95 Fascinating Facts About North Dakota

Interesting North Dakota facts

Former US President Theodore Roosevelt loved North Dakota, dividing his time between there are New York state.

Find out why, plus other things that the “Roughrider State” is known for with these fascinating and fun facts about North Dakota!

General Facts About North Dakota

  • North Dakota is located in the Northern and Upper Midwestern regions of the United States. The latter also includes the states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
  • It also falls entirely within the Great Plains region.
  • North Dakota state has a total area of 70,704 mi² (183,123 km²), making it the nation’s 19th largest state. It falls between Washington and Oklahoma in regard to its size.
  • The countries Syria and Cambodia are similar in size to North Dakota.
  • With a population of 770,000, North Dakota is the 4th least populous state, after Wyoming, Vermont, and Alaska.
  • Coincidentally, it also has the 4th lowest population density, at 11 people per mi2 (4.2 per km2), after Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana.
  • North Dakota’s population has been shrinking for the last three years.
Flags flying in front of the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck
North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck
  • Bismarck is the capital city of North Dakota. With a population of 73,000, it sits right at the bottom of the list of 500 largest cities in the US.
  • Every incorporated community in North Dakota is officially a city, no matter how small the place is. The state doesn’t have towns or villages.
  • In fact, the state’s smallest city is Maza, with a population of just 5 people.
  • Fargo is the state’s largest city, with 126,000 people. It is the only city in the state with more than 100,000 people.
  • Native American tribes which have had a great influence on today’s North Dakota are the Sioux (otherwise known as Nakota/Dakota/Lakota), Arikara, Mandan, Wahpeton, Yanktonai, Hidatsa, Sisseton, Yanktonai, Hunkpapa, Metis and Chippewa. They make up 6.5% of the state, a percentage surpassed only by 5 other states.
A North Dakota postage stamp showing wild horses and badlands
North Dakota is known for its wild horses and badlands.
  • People from the state are known as North Dakotans.
  • Dakota means “friend” in the local Sioux language.
  • North Dakota is known by several nicknames, including Peace Garden State, Flickertail State, and Roughrider State, after Roosevelt’s Roughriders in the Spanish-American War, which included many North Dakota cowboys.
  • North Dakota’s state motto is “Liberty and Union Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.” The state’s motto refers to the free nation, which can’t be divided.
The flag of North Dakota
The North Dakota state flag
  • The state flag features a blue background with a bald eagle in the center, holding an olive branch and a bundle of arrows in its claws. The eagle symbolizes peace. The Latin words “E Pluribus Unum” mean “many uniting into one”. The 13 stars and shield with 13 red and white stripes symbolize the country’s first 13 states.
  • North Dakota’s state flower is the wild rose, the same as Iowa and Alberta province in Canada.
  • The official state beverage is milk, the same as 21 other US states.

Random Interesting Facts About North Dakota

  • North Dakota is one of the least visited states in the country.
  • North Dakota is known for having quirky city and place names, including the likes of Ops, Concrete, Antler, Three V Crossing, Medicine Hole, Flasher, Buttzville, On-a-Slant Village, and Zap.
Rolling badlands hills in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota
Badlands scenery in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • In 1947 and 1989, attempts were made to drop the word “North” and rename the state “Dakota”. However, this was defeated by legislature both times.
  • North Dakota has one national park: Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It encompasses three sections of prairie and badlands in the state’s west. Roosevelt stayed in a cabin and had a ranch there. The area also influenced his later conservation policies.
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the only national park in the US named after a person.
A bend in the Missouri River with trees on the banks
The Missouri River in North Dakota
  • The Missouri River, the longest in the US, flows in from the west and south through the center of the state.
  • Agriculture remains the leading industry in North Dakota, and farmland covers 89% of the state.
  • 99.5% of the state’s original grassland has been turned into ranches.
  • North Dakota grows the 2nd most sunflowers in the US after South Dakota, well more than “The Sunflower State” (Kansas).
  • North Dakota supplies 92% of the country’s canola and 95% of its flaxseed.
A field filled with sunflowers
Field of sunflowers in North Dakota
  • Most of the nation’s pasta is made from North Dakotan durum wheat. Cities in the state have even been known to hold pasta parties.
  • North Dakota makes enough wheat every year to produce 1.5 loaves of bread for every person in the world.
  • North Dakota is also the 3rd largest sugar producer in the country.
  • More honey is produced in North Dakota than in any other state. The honeybee is even the state’s official insect.
  • There are about 1.8 million heads of cattle in North Dakota, more than twice the number of people.
A single bison standing in a yellow field in North Dakota
North Dakota is home to wild bison (buffalo).
  • North Dakota has the smallest amount of forest out of all the states, at less than 1%.
  • However, North Dakota has 63 national wildlife refuges, more than any other state. Many of them are private lands that owners have given the state some rights to in exchange for tax credits.
  • The western region of North Dakota has About 25 billion tons of lignite (a type of coal) beneath its surface. This supply is enough to maintain North Dakota’s coal needs for over 800 years.
  • North Dakota has a typical continental climate with warm-hot summers and cold winters. The state experiences some of the widest variety of weather in the country due to its Upper Midwest location.
  • North Dakota’s highest temperature ever recorded was 121°F (49.4°C) on July 6, 1936 in Steele. The lowest was -60°F (-51.1°C) on February 15, 1936 in Parshall. That’s a difference of 181 degrees F (100.5 degrees C)!
A red brick building in Fargo North Dakota with snow on the ground
Downtown Fargo in winter
  • The highest point in the state is 3506 ft (1069 m) above sea level at White Butte, while the lowest is 751 feet (229 meters) above sea level at Red River.
  • North Dakota has more churches per capita than any of the other state.
  • There are twice as many Protestants as Catholics in North Dakota.
  • David Henderson Houston of North Dakota invented the Kodak camera. He named the camera by scrambling the first four letters of the state and adding a “K” to the end to make Kodak.
  • The famous breakfast staple Cream of Wheat was first made in Grand Forks, North Dakota by wheat millers in 1893.
  • Harold Schafer invented the bubble bath liquid Mr. Bubble in North Dakota in 1961.
Things invented in North Dakota
North Dakotan inventions Cream of Wheat and Mr. Bubble bubble bath
  • Famous North Dakotans include singer Peggy Lee, blues musician Jonny Lang, actors Kellan Lutz and Josh Duhamel, actresses Angie Dickenson and Leslie Bibb, news reporter and commentator Eric Sevareid, bandleader and musician Lawrence Welk, Western novelist Louis L’Amour, and rapper Wiz Khalifa.
  • Baseball legend Roger Maris was born in Minnesota but raised in North Dakota.
  • North Dakota has some strange old laws. For example, it’s illegal to take a nap with your shoes on. In Fargo, it’s against the law to go dancing with a hat on.
  • Movies filmed in North Dakota include Fargo, My Father’s Garden, Dakota, and Wooly Boys.
  • Lewis and Clark spent more time in North Dakota than in any other state (some say it was Montana, but sources show that ND takes the lead). In total, they spent 214 days there, vs six months in Montana.
  • The Guinness World Record for the most snow angels made simultaneously in one place was once held by North Dakota. 8,962 people made snow angels, although the record has since been beaten by a school board in Ontario, Canada.
A snow angel
Imagine 8692 of these in the snow.
  • In Rutland, North Dakota, the largest hamburger in the world was eaten. More than 8,000 people were invited to the meal, with the burger weighing 3,591 pounds (1,628.85 kg).
  • 34,818 pancakes were served at the Fargo Kiwanis Club’s 50th Annual Pancake Karninvale in North Dakota, setting a world record.

Historical Facts About North Dakota

  • Stone tool makers belonging to the Clovis culture inhabited North Dakota as early as 11,000 years ago.
  • After the glaciers retreated, North Dakotas grasslands formed around 7000 years ago.
A badlands landscape with grass in the foreground
Landscape in western North Dakota
  • From 1100 CE, Native American Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes traditionally lived along the Missouri and Knife Rivers in North Dakota. The Huff archaeological site is the best-preserved village.
  • In 1610, the Hudson Bay watershed and much of North Dakota’s eastern region was claimed by Henry Hudson for England.
  • Much of the North Dakota region was then claimed by Robert de La Salle in 1682 for France.
  • In the 1700s, a tribe of Cheyenne people built the only known earthen lodges in the state’s history at the Biesterfeldt Site.
  • In 1713, the French gave North Dakota’s northern region to England.
Portraits of Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1804 in North Dakota.
  • In 1738, Pierre de La Verendrye, a French fur trader, visited the North Dakota region and met with the Mandan people.
  • As part of the Louisiana Purchase, the land was bought by the US in 1803.
  • In 1804, Lewis and Clark arrived, building Fort Mandan to spend the winter in North Dakota. They then met with the Sacagawea people.
  • The first white child to be born in North Dakota was on December 29, 1807 to fur post employees at Pembina.
  • In 1812, a Scottish settlement was founded near today’s Pembina, called the Red River Colony.
  • North Dakota became part of the Missouri Territory in 1818.
Inside a cabin at Fort Union Fur Trading Post in North Dakota
Items on display at Fort Union Fur Trading Post National Historic Site
  • The American Fur Company established the Fort Union Fur Trading Post in 1828. Today, it is a National Historic Site located in western North Dakota near the border with Montana.
  • Due to a smallpox outbreak in 1837, most of the Mandans tribe died.
  • In 1863, most of the land opened up for homesteading.
  • North Dakota’s first newspaper, The Frontier Scout, was published and issued at Fort Union in 1864.
  • The city of Fargo was founded in 1871.
An aerial view of a small town in North Dakota
A small farming community in North Dakota
  • Bismark became the capital of the territory in 1883.
  • In 1897, the first free public library was opened in Grafton, North Dakota.
  • On November 2, 1889, North and South Dakota became the 39th and 40th states. President Harrison shuffled the papers before signing them, so they are considered to have joined at exactly the same time.
  • In 1911, North Dakota’s first motor vehicle licenses were issued.
  • In 1918, an influenza epidemic killed 2,700 people in North Dakota.
  • In 1922, WDAY began broadcasting at Fargo. It was the state’s first radio station.
  • Oil was discovered in 1951 near Tioga.
An oil pump in North Dakota
An oil pump in North Dakota
  • That same year, voter registration was repealed in the state. Today, North Dakota remains the only state not to have voter registration.
  • When the Garrison Dam was completed in 1960, Lake Sakakawea was formed.
  • A bill was passed in 1987 to make English the official state language of North Dakota.
  • In 1988, the first major drought was recorded since the 1930s.
  • Most of the city of Grand Forks was destroyed in 1997 due to the Red River Valley flooding.
  • Due to the rising of the Red River in 2009, thousands of residents were asked to evacuate their homes in Fargo.
A bridge going across a river in Fargo, North Dakota
The Red River in Fargo
  • In 2016, major protests erupted against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which sits on the border between North and South Dakota. The local Sioux people cited environmental concerns and risk to their drinking water. Over 800 were arrested, including many non-indigenous people who came to join the protest.
  • In 2017, President Trump signed off the pipeline project, and it now runs today.

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