North Dakota

The Peace Garden State

Where is it?

State Flag




Northern Plains
Geographic coordinates:
45°55'N to 49°00'N
96°33'W to 104°03'W
total: 70,704 sq mi
land: 68,994 sq mi
water: 1,710 sq mi
coastline: N/A
shoreline: N/A
Bordering States:
Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Red River of the North 750 ft
highest point: White Butte 3,506 ft
Western North Dakota is home to the hilly Great Plains and the Badlands. This area contains White Butte, the highest point in the state, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This region is also home to several natural resources including crude oil and lignite coal. The Missouri River flows through western North Dakota and forms Lake Sakakawea, the third largest man-made lake in the United States, at the Garrison Dam.

Central North Dakota is home to the Drift Prairie and the Missouri Plateau. This area is covered in lakes, stream valleys, and rolling hills. The Turtle Mountains can be found in the Drift Prairie area near the Canadian border. The geographic center of the North American continent is located near the city of Rugby.

Eastern North Dakota is home to the flat Red River Valley which is formed by the meandering Red River of the North, a river which — unlike most rivers — flows towards the north. The Red River Valley was once the bottom of Lake Agassiz. Today, it is very fertile agricultural land. Farms and small towns dot the landscape of eastern North Dakota. Devil's Lake, the largest natural lake in the state, is also found in the east.

There are 53 counties within North Dakota. Every incorporated place in the state of North Dakota is classified as a city. There are no villages, towns, hamlets.




739,482 (2014)
Largest City:
Fargo: 105,549 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 5.6%
<18 years old: 21.9%
65 years and over: 14.7%
Male: 49.9% Female: 50.1%
Population growth rate:
-0.9% (2000-2005)
Population density:
9.3 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 91.1%
Hispanic: 1.5%
Black: 0.7%
Asian: 0.7%
Native American: 5.2%
Multi-Race: 0.9%
Christian: 86%
Muslim: 2%
Buddhist: 1%
Other: 1%
Non-Religious: 3%
No Response: 6%




Prior to European contact, Native Americans inhabited North Dakota for thousands of years. The first European to reach the area was the French-Canadian trader La Vérendrye, who led an exploration party to Mandan villages about 1738. The trading arrangement between tribes was such that North Dakota tribes rarely dealt directly with Europeans. However, the native tribes were in sufficient contact that by the time of Lewis and Clark, they were at least somewhat aware of the French and then Spanish claims to their territory.

Dakota Territory was settled sparsely until the late 1800s, when the railroads pushed through the region and aggressively marketed the land. A bill for statehood for North Dakota and South Dakota (as well as Montana and Washington) titled the Enabling Act of 1889 was passed on February 22, 1889 during the Administration of Grover Cleveland. It was left to his successor, Benjamin Harrison, to sign proclamations formally admitting North and South Dakota to the Union on November 2, 1889. The rivalry between the two new states presented a dilemma of which was to be admitted first. So, Harrison directed his 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. However, since "North Dakota" alphabetically appears before "South Dakota", its proclamation was published first in the Statutes At Large and has traditionally been deemed admitted first. This makes North Dakota the 39th state.

The territorial and early state governments were largely corrupt. Early in the 20th century, a wave of populism led by the Non Partisan League brought social reforms. The Great Depression was particularly hard on the state and came several years early with the 1920s farm crisis. The original North Dakota Capitol burned to the ground in the 1930s and was replaced by a limestone faced art deco "skyscraper" that still stands today.

The 1950s brought a round of federal construction projects, including the Garrison Dam and the Minot and Grand Forks Air Force bases. There was an oil boom in the Williston basin in the 1980s, as skyrocketing petroleum prices made development profitable, driving the state population to a peak of near 700,000. Today, the population stands at around 640,000 (roughly the same population as in the 1920s).




November 2, 1889 (39th State)
State Tree:
American Elm
State Bird:
Western Meadowlark
State Flower:
Wild Prairie Rose
North Dakota has a bicameral legislature. The state elects two House Representatives and one Senator from each of 47 districts apportioned by population. The legislature meets at the North Dakota State Capitol in an 80-day regular session in odd-numbered years, and in special session if summoned by the governor. See also: North Dakota Legislative Assembly, North Dakota Senate, North Dakota House of Representatives.

The structure of North Dakota's judiciary is not terribly complex. Each of the 53 counties has a court, from which appeals are sent directly to the North Dakota Supreme Court. Because of the expense of having each county hire a judge, and the fairly low workload, the state is divided into seven judicial districts which collectively elect judges to travel to the various courthouses and hear cases.

District Judges are elected to six-year terms. Supreme Court Judges are elected to ten-year terms. The Supreme Court Chief Justice is selected every 5 years by vote of the District and Supreme Court Judges. North Dakota's codified law is called the North Dakota Century Code (NDCC).

The major political parties in North Dakota are the Republican Party and the Democratic-NPL. North Dakota does have some active third parties, but none of them have had ballot status on any state office race for some time.




The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that North Dakota's total state product in 2005 was $24.178 billion. Per capita personal income in 2005 was $31 395, 32nd in the nation. North Dakota leads the nation in production of several crops. Agricultural activity is largely dependent on rainfall. Wheat (particularly the durum variety used for pasta), barley, canola, soybeans, sunflowers, and flax are present throughout the state. The wetter Red River Valley is dominated by farms, with the chief crops being sugar beets, soybeans and corn. Cattle ranches are more common in the dry southwest, though dairy ranches are more common toward the east. Honey is produced in the central part of the state. Small quantities of juneberries and grapes support a modest domestic winery industry.

The state's relatively small industrial output includes electric power, food processing, machinery, lignite mining, petroleum extraction, and tourism.

North Dakota has the only state-owned bank in the United States, the Bank of North Dakota. The bank, by law, holds all funds of all state and local government agencies in North Dakota. Its deposits are not guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation but by the state itself. The state also operates the only state-owned mill in the country, the North Dakota Mill and Elevator.

North Dakota's reputation for severe weather has been cited by many as a motivating factor behind emigration and the failure of outside industry to locate in the state, though some have found this to be a secondary factor to the overall economic situation in the state.