53 Interesting Facts About North Dakota

Last updated on February 7th, 2023

North Dakota is the 47th most populous and the 19th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It is in the midwestern and northern regions of the United States. It is right below the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. To the west is Montana, with the border marked by a stone and cottonwood every mile. To the east is Minnesota, split by the waters of the majestic Red River. The state attained statehood on November 2, 1889, becoming the 39th State to join the union. Its three bordering states are Minnesota, Montana, and South DakotaNorth Dakota (nicknamed: Flickertail State, Peace Garden State, Rough Rider State, Sioux State) has 53 counties. The state’s capital is Bismarck. The postal abbreviation for North Dakota is ND. With these facts about North Dakota, let us learn more about its history, geography, people, culture, economy and much more.

Interesting facts about North Dakota

1. The Dakota Territory used to be one big mass but people from the North and South began to clash over differences in lifestyle, political beliefs, and conflicts with the natives. In 1887, voters approved splitting the territory in two.
2. In the early 1900s, a populist movement called the Non Partisan League passed anti-corporate laws that protected farmlands, built the largest milling facility in the US, and established a state-owned bank that shielded North Dakota from the 2008 crisis. 
3. The eastern portion of North Dakota is a flat valley. With its mineral-rich soil, it is among the world’s most fertile areas. That’s why it is filled with productive farms that feed the US. It is interesting to note that the valley was once the floor of an ancient lake. 
North Dakota political map
4. The western side is dubbed as the Drift Prairie region. “Drift” is a type of soil made up of sand, clay, and gravel. The area is dotted with hills, lakes, valleys, and wetlands. It’s perfect for ranchers because of the abundance of prairie grass and wheat.
5. True to its name, the Badlands is a harsh stone valley shaped by erosion for millions of years. It contains the fossils of ancient sea creatures like fish and clam. Within this area is the state’s highest point at 3,506 feet called White Butte. 
6. The land is home to several Native American tribes, although France, Spain, and England took control of the area in the 1700s. The US purchased it in 1803 and called it the Dakota Territory, with “Dakota” meaning “friend” in the Sioux Indian language.
7. In 1956, the state’s Motor Vehicle Department placed this nickname on all license plates – inspired by the International Peace Garden at the border with Manitoba, Canada. The nickname was so popular that the state legislature formally adopted it in 1957. 
8. North Dakota has a large population of ground squirrels called flickertails. The name comes from the way that the animal flicks its tail while running or entering a burrow. In 1953, a senate bill was filled to adopt the Flickertail as the state’s official symbol.
9. The First US Volunteer Cavalry, otherwise known as the “Roughriders”, were North Dakota cowboys who fought in the Spanish-American War. The name was used in tourism slogans and almost made its way to the license plates as well.
10. A few attempts were launched to drop “North” from the state’s name and go by the simpler “Dakota”. The first one was in 1947 and the second was in 1989. However, both were unsuccessful due to the pushback from the Legislative Assembly. 

11. North Dakota currently holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest number of snow angels made at the same time in one place. 8962 people converged at the State Capitol Grounds and made snow angels on February 17, 2007. They smashed the record that was set the previous year at Michigan Technological University of 3,784 people.[17]

12. North Dakota has some of the most expensive rentals in the nation. According to a 2014 study, one-bedroom in North Dakota’s Williston cost nearly $2,400 per month. This was even more expensive than a similar house in New York which rented for $1500. This can be attributed to gas and oil industry expansions, which has made towns such as Williston boomtowns. People flock to remote areas to look for high-paying jobs, raising demand for houses.[7]

a kodak camera. For facts about North Dakota
A kodak camera. Image credit – yat fai ooi

13. Did you know that the inventor of the camera came from North Dakota? David Henderson invented the camera in 1887. To give it a name, he shuffled the first four letters of the word “Dakota” and then added the letter “K” to make the word “Kodak”. He was later to sell Kodak camera rights to George Eastman. In return, Houston received a total of $5750 for his efforts. Said Eastman, “A trademark should be short … vigorous … incapable of being misspelled …” and “it must mean absolutely nothing.”[6]

14. Huge bison herds once roamed North Dakota plains. However, by 1900, there were only less than 600 of these animals remaining. Thanks to the initiatives spearheaded by President Roosevelt, today there are more than 90,000 bison in the state. To see true buffalos, one has to visit Europe and Asia. Early European settlers mistook them for buffalos but the truth is that they aren’t buffalos.[20]

15. The only National Park named after a U.S. president is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Actually, the National Park is dedicated on a piece of land once owned by the former president. The park covers over 70,000 acres of land with nearly half being wilderness areas. Visitors can see feral horses, bison, elk, deer, bald eagle, hawk, falcon, and other animals roaming freely.[31,32]

Geese in Flight. North Dakota fact file
This is a large sculpture that marks the beginning of the Enchanted Highway between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota. Image credit – Terry Feuerborn

16. Geese in Flight, a North Dakotan highway Sculpture, currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest metal sculpture. The sculpture, which was erected in 2001, is 154 feet long and 110 feet tall. It weighs 75 tons. It was constructed by Gary Greff, a retired school teacher.[5]

17. The North Dakota state government owns a flour milling facility called the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association. It is the only state-owned milling facility in the United States. The facility makes its bread mix, flour, and even pancakes. Residents can purchase these straight from the government.[22]

18. North Dakota may be the 39th state or not to have joined the union. Both North and South Dakota were admitted at the same time. President Benjamin Harrison asked the then Secretary of State, James Blaine, to shuffle up the paperwork to avoid anyone ever knowing the state that was signed first. Still, North Dakota is listed as the 39th state with South Dakota occupying the 40th spot. And all this is because of alphabetical order.[19]

wheat field. facts about North Dakota for kids
A wheat field. Image credit – SnoShuu

19. The state of North Dakota produces almost 50% of the country’s spring wheat. Wheat is produced in all 53 counties in North Dakota. It is also one of the leading producers of barley, oats, flaxseed, canola, durum wheat, lentils as well as edible beans. About half of all the cropland in the state is planted with this cereal grain.[9]

20. The only riot in North Dakota that had to be quelled by the National Guard was, in fact, a spring break diversion where 2000-3000 students drove to Zap and drank lots of alcohol. They destroyed many buildings.[23]

21. In 2013, North Dakota overtook Hawaii as the happiest state in the US. This was according to the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. Apart from jumping from position 19 in the previous year to top spot, the state also deposed Hawaii which had been occupying that position for some years.[8]

22. Hawaii and North Dakota might have something in common in terms of happiness, but the two states differ markedly on one aspect: unlike Hawaii, North Dakota is one of the American states that tourists are least likely to visit. On the contrary, it is a great place to live.[13]

23. Lewis and Clark are reported to have spent more time in North Dakota than in any other state in the US. They also hooked up with Sacagawea outside of the not-yet-Bismarck. It is also in North Dakota that they encountered their first grizzly bears. It’s great they didn’t mix the two up because the dollar coin wouldn’t be the same as it is today.[21]

Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota
Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota (NASA, International Space Station, 01/19/12). Image credit – NASA’s Marshall Space Flig

24. Lake Sakakawea formed by Garrison Dam on the Missouri River is named after a Shoshone woman named Sacagawea. In 1805 – 1806, she worked as a guide and interpreter during the Lewis and Clark expedition that helped put the area on the map. The lake was created in 1954. It is one of the largest artificial reservoirs in the United States.[28]

25. North Dakota boasts as the only state in the union with a bank of its own. It is called the Bank of North Dakota and has its headquarters in Bismarck. The bank did remarkably better than the larger banks during the 2007 recession, something that has had other states considering setting up their state-owned financial institutions.[11]

North Dakota on map

26. If you look at the contiguous United States, North Dakota is the coldest state based on average annual temperature. Alaska is the coldest of the 50 states.

27. Although the wild prairie rose is the state’s state flower, the sunflower is the one flower grown here more than anything else. This is grown mainly for its oil. North Dakota is often the best when it comes to sunflower production. However, in 2011 and 2013, it came behind South Dakota due to flooding and wet weather.[2]

28. Until the year 2010, North Dakota’s 2063-feet TV broadcast tower (KVLY-TV Tower in Blanchard) was the world’s tallest man-made structure that can be ascended by a ladder or elevator. But the building is not usually considered when counting the tallest buildings because of the fact that guy-wires attached to the ground support the wires.[21,15]

Oldest Mosque in the country
Possibly the oldest mosque in the country. Interesting facts about North Dakota. Image credit – amanderson2

29. It is believed that the first mosque in the entire United States was built in North Dakota, just outside the small town of Ross. However, there is no way to verify this claim.[4]

30. The vast majority of the United States’ pasta is made using durum wheat that’s grown in North Dakota. The state has boasted of its ability to produce enough amounts to supply each person in the US with 93 lb pasta per year.

31. There are claims from some quarters that North Dakota, nicknamed the city of Rugby, is the geographical center of North America, although this is largely unverified.[3]

32. Jamestown also plays host to the National Buffalo Museum, which contains its bison herd. Of these, the most famous has to be the 3 rare albinos. These are Dakota Miracle, Dakota Legend, and White Cloud. According to a Native American Legend, albino buffaloes are scared. It’s not clear if these have some super-buffalo powers, but there is no doubt about their breath taking cuteness.

Dakota Thunder, the world`s largest buffalo. For facts about North Dakota
Dakota Thunder, the world`s largest buffalo designed by Elmer Petersen is displayed at the Frontier Village in Jamestown.. Photo © Fiskness

33. Drop by the Frontier Village to see the world’s largest buffalo monument, overlooking the city of Jamestown. It’s an impressive sight at 26 feet and 60 tons. Although completed in 1959, it only got its name in 2010 from a local contest: “Dakota Thunder”.

North Dakota facts
North Dakota (in red) with other bordering states.

34. Another amazing fact about North Dakota is that the state law requires that most drugstores are owned by local pharmacists. This simply means you won’t find many national chains operating pharmacies here. North Dakota’s prescription drug prices are among the lowest in the country. There was an attempt in 2014 to change this law but even that failed. So, if you can’t see Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS, you now know why.[10]

35. If you ever find yourself in the town of Dunseith, don’t forget to look for the giant Wee’l Turtle. The sculpture is made from over 2,000 car wheels sporting different shades of green. It’s a massive work of art that never fails to amaze visitors.
The world s largest Holstein cow sculpture in New Salem, North Dakota. facts about North Dakota
The world s largest Holstein cow sculpture in New Salem, North Dakota. Photo © Ffooter
36. Cows are everywhere in North Dakota. However, Salem Sue is special. She’s 38 feet tall and 50 feet long, earning the title of the “World’s Largest Holstein Cow”. You’ll be able to see this legen-dairy sculpture from 5mi away. 
37. Some might think of scrap metal as junk, but North Dakotans elevated it to art. The Enchanted Highway showcases a collection of scrap metal sculptures along a 32-mile highway. These include Geese in Flight, Tin Family, Pheasants, Grasshopper, and Fisherman’s Dream. 

38. North Dakota hosts the largest Scandinavian festival in North America. The Norsk Høstfest is attended by tens of thousands of people in Minot, North Dakota each year to mark the state’s Nordic Heritage. Immigrants from Nordic countries such as Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark trooped to the state in the late 19th century. In 1914, the land owned by Norwegians and their descendants stood at 20% of all the land in the state.[16]

39. North Dakota was a fur trade hub during the 19th century. Fort Union, which is today a national historic site, used to be an important stop for traders who were on stretches of Mississippi River. Tribes from the Northern Plains also traveled to Fort Union each spring for trading furs and buffalo for other goods. Between 1828 and 1867, it was reported that the Fort’s turnover in trade amounted to $100,000 each year.

A statue of President Theodore Roosevelt. facts about North Dakota
A statue of President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback is displayed against the blue sky at the city park. Photo © Fiskness

40. Theodore Roosevelt‘s life was changed a great deal by North Dakota. The future president visited Badlands to hunt buffalos when he was 24 years old back in 1883. But barely two weeks in North Dakota, Roosevelt acquired two cattle ranches. When he lost his mother and wife a couple of months later, he escaped to North Dakota. While here, he transformed into a cowboy game hunter that many people later knew him for.[1]

President Roosevelt once said about the state “I would never have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”

41. The state has more cattle than people. It has a population of roughly 1.8 million cattle, compared to just about 750,000. The cattle are more than twice the human population.[14]

42. North Dakota holds a yearly Potato Bowl. The event dates back to the year 1966 when the football coach of the University of North Dakota team organized a competition between them and Idaho State, a state which rivals North Dakota in potato production. The event has today expanded and includes potato pancake breakfasts, fry-eating contests, World’s Largest French Fry Feed.[18]

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