground, several parks are available, including Whitetail, Kelsey, Rainbow, Marilyn, Nicole, Maloney Ranch, and Jeffery Park with 44 acres still in open space.
Lower Miller Creek Road is one of the most popular biking routes in the city, skirting the neighborhood and providing loop access for off-road riders into the forest lands up Miller Creek.
And for that "real rural" feel, enjoy the views to the south over the Oxbow Cattle Company Ranch, where locals can still buy locally grown beef and other products in their farm-to-ranch store.