50 Interesting Facts about North Dakota

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 14, 2017
  • At 3.2%, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the United States.[3]
  • The world’s largest hamburger was eaten in Rutland, North Dakota. It weighed 3,591 pounds and more than 8,000 people were invited to the meal.[9]
  • Most of the pasta in America is made from North Dakota durum wheat. Grand Forks holds a huge pasta party each year in honor of the crop.[14]
  • In 2012, North Dakota was ranked as the best-run state in the country.[12]
  • It’s illegal to go dancing in Fargo with a hat on. It is even illegal to wear a hat at a party where other people are dancing. It is also illegal in North Dakota to take a nap with your shoes on. After 11 pm, it is illegal to set off fireworks at Devil’s Lake in North Dakota.[14]
  • The smallest city in North Dakota is Maza, with a population of 5 people. North Dakota does not have towns or villages. Each place is officially a city, no matter how small it is.[14]
  • North Dakota is the least-visited state in America.[8]
  • Sunflowers are one of North Dakota's major exports
  • The state that grows the most sunflowers is North Dakota.[11]
  • Lying just under the surface of western North Dakota is about 25 billion tons of lignite, enough to supply the region’s coal needs for over 800 years.[14]
  • Dakota is the Sioux word for “friend” or “ally.”[14]
  • Famous people from North Dakota include musician and bandleader Lawrence Welk, baseball legend Roger Maris, news reporter and commentator Eric Sevareid, author Louis L’Amour, singer Peggy Lee, actress Angie Dickenson, and actor Josh Duhamel.[9]
  • In 2008, Fargo, North Dakota, hosted the largest pancake feed in the world.[9]
  • In 1987, North Dakota passed a bill making English the official state language.[9]
  • North Dakota is the only state in the country with a state-owned bank, the Bank of North Dakota. It also has a state-owned flour mill.[9]
  • By 2000, 99.5% of North Dakota’s original grassland had been turned into farms and ranches.[9]
  • Huge herds of bison once roamed the plains of North Dakota. By 1900, fewer than 600 were left. President Roosevelt spearheaded efforts to save the bison, and today about 90,000 live in North Dakota. True buffalo are found only in Asia and Europe. Early European settlers thought bison looked like buffalo and, hence, confused the names.[14]
  • Lewis and Clark spent more time in North Dakota than in any other place they visited on their expedition
  • Lewis and Clark spent more time in North Dakota than in any other place they visited on their expedition.[14]
  • North Dakota holds the Guinness World Record for the most snow angels made simultaneously in one place. On February 17, 2007, 8,962 people made snow angels at the state capitol grounds. They beat the earlier record of 3,784 set at Michigan Technological University the previous year.[10]
  • In 1995 the square dance became North Dakota’s official American folk dance. Square dancing combines elements of various European dances, including the quadrille of France.[14]
  • North Dakota farmland would cover over 12 million city blocks. Farmers there produce enough wheat each year to make 12.6 billion loaves of bread.[14]
  • North Dakota ranchers produce enough beef to make 113 million hamburgers each year. There are approximately three times more cattle than people in North Dakota and Angus is the most popular variety of cow.[9]
  • North Dakota’s state capitol is 242 feet high. It is the tallest building in North Dakota and the 3rd-tallest capitol in the country. The original capitol burned to the ground on December 28, 1930.[11]
  • North Dakota produces enough canola oil every year to fill the state capitol’s 19-story tower 19 times.[11]
  • North Dakota is the 19th-largest state in the United States. However, it is the 3rd-least populous and the 4th-least densely populated state in the U.S.[11]
  • North Dakota has the highest percentage of church-going population in the country. It also has more churches per capita than any other state.[6]
  • North Dakota has more churches per capita than any other state
  • North Dakota’s Jamestown, also known as Buffalo City, houses the “World’s Largest Buffalo.” The statue is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long, and weighs 60 tons. A herd of bison graze below the statue, including a rare albino named Mahpiya Ska, Lakota for “White Cloud.”[11]
  • North Dakota became the 39th state in 1889. It was admitted the same day as South Dakota. Because both states wanted to be the first state admitted, President Benjamin Harrison shuffled both statehood papers and signed them without knowing which one was first. However, because North Dakota is alphabetically before South Dakota, its proclamation was published first.[14]
  • Comedian Red Skeleton once quipped that North Dakota is “the only place I’ve been where I didn’t have to look up to see the sky.”[11]
  • Less than 1% of North Dakota is forest, the smallest amount of any state.[9]
  • Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US, could fit inside North Dakota 46 times.[9]
  • French Canadian explorer Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye led the first group of Europeans to explore what is now North Dakota.[14]
  • North Dakota is the nation’s 3rd-top sugar producer.[9]
  • North Dakota is part of tornado alley
  • Between 1950-2004, an average of 21 tornadoes a year hit North Dakota. In 1999 alone, 65 tornadoes ripped through the state. North Dakota’s deadliest tornado had winds of more than 300 mph (483 kph) in 1957. It struck Fargo, killing 10 people and injuring 103.[9]
  • In 1887, North Dakotan David Henderson Houston invented a camera. He named it by scrambling the first four letters of Dakota and adding a “K” to make Kodak. He later sold the rights of the Kodak camera to George Eastman.[11]
  • North Dakota has had several nicknames, including Flickertail State, Roughrider State, and Peace Garden State.[11]
  • Temperatures drop below 0° F on average of 65 days a year near the Canadian border and 35 days a year in the southwestern part of the state, making it one of the coldest states in the nation. The western parts of both Dakotas are also the windiest area of the United States.[9]
  • Rugby, North Dakota, claims that it is the geographical center of North America. However, experts say the true center is closer to Balta, which is 15 miles southwest of Rugby.[11]
  • Movies filmed in North Dakota including Dakota (1945), Fargo (1995), and the documentary My Father’s Garden (1996). None of the scenes in the popular movie Fargo was filmed there. Additionally, the movie was loosely based on two true events that happened in Minnesota, not North Dakota. But the wood chipper used in the movie is now on display at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor Center.[4][5]
  • North Dakota is the home to the largest state-owned sheep research center in the United States.[9]
  • North Dakota has only one abortion clinic and has been rated as the worst state in the country for women.[1]
  • In 2012, North Dakota was the fastest-growing state in the United States. The growth was largely due to an oil boom in the Bakken fields in the western part of the state. The state became the 2nd-highest oil-producing state behind Texas. Despite its oil boom, agriculture or farming is still North Dakota’s top industry.[13]
  • Due to its oil boom, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S.
  • North Dakota has more national wildlife refuges (62) than any other state.[14]
  • North Dakota has long, harsh winters and short, hot summers. Both of its recorded weather extremes occurred in 1936: -60° F in February and 121° F in July.[14]
  • One of the quirkiest sports in North Dakota is lawn mower racing. By the time mowers are customized, they can reach speeds of 60 mph, compared to the 5 mph they might do in the backyard.[9]
  • The J.R. Simplot potato processing plant in Grand Forks, ND, produces over 400 million pounds of French fries per year. McDonald’s is its main customers.[9]
  • Quirky city and place names in North Dakota include Antler, Buttzville, Cannon Ball, Concrete, Flasher, Medicine Hole, On-a-Slant Village, Ops, Three V Crossing, and Zap.[15]
  • The most popular tourist spot in North Dakota is the Wild West town of Medora, which was founded in 1883 by the Marquis de Mores, a French nobleman. According to the 2010 census, its population is 112 people.[14]
  • North Dakota produces more honey than any other state
  • North Dakota produces more honey than any other state.[14]
  • In 2010, scientists discovered that 80% of the 406 road-side plants they collected in North Dakota showed evidence of genetic modification. Scientists note that the proper monitoring and control of genetically modified crops in the United States is severely lacking and that the escape of genetically modified crops is “unprecedented.”[2]
  • A North Dakotan highway sculpture named “Geese in Flight” holds the Guinness World Record as the largest metal sculpture in the world. Erected in 2001, it is 156 feet long, 100 feet tall, and weighs 75 tons. Retired schoolteacher Gary Greff, who wanted to break up the tedium on the highway, constructed it.[14]
  • State Survey[9][11][14]
    State BirdWestern Meadowlark
    State FishNorthern Pike
    State FlowerWild Prairie Rose
    State GrassWestern Wheatgrass
    State TreeAmerican Elm
    State FossilTeredo Petrified Wood
    State BeverageMilk
    State DanceSquare Dance
    StatehoodNovember 2, 1889
    NicknameFlickertail State, Roughrider State, Peace Garden State
    Highest PointWhite Butte, 3,506 feet above sea level
    Lowest PointRed River, 750 feet above sea level
    Area70,704 square miles
    Greatest Distance North to South212 miles
    Greatest Distance East to West360 miles
    Bordering StatesMontana to the west, South Dakota to the south, Minnesota to the east
    Average Annual Precipitation17 inches
    State Motto“Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable”
    Number of Counties53

    Top 5 Happiest States[7]
    Hawaii
    North Dakota
    Minnesota
    Utah
    Alaska
References

1Bassett, Laura. “North Dakota Personhood Measure Passes State Senate.” Huffington Post. February 8, 2013 (updated). Accessed: February 25, 2013.

2Calamia, Joseph. “In North Dakota, Genetically Modified Canola Goes Wild.” Discover Magazine. August 6, 2010. Accessed: February 25, 2013.

3Economic News Release.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 18, 2013. Accessed: March 8, 2013.

4Fargo (1996): Did You Know.” IMDB. Accessed: February 25, 2013.

5Films Set in North Dakota.” IMDB. Accessed: February 25, 2013.

6Hersud, Cher. “Winter 2004: Prairie Churches of North Dakota.” Accessed: March 8, 2013.

7Kearns, Richard. “Top 5 Happiest States in the U.S.” WebMD. February 28, 2012. Accessed: March 8, 2013.

8Lukas, Paul. “State Secret North Dakota, Our Least-Visited State Is Also among the Most Underappreciated.” CNN Money. November 1, 1999. Accessed: February 25, 2013.

9McDaniel, Melissa and Sara Louise Kras. North Dakota: Celebrate the States. New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2011.

10North Dakota Snow Angel Record Confirmed.” USA Today. March 28, 2007 (updated). Accessed: February 25, 2013.

11Salonen, Roxanne B. P is for Peace Garden: A North Dakota Alphabet. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2005.

12Sauter, Michael B. et. al. “The Best- and Worst-Run States in America.” Yahoo. November 27, 2012. Accessed: February 25, 2013.

13Shaffer, David. “N. Dakota Population Growth Is Tops in U.S.” StarTribune. December 22, 2012. Accessed: February 25, 2013.

14Stile, Darlene R. North Dakota (America the Beautiful). New York, NY: Scholastic Inc., 2010.

15Tonic, Lucy. “Weird, Quirky & Peculiar Names of Towns/Cities in USA: North Dakota.” Yahoo. August 1, 2011. Accessed: February 25, 2013.

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