North Dakota

This article is about the U.S. state of North Dakota. For other uses, see North Dakota (disambiguation).
State of North Dakota
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): Peace Garden State,
Roughrider State, Flickertail State
Motto(s): Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable
Demonym North Dakotan
Capital Bismarck
Largest city Fargo
Largest metro Fargo metropolitan area

Ranked 19th

  Total 70,698 sq mi
(183,108 km2)
  Width 335 miles (539 km)
  Length 211 miles (340 km)
  % water 2.4
  Latitude 45° 56′ N to 49° 00′ N
  Longitude 96° 33′ W to 104° 03′ W

Ranked 47th

  Total 756,927 (2015 est)[1]
  Density 11.70/sq mi  (3.83/km2)
Ranked 47th
  Highest point White Butte[2][3]
3,508 ft (1069 m)
  Mean 1,900 ft  (580 m)
  Lowest point Red River of the North at Manitoba border[2][3]
751 ft (229 m)
Before statehood Dakota Territory
Admission to Union November 2, 1889 (39th)
Governor Jack Dalrymple (R)
Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley (R)

Legislative Assembly

  Upper house Senate
  Lower house House of Representatives
U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R)
Heidi Heitkamp (D)
U.S. House delegation Kevin Cramer (R) (list)
Time zones


 • most of state Central: UTC -6/-5
 • southwest Mountain: UTC -7/-6
ISO 3166 US-ND
Abbreviations ND

North Dakota (pronunciation: i/ˌnɔːrθ dəˈktə/; locally [ˌno̞ɹθ dəˈko̞ɾə]) is the 39th state of the United States, having been admitted to the union on November 2, 1889.

It is located in the Upper Midwestern region of the United States, bordered by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south, and Montana to the west.[4] The state capital is Bismarck, and the largest city is Fargo. North Dakota is the 19th most extensive but the 4th least populous and the 4th least densely populated of the 50 United States.

North Dakota has weathered the Great Recession of the early 21st century with a boom in natural resources, particularly a boom in oil extraction from the Bakken formation, which lies beneath the northwestern part of the state.[5] The development has driven strong job and population growth, and low unemployment.[6][7]


View of western North Dakota
Köppen climate types of North Dakota
Map of North Dakota
Moose in North Dakota.

North Dakota is located in the U.S. region known as the Great Plains. The state shares the Red River of the North with Minnesota on the east; South Dakota is to the south, Montana is to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba are north. North Dakota is situated near the middle of North America with a stone marker in Rugby, North Dakota marking the "Geographic Center of the North American Continent". With an area of 70,762 square miles (183,273 km2),[8] North Dakota is the 19th largest state.[9]

The western half of the state consists of the hilly Great Plains, and the northern part of the Badlands to the west of the Missouri River. The state's high point, White Butte at 3,506 feet (1,069 m), and Theodore Roosevelt National Park[10] are located in the Badlands. The region is abundant in fossil fuels including natural gas, crude oil and lignite coal. The Missouri River forms Lake Sakakawea, the third largest man-made lake in the United States, behind the Garrison Dam.[11]

The central region of the state is divided into the Drift Prairie and the Missouri Plateau. The eastern part of the state consists of the flat Red River Valley, the bottom of glacial Lake Agassiz. Its fertile soil, drained by the meandering Red River flowing northward into Lake Winnipeg, supports a large agriculture industry.[12] Devils Lake, the largest natural lake in the state, is also found in the east.[13]

Eastern North Dakota is overall flat; however, there are significant hills and buttes in western North Dakota. Most of the state is covered in grassland; crops cover most of eastern North Dakota but become increasingly sparse in the center and farther west. Natural trees in North Dakota are found usually where there is good drainage, such as the ravines and valley near the Pembina Gorge and Killdeer Mountains, the Turtle Mountains, the hills around Devil's Lake, in the dunes area of McHenry County in central North Dakota, and along the Sheyenne Valley slopes and the Sheyenne delta. This diverse terrain supports nearly 2,000 species of plants.[14]The state of North Dakota is home to the geographical center of North America located near Rugby, North Dakota[15]


North Dakota has a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. The temperature differences are rather extreme because of its far inland position and being in the center of the Northern Hemisphere, with roughly equal distances to the North Pole and the Equator. As such, summers are almost subtropical in nature, but winters are cold enough to ensure plant hardiness is very low.

Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for selected cities in North Dakota[16]
Location July (°F) July (°C) January (°F) January (°C)
Fargo 82/59 28/15 18/0 –7/–17
Bismarck 84/57 29/14 23/2 –5/–16
Grand Forks 81/56 27/13 16/–3 –8/–19
Minot 81/58 27/14 21/3 –6/–16
Williston 84/56 29/13 22/0 –5/–17
Dickinson 83/55 28/12 26/6 –3/–14
Mandan 84/57 29/14 20/–1 –6/–18


Aboriginal American peoples lived in what is now North Dakota for thousands of years before the coming of Europeans. Their tribes included the Mandan people, the Dakota people and the Yanktonai: the latter two from the Lakota peoples. The first European to reach the area was the French-Canadian trader Pierre Gaultier, sieur de La Vérendrye, who led an exploration party to Mandan villages in 1738.[17] In 1762 the region became part of Spanish Louisiana until 1802.[18]

Dakota Territory was settled sparsely by European Americans until the late 19th century, when the railroads were constructed into the region. With the advantage of grants of land, they vigorously marketed their properties, extolling the region as ideal for agriculture. An omnibus bill for statehood for North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington, titled the Enabling Act of 1889, was passed on February 22, 1889 during the administration of Grover Cleveland. His successor, Benjamin Harrison, signed the proclamations formally admitting North Dakota and South Dakota to the Union on November 2, 1889.[19]

The rivalry between the two new states presented a dilemma of which was to be admitted first. Harrison directed Secretary of State James G. Blaine to shuffle the papers and obscure from him which he was signing first and the actual order went unrecorded, thus no one knows which of the Dakotas was admitted first.[20][21] However, since North Dakota alphabetically appears before South Dakota, its proclamation was published first in the Statutes At Large. Since that day, it has become common to list the Dakotas alphabetically and thus North Dakota is usually listed as the 39th state.

Unrest among wheat farmers, especially among Norwegian immigrants, led to a populist political movement centered in the Non Partisan League ("NPL") around the time of World War I, during which it ran candidates on the Republican ticket (yet merging into the Democratic Party after World War II). It tried to insulate North Dakota from the power of out-of-state banks and corporations. In addition to founding the state-owned Bank of North Dakota and North Dakota Mill and Elevator (both still in existence), the NPL established a state-owned railroad line (later sold to the Soo Line Railroad). Anti-corporate laws were passed that virtually prohibited a corporation or bank from owning title to land zoned as farmland. These laws, still in force today, after having been upheld by both state and federal courts, make it almost impossible to foreclose on farmland, as even after foreclosure, the property title cannot be held by a bank or mortgage company. Furthermore, the Bank of North Dakota, having powers similar to a Federal Reserve branch bank, exercised its power to limit the issuance of subprime mortgages and their collateralization in the form of derivative instruments, and so prevented a collapse of housing prices within the state in the wake of 2008's financial crisis.

The original North Dakota State Capitol in Bismarck burned to the ground on December 28, 1930. It was replaced by a limestone-faced art deco skyscraper that still stands today.[22] A round of federal investment and construction projects began in the 1950s, including the Garrison Dam and the Minot and Grand Forks Air Force bases.[23]

There was a boom in oil exploration in western North Dakota in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as rising petroleum prices made development profitable.[24] This boom came to an end after petroleum prices declined.[24]

In recent years the state has had a strong economy, with unemployment lower than the national average and strong job and population growth.[6][7] Much of the growth has been based on development of the Bakken oil fields in the western part of the state.[5] Estimates as to the remaining amount of oil vary, with some estimating over 100 years worth of oil remaining in the area.[25]



North Dakota population density

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of North Dakota was 756,927 on July 1, 2015, a 12.54% increase since the 2010 United States Census.[1] This makes North Dakota the U.S. state with the largest percentage in population growth since 2011. Only Alaska, Wyoming, and Vermont have fewer residents.[26]

From fewer than 2,000 people in 1870, North Dakota's population grew to near 680,000 by 1930. Growth then slowed, and the population has fluctuated slightly over the past seven decades, hitting a low of 617,761 in the 1970 census, with a total of 642,200 in the 2000 census.[27]


North Dakota is one of the top resettlement locations for refugees. According to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, in 2013-2014 "more than 68 refugees" per 100,000 North Dakotans were settled in the state.[28] In fiscal year 2014, 582 refugees settled in the state.[29] Fargo Mayor Mahoney said North Dakota accepting the most refugees per capita should be celebrated given the benefits they bring to the state. [30] In 2015, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, the state's only resettlement agency, was "awarded $458,090 in federal funding to improve refugee services."[31]

Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 3,323 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 21,110 people.[32] Of the residents of North Dakota, 69.8% were born in North Dakota, 27.2% were born in a different state, 0.6% were born in Puerto Rico, U.S. Island areas, or born abroad to American parent(s), and 2.4% were born in another country.[33] The age and gender distributions approximate the national average. Except for Native Americans, the North Dakota population has a lesser percentage of minorities than in the nation as a whole.[34] As of 2011, 20.7% of North Dakota's population younger than age 1 were minorities.[35] The center of population of North Dakota is located in Wells County, near Sykeston.[36]

Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2015756,92712.5%
Source: 1910–2010[37]
2015 Estimate[1]


Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century, North Dakota, along with most of the midwest, experienced a mass influx of newcomers, from both the eastern United States and immigrants from Europe. North Dakota was a known popular destination for immigrant farmers and general laborers and their families, mostly from Norway, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom. Much of this settlement gravitated throughout the western side of the Red River Valley, as was similarly seen in South Dakota and in a parallel manner in Minnesota. This area is well known for its fertile lands. By the outbreak of the First World War, this was among the richest farming regions in North America. But a period with higher rainfall than usual ended, and many migrants found themselves unable to make a success in the arid conditions. Many family plots were too small to farm successfully.

From the 1930s until the end of the 20th century, North Dakota's population had a gradual decline, interrupted by a couple of brief increases. Young adults with university degrees were particularly likely to leave the state. With the advancing process of mechanization of agricultural practices, and environmental conditions requiring larger landholdings for successful agriculture, subsistence farming proved to be too risky for families. Many people moved to urban areas for jobs.[38]

Since the late 20th century, one of the major causes of migration from North Dakota is the lack of skilled jobs for college graduates. Expansion of economic development programs has been urged to create skilled and high-tech jobs, but the effectiveness of such programs has been open to debate.[39] During the first decade of the 21st century, the population increased in large part because of jobs in the oil industry related to development of shale-oil fields.[40]

Elsewhere, the Native American population has increased as some reservations have attracted people back from urban areas.


In 2010, 94.86% (584,496) of North Dakotans over 5 years old spoke English as their primary language. 5.14% (31,684) of North Dakotans spoke a language other than English. 1.39% (8,593) spoke German, 1.37% (8,432) spoke Spanish, and 0.30% (1,847) spoke Norwegian. Other languages spoken included Serbo-Croatian (0.19%), Chinese and Japanese (both 0.15%), and Native American languages and French (both 0.13%).[41]

In 2000, 2.5% of the population spoke German in addition to English, reflecting early 20th century immigration.[42]

Racial and ancestry groups

According to the 2010 Census, the racial and ethnic composition of North Dakota was as follows:[43]

North Dakota Racial Breakdown of Population
Racial composition 1990[44] 2000[45] 2010[46]
White 94.6% 92.4% 90.0%
Native American 4.1% 4.9% 5.4%
Black 0.6% 0.6% 1.2%
Asian 0.5% 0.6% 1.0%
Native Hawaiian and
other Pacific Islander
Other race 0.3% 0.4% 0.5%
Two or more races 1.2% 1.8%

Throughout the mid-19th century, Dakota Territory was still dominated by Native Americans. Warfare and disease reduced their population at the same time that Europeans and Americans were settling in the state.

In the 21st century, most North Dakotans are of Northern European descent. As of 2009, the seven largest European ancestry groups in North Dakota are:


North Dakota has the most churches per capita of any state.[47]

A 2001 survey indicated that 35% of North Dakota's population was Lutheran, and 30% was Catholic. Other religious groups represented were Methodists (7%), Baptists (6%), the Assemblies of God (3%), Presbyterians (1.27%),[48] and Jehovah's Witnesses (1%). Christians with unstated or other denominational affiliations, including other Protestants and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), totaled 3%, bringing the total Christian population to 86%. There were an estimated 920 Muslims and 730 Jews in the state in 2000.[49] Three percent of respondents answered "no religion" on the survey, and 6% declined to answer.[47]

The largest church bodies by number of adherents in 2010 were the Roman Catholic Church with 167,349; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 163,209; and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod with 22,003.[50]


American Indian presence

Paul Kane witnessed and participated in the annual bison hunt of the Métis in June 1846 on the prairies in Dakota.

In the 21st century, North Dakota has an increasing population of Native Americans, who in 2010 made up 5.44% of the population. By the early 19th century the territory was dominated by Siouan-speaking peoples, who had migrated west from the Great Lakes area. The word "Dakota" is a corruption of a Sioux (Lakota) word meaning "allies" or "friends".

The primary historic tribal groups in or around North Dakota, consist of the Lakota and the Dakotah (often lumped together as "Sioux"), the Blackfoot, the Cheyenne, the Chippewa (known as Ojibwe in Canada), and the Mandan. The federally recognized tribes have Indian reservations in the state, where they exercise sovereignty.

Pow wows

Social gatherings known as "powwows" (or pow-wows) continue to be an important aspect of Native American culture, and are held regularly throughout the state. Throughout Native American history, powwows were held, usually in the spring, to rejoice at the beginning of new life and the end of the winter cold. These events brought Native American tribes together for singing and dancing and allowed them to meet up with old friends and acquaintances, as well as to make new ones. Many powwows also held religious significance for some tribes. Today, powwows are still a part of the Native American culture, and are attended by Native and non-Natives alike. In North Dakota, the United Tribes International Powwow, held each September in the capital of Bismarck, is one of the largest powwows in the United States.

A pow wow is an occasion for parades and Native American dancers in regalia, with many dancing styles presented. It is traditional for male dancers to wear regalia decorated with beads, quills and eagle feathers; male grass dancers wear colorful fringe regalia; and male fancy dancers wear brightly colored feathers. Female dancers dance much more subtly than the male dancers. Fancy female dancers wear cloth, beaded moccasins and jewelry, while the jingle dress dancer wears a dress made of metal cones. Inter-tribal dances during the pow wow, allow everyone (even spectators) can take part in the dancing.

Norwegian and Icelandic influences

Norwegian settlers in front of their sod house in North Dakota in 1898

Around 1870 many European immigrants from Norway settled in North Dakota's northeastern corner, especially near the Red River. Icelanders also arrived from Canada.[51] Pembina was a town of many Norwegians when it was founded; they worked on family farms. They started Lutheran churches and schools, greatly outnumbering other denominations in the area. This group has unique foods such as lefse and lutefisk. The continent's largest Scandinavian event, Norsk Høstfest, is celebrated each September in Minot. The Icelandic State Park in Pembina County and an annual Icelandic festival reflect immigrants from that country, who are also descended from Scandinavians.

Old World folk customs have persisted for decades in North Dakota, with revival of techniques in weaving, silver crafting, and wood carving. Traditional turf-roof houses are displayed in parks; this style originated in Iceland. A stave church is a landmark in Minot. Ethnic Norwegians constitute nearly one-third or 32.3% of Minot's total population and 30.8% of North Dakota's total population.

Germans from Russia

Ethnic Germans who had settled in Russia for several generations grew dissatisfied in the nineteenth century because of economic problems and because of the revocation of religious freedoms for Mennonites and Hutterites. About 100,000 immigrated to the U.S. by 1900, settling primarily in North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska. The south-central part of North Dakota became known as "the German-Russian triangle". By 1910, about 60,000 ethnic Germans from Russia lived in Central North Dakota. They were Lutherans and Roman Catholics who had kept many German customs of the time when their ancestors immigrated to Russia. They were committed to agriculture. Traditional iron cemetery grave markers are a famous art form practiced by ethnic Germans.[52][53]

Fine and performing arts

North Dakota's major fine art museums and venues include the Chester Fritz Auditorium, Empire Arts Center, the Fargo Theatre, North Dakota Museum of Art, and the Plains Art Museum. The Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra, Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, Minot Symphony Orchestra and Great Plains Harmony Chorus are full-time professional and semi-professional musical ensembles that perform concerts and offer educational programs to the community.


North Dakotan musicians of many genres include blues guitarist Jonny Lang, country music singer Lynn Anderson, jazz and traditional pop singer and songwriter Peggy Lee, big band leader Lawrence Welk, and pop singer Bobby Vee. The state is also home to Indie rock June Panic (of Fargo, signed to Secretly Canadian).

Ed Schultz is known around the country as the host of progressive talk radio show, The Ed Schultz Show, and The Ed Show on MSNBC. Shadoe Stevens hosted American Top 40 from 1988 to 1995. Josh Duhamel is an Emmy Award-winning actor known for his roles in All My Children and Las Vegas.[54] Nicole Linkletter and CariDee English were winning contestants of Cycles 5 and 7, respectively, of America's Next Top Model. Kellan Lutz has appeared in movies such as Stick It, Accepted, Prom Night, and Twilight.

Popular culture

Along with having the most churches per capita of any state, North Dakota has the highest percentage of church-going population of any state.[47]

Outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing are hobbies for many North Dakotans. Ice fishing, skiing, and snowmobiling are also popular during the winter months. Residents of North Dakota may own or visit a cabin along a lake. Popular sport fish include walleye, perch, and northern pike.[55]

The western terminus of the North Country National Scenic Trail is located on Lake Sakakawea, where it abuts the Lewis and Clark Trail.


Agriculture is the largest industry in North Dakota, although petroleum, food processing, and technology are also major industries.[56] It is the fastest-growing state in U.S. by GDP. Its growth rate is about 8.3%. The economy of North Dakota had a gross domestic product of $36.8 billion in 2013.[57] The per capita income in 2013 was $50,899, ranked 16th in the nation.[58] The three-year median household income from 2002–2004 was $39,594, ranking 37th in the U.S.[59]

According to Gallup data, North Dakota led the U.S. in job creation in 2013 and has done so since 2009. The state has a Job Creation Index score of 40, nearly 10 points ahead of its nearest competitors.[60] North Dakota has added 56,600 private-sector jobs since 2011, creating an annual growth rate of 7.32 percent.[61][62] According to statistics released on 25 March 2014 by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, North Dakota's personal income grew 7.6 percent in 2013 to $41.3 billion.[63] The state has recorded the highest personal income growth among all states for the sixth time since 2007. North Dakota's personal income growth is tied to various private business sectors such as agriculture, energy development, and construction.[64][65]

"Just over 21% of North Dakota's total 2013 gross domestic product (GDP) of $49.77 billion comes from natural resources and mining."[66]

The state levies a 5% production tax on the gross value at the wellhead of all oil produced in the state, with some exceptions. The state also levies an oil extraction (excise) tax on produced oil. In 2012 the state collected $1.68 billion in oil revenues, up 71.4% over its 2011 collections. Oil taxes provide 42.3% of the state's total net revenues, nearly four times the individual income tax and more than eight times the revenue received from corporate income taxes. The state's 5% oil production tax is split between state and county governments. The state treasurer takes 20% that it then allocates to cities and to an impact grant program. The remaining 80% is split between the state and county governments according to a mandated formula.
Auskick 2014
The state created a legacy fund in 2010 — similar to a sovereign wealth fund in foreign nations — to salt away some of the state's revenues from oil and gas production. By law, 30% of the state's oil and gas taxes (after some mandated distributions) are deposited in the legacy fund. This has resulted in oil and gas tax collections of $446.3 million for fiscal year 2012, $824.7 million for fiscal year 2013 and $926.6 million for fiscal year 2014.
Auskick 2014

North Dakota is the only state with a state-owned bank, the Bank of North Dakota in Bismarck, and a state-owned flour mill, the North Dakota Mill and Elevator in Grand Forks. These were established by the NPL before World War II.

Fargo is home to the second-largest campus of Microsoft with 1,700 employees, and employs several hundred in Grand Forks.[67][68]

As of May 2014, the state's unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation at 2.6%.[69] It has not reached 5 percent since 1987. At end of 2010, the state per capita income was ranked 17th in the nation, the biggest increase of any state in a decade from rank 38th.[70] The reduction in the unemployment rate and growth in per capita income is attributable to the oil boom in the state. Due to a combination of oil-related development and investing in technology and service industries, North Dakota has had a budget surplus every year since the 2008 market crash.[71]

North Dakota highest unemployment rate since the late 20th century was 6.8%, recorded in 1983. That is below the current unemployment rate of the majority of states.[72]


North Dakota's earliest industries were fur trading and agriculture. Although less than 10% of the population is employed in the agricultural sector,[73] it remains a major part of the state's economy. With industrial-scale farming, it ranks 9th in the nation in the value of crops and 18th in total value of agricultural products sold. Large farms generate the most crops. The share of people in the state employed in agriculture is comparatively high: as of 2008, only approximately 2–3 percent of the population of the United States is directly employed in agriculture.[74] North Dakota has about 90% of its land area in farms with 27,500,000 acres (111,000 km2) of cropland, the third-largest amount in the nation. Between 2002 and 2007, total cropland increased by about one million acres (4,000 km2); North Dakota was the only state showing an increase. Over the same period, 1,800,000 acres (7,300 km2) were shifted into soybean and corn monoculture production, the largest such shift in the United States.[75] Agriculturalists are concerned about too much monoculture, as it makes the economy at risk from insect or crop diseases affecting a major crop. In addition, this development has adversely affected habitats of wildlife and birds, and the balance of the ecosystem.

North Dakota Mill and Elevator postcard, ca. 1922

The state is the largest producer in the U.S. of many cereal grains, including barley (36% of U.S. crop), durum wheat (58%), hard red spring wheat (48%), oats (17%), and combined wheat of all types (15%). It is the second leading producer of buckwheat (20%). As of 2007, corn became the state's largest crop produced, although it is only 2% of total U.S. production.[75] The Corn Belt extends to North Dakota, but is situated more on the edge of the region instead of in its center. Corn yields are high in the southeast part of the state and smaller in other parts of the state. Most of the cereal grains are grown for livestock feed. An increasing number of livestock are being fed corn.

The state is the leading producer of many oilseeds, including 92% of the U.S. canola crop, 94% of flax seed, 53% of sunflower seeds, 18% of safflower seeds, and 62% of mustard seed. Canola is suited to the cold winters and it matures fast. Processing of canola for oil production produces canola meal as a by-product. The by-product is a high-protein animal feed.

Soybeans are also an increasingly important crop, with 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) additional planted between 2002 and 2007.[75] Soybeans are a major crop in the eastern part of the state, and cultivation is common in the southeast part of the state. Soybeans were not grown at all in North Dakota in the 1940s, but the crop has become especially common since 1998.[76] In North Dakota soybeans have to mature fast, because of the comparatively short growing season. Soybeans are grown for livestock feed.

North Dakota is the second leading producer of sugarbeets, which are grown mostly in the Red River Valley. The state is also the largest producer of honey, dry edible peas and beans, lentils, and the third-largest producer of potatoes.[75]

North Dakota's economy is aided by nearly $1 billion in federal agricultural subsidies annually .

North Dakota's Top Agricultural Commodities (according to the USDA as of 2011)[77]

2011 rank in the U.S Commodity Percent of Nation's production
1 Beans, dry edible, all 25%
1 Beans, navy 35%
1 Beans, pinto 46%
1 Canola 83%
1 Flaxseed 87%
1 Honey 22%
1 Sunflower, oil 40%
1 Wheat, durum 36%
1 Wheat, spring 37%
2 Sunflower, all 38%
2 Sunflower, non-oil 24%
2 Wheat, all 10%
3 Barley 11%
3 Lentils 17%
3 Oats 8%
3 Peas, dry edible 21%
3 Sugarbeets 16%
4 Safflower 1%
6 Hay, alfalfa 6%
6 Potatoes 4%
8 Hay, all 4%
10 Soybeans 4%
12 Corn for grain 2%
17 Hay, other 2%
26 Wheat, winter 1%
21 Sheep and lambs 1%
17 Cattle and calves 2%
15 Wool production 2%


Oil well in western North Dakota

The energy industry is a major contributor to the economy. North Dakota has both coal and oil reserves. Shale gas is also produced. Lignite coal reserves in Western North Dakota are used to generate about 90% of the electricity consumed, and electricity is also exported to nearby states.[78] North Dakota has the second largest lignite coal production in the U.S.[79] However, lignite coal is the lowest grade coal. There are larger and higher grade coal reserves (anthracite, bituminous coal and subbituminous coal) in other U.S. states.

Oil was discovered near Tioga in 1951, generating 53 million barrels (8,400,000 m3) of oil a year by 1984.[80] Recoverable oil reserves have jumped dramatically recently. The oil reserves of the Bakken Formation may hold up to 400 billion barrels (6.4×1010 m3) of oil, 25 times larger than the reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.[81][82] A report issued in April 2008 by the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the oil recoverable by current technology in the Bakken formation is two orders of magnitude less, in the range of 3 billion barrels (480×10^6 m3) to 4.3 billion barrels (680×10^6 m3), with a mean of 3.65 billion barrels (580×10^6 m3).[83]

North-Western North Dakota is the center of an oil boom: the Williston, Tioga, Stanley and Minot-Burlington communities are having rapid growth that strains housing and local services. As of 2012, the state is the 2nd-largest oil producer in the U.S., with an average of 575,490 barrels per day.[84][85][86]

The Great Plains region, which includes the state of North Dakota, has been referred to as "the Saudi Arabia of wind energy."[87] Development of wind energy in North Dakota has been cost effective because the state has large rural expanses and wind speeds seldom go below 10 mph.


North Dakota is considered the least visited state, owing, in part, to its not having a major tourist attraction.[88] Areas popular with visitors include Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the western part of the state. The park often exceeds 475,000 visitors each year.[89]

Regular events in the state that attract tourists include Norsk Høstfest in Minot, billed as North America's largest Scandinavian festival;[90] the Medora Musical; and the North Dakota State Fair. The state also receives visitors from the neighboring Canadian province of Manitoba, particularly when the exchange rate is favorable.

Health care

North Dakota has six level-II trauma centers, 44 hospitals, 52 rural health clinics, and 80 nursing homes.[91][92][93][94] Major provider networks include Sanford, PrimeCare, Trinity, and Altru.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is the largest medical insurer in the state.[95] North Dakota expanded Medicaid in 2014,[96] and its health insurance exchange is the federal site,[97]

North Dakota law requires pharmacies, other than hospital dispensaries and pre-existing stores, to be majority-owned by pharmacists. Voters rejected a proposal to change the law in 2014.[98][99]

Emergency services

The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services[100] provides 24/7 communication and coordination for more than 50 agencies. In addition, "it administers federal disaster recovery programs and the Homeland Security Grant Program".[101] In 2011, the Department selected Geo-Comm, Inc.[102] "for the Statewide Seamless Base Map Project," which will facilitate "identifying locations 9–1–1 callers" and route emergency calls based on locations.[103]


Interstate 94 in North Dakota, near Gladstone.

Transportation in North Dakota is overseen by the North Dakota Department of Transportation. The major Interstate highways are Interstate 29 and Interstate 94, with I-29 and I-94 meeting at Fargo, with I-29 oriented north to south along the eastern edge of the state, and I-94 bisecting the state from east to west between Minnesota and Montana. A unique feature of the North Dakota Interstate Highway system, is that virtually all of it is paved in concrete, rather than blacktop, because of the extreme weather conditions it must endure. The largest rail systems in the state are operated by BNSF and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Many branch lines formerly used by BNSF and Canadian Pacific Railway are now operated by the Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western Railroad and the Red River Valley and Western Railroad.[104][105]

North Dakota's principal airports are the Hector International Airport (FAR) in Fargo, Grand Forks International Airport (GFK), Bismarck Municipal Airport (BIS), Minot International Airport (MOT) and Sloulin Field International Airport (ISN) in Williston.

Amtrak's Empire Builder runs through North Dakota, making stops at Fargo (2:13 am westbound, 3:35 am eastbound), Grand Forks (4:52 am westbound, 12:57 am eastbound), Minot (around 9 am westbound and around 9:30 pm eastbound), and four other stations.[106] It is the descendant of the famous line of the same name run by the Great Northern Railway, which was built by the tycoon James J. Hill and ran from St. Paul to Seattle.

Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound and Jefferson Lines. Public transit in North Dakota includes daily fixed-route bus systems in Fargo, Bismarck-Mandan, Grand Forks, and Minot, paratransit service in 57 communities, along with multi-county rural transit systems.[107]


As with the federal government of the United States, political power in North Dakota state government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.[108]

The Constitution of North Dakota and the North Dakota Century Code form the formal law of the state; the North Dakota Administrative Code incorporates additional rules and policies of state agencies.[109]


The executive branch is headed by the elected governor. The current governor is Jack Dalrymple, a Republican who took office December 7, 2010 after his predecessor, John Hoeven won his race for U.S. Senate, and resigned to prepare for that office. The current Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota is Drew Wrigley, who is also the President of the Senate. The offices of governor and lieutenant governor have four-year terms, which are next up for election in 2016. The governor has a cabinet consisting of appointed leaders of various state government agencies, called commissioners. The other elected constitutional offices are secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor, and state treasurer.


The North Dakota Legislative Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The state has 47 districts. Each district has one senator and two representatives. Both senators and representatives are elected to four-year terms. The state's legal code is named the North Dakota Century Code.


North Dakota's court system has four levels. Municipal courts serve the cities, and most cases start in the district courts, which are courts of general jurisdiction. There are 42 district court judges in seven judicial districts.[110][111] Appeals from the trial courts and challenges to certain governmental decisions are heard by the North Dakota Court of Appeals, consisting of three-judge panels. The five-justice North Dakota Supreme Court hears all appeals from the district courts and the Court of Appeals.[112]

Indian tribes and reservations

Historically, North Dakota was populated by the Mandan, Hidatsa, Lakota, and Ojibwe, and later by the Sanish and Métis. Today, five federally recognized tribes within the boundaries of North Dakota have independent, sovereign relationships with the federal government and territorial reservations:


North Dakota's United States Senators are John Hoeven (R) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-NPL). The state has one at-large congressional district represented by Representative Kevin Cramer (R).

Federal court cases are heard in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota, which holds court in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks, and Minot. Appeals are heard by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals based in St. Louis, Missouri.


North Dakota Senator John Hoeven (R)
North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D)

The major political parties in North Dakota are the Democratic-NPL and the Republican Party. As of 2007, the Constitution Party and the Libertarian Party are also organized parties in the state.

At the state level, the governorship has been held by the Republican Party since 1992, along with a majority of the state legislature and statewide officers. Dem-NPL showings were strong in the 2000 governor's race, and in the 2006 legislative elections, but the League has not had a major breakthrough since the administration of former state governor George Sinner.

The Republican Party presidential candidate usually carries the state; in 2004, George W. Bush won with 62.9% of the vote. Of all the Democratic presidential candidates since 1892, only Grover Cleveland (1892, one of three votes), Woodrow Wilson (1912 and 1916), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932 and 1936), and Lyndon B. Johnson (1964) received Electoral College votes from North Dakota.

On the other hand, Dem-NPL candidates for North Dakota's federal Senate and House seats won every election between 1982 and 2008, and the state's federal delegation was entirely Democratic from 1987 to 2011.

State taxes

North Dakota has a slightly progressive income tax structure; the five brackets of state income tax rates are 2.1%, 3.92% 4.34%, 5.04%, and 5.54% as of 2004.[113] In 2005 North Dakota ranked 22nd highest by per capita state taxes.[114] The sales tax in North Dakota is 5% for most items.[115] The state allows municipalities to institute local sales taxes and special local taxes, such as the 1.75% supplemental sales tax in Grand Forks.[116] Excise taxes are levied on the purchase price or market value of aircraft registered in North Dakota. The state imposes a use tax on items purchased elsewhere but used within North Dakota. Owners of real property in North Dakota pay property tax to their county, municipality, school district, and special taxing districts.[117]

The Tax Foundation ranks North Dakota as the state with the 20th most "business friendly" tax climate in the nation.[118] Tax Freedom Day arrives on April 1, 10 days earlier than the national Tax Freedom Day.[118] In 2006, North Dakota was the state with the lowest number of returns filed by taxpayers with an Adjusted Gross Income of over $1M – only 333.[119]

Awards and recognition

Major cities

Downtown Fargo in 2007

Fargo is the largest city in North Dakota and is the economic hub for the region. Bismarck, located in south-central North Dakota along the banks of the Missouri River, has been North Dakota's capital city since 1883, first as capital of the Dakota Territory, and then as state capital since 1889. Minot is a city in northern North Dakota and is home of the North Dakota State Fair and Norsk Høstfest. Located a few miles west of Bismarck on the west side of the Missouri River, the city of Mandan was named for the Mandan Indians who inhabited the area at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. New Salem is the site of the world's largest statue of a holstein cow; the world's largest statue of a bison is in Jamestown.

Grand Forks and Devils Lake are located in scenic areas of North Dakota. West Fargo, the fifth largest city in North Dakota,[123] is one of the fastest growing cities.[124] and was recognized as a Playful City USA by the KaBOOM! Foundation in 2011.[125] Williston is located near the confluence of the Missouri River and the Yellowstone River near Montana. Medora in the North Dakota Badlands hosts the Medora Musical every summer and is the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Fort Yates, located along the Missouri River on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation claims to host the final resting place of Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull (Mobridge, South Dakota also claims his gravesite).


Higher education

The state has 11 public colleges and universities, five tribal community colleges, and four private schools. The largest institutions are North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota.

The higher education system consists of the following institutions:

North Dakota University System (public institutions):

Tribal institutions:

Private institutions:

State symbols

State bird: western meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
State fish: northern pike, Esox lucius
State horse: Nokota horse
State flower: wild prairie rose, Rosa arkansana
State tree: American elm, Ulmus americana
State fossil: teredo petrified wood
State grass: western wheatgrass, Pascopyrum smithii
State nicknames: Roughrider State, Flickertail State, Peace Garden State, Sioux state.
State mottos:
(Great Seal of North Dakota) Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable
(Coat of arms of North Dakota) Strength from the Soil
(Latin Motto of North Dakota, effective August 1, 2011) Serit ut alteri saeclo prosit (One sows for the benefit of another age.)
State slogan: Legendary
State song: "North Dakota Hymn"
State dance: square dance
State fruit: chokecherry
State march: "Flickertail March"
State beverage: milk[126]
State art museum: North Dakota Museum of Art
State license plate: see the different types over time[127]

"The Flickertail State" is one of North Dakota's nicknames and is derived from Richardson's ground squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii), a very common animal in the region. The ground squirrel constantly flicks its tail in a distinctive manner. In 1953, legislation to make the ground squirrel the state emblem was voted down in the state legislature.[128]


The state has 10 daily newspapers, the largest being The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Other weekly and monthly publications (most of which are fully supported by advertising) are also available. The most prominent of these is the alternative weekly High Plains Reader.

The state's oldest radio station, WDAY-AM, was launched on May 23, 1922.[129] North Dakota's three major radio markets center around Fargo, Bismarck, and Grand Forks, though stations broadcast in every region of the state. Several new stations were built in Williston in the early 2010s. North Dakota has 34 AM and 88 FM radio stations.[130][131][132] KFGO in Fargo has the largest audience.[133]

Broadcast television in North Dakota started on April 3, 1953, when KCJB-TV (now KXMC-TV) in Minot started operations.[134] North Dakota's television media markets are Fargo-Grand Forks, (117th largest nationally), including the eastern half of the state, and Minot-Bismarck (152nd), making up the western half of the state.[135] There are currently 31 full-power television stations, arranged into 10 networks, with 17 digital subchannels.

Public broadcasting in North Dakota is provided by Prairie Public, with statewide television and radio networks affiliated with PBS and NPR. Public access television stations open to community programming are offered on cable systems in Bismarck, Dickinson, Fargo, and Jamestown.

Notable people

For a more comprehensive list, see List of people from North Dakota.

See also


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Primary sources

External links

Preceded by
List of U.S. states by date of admission to the Union
Admitted on November 2, 1889 (39th)
Succeeded by
South Dakota

Coordinates: 47°N 100°W / 47°N 100°W / 47; -100

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