2 minute read

North Dakota

North Dakota, midwestern state in north-central United States; bordered by Canada to the north, the Red River (with Minnesota on the other side) to the east, South Dakota to the south, and Montana to the west.

Land and climate

North America's geographic center is in North Dakota, near Rugby. North Dakota has three main land regions. The fertile Red River Valley, along the eastern border, has the state's lowest, flattest terrain. The land rises into the Drift Prairie (or Drift Plain), a rolling, fertile plateau. The Great Plains (also called the Missouri Plateau) in western and south- central North Dakota, has the state's highest land. This region includes the Missouri Breaks, an area of rugged valleys and steep hills along the Missouri River, and the Badlands, an area of buttes and mesas with exposed layers of vividly colored clays. North Dakota's major rivers are the Missouri River and the Red River, and their tributaries. Devils Lake is the largest natural lake; there are many small lakes. Forests cover about one percent of the state. North Dakota has moderate summers and severe winters. Principal cities are Fargo, Bismarck, and Grand Forks.


Agriculture and mining are the mainstays of North Dakota's economy. Wheat is the most important crop; others are barley, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, hay, oats, rye, sugar beets, and oats. Beef cattle are the main livestock product, followed by milk, hogs, and sheep. Chief mining products are petroleum, natural gas, lignite coal, sand and gravel, and clay. Chief manufactured products are processed foods, farm equipment, and printed materials. Tourism also contributes to the economy.


North Dakota's constitution was adopted in 1889. The governor serves a 4-year term. The state's legislature, called the Legislative Assembly, consists of 53 senators serving 4-year terms and 106 representatives serving 2-year terms. In the U.S. Congress, North Dakota is represented by 2 senators and 1 representative.


Until they gained statehood in 1889, North Dakota shared much of its history with South Dakota. A number of Indian tribes—including the Lakota (or Dakota) Sioux, Mandan, Assiniboine, and Cheyenne—lived in the area before the first Europeans, French explorers, arrived about 1738. The area had already been claimed for France by explorer La Salle in 1682. France ceded it to Spain, 1762–1800, then sold it to the United States under the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The Lewis and Clark expedition explored North Dakota in 1804–6; the first white settlers arrived in 1812. The United States gained northeastern North Dakota from Britain in 1818; the Dakota Territory was formed in 1861. The land was opened to homesteaders in 1863, but attacks by the Sioux, who were being displaced, slowed white settlement until the U.S. Army forced Sitting Bull to surrender in 1881. That, plus the spread of railroads, brought rapid settlement—mostly by farmers—and economic growth. North Dakota became the 39th state in 1889. The Depression of the 1930s hit farmers hard, but World War II and the 1951 discovery of oil brought recovery. In 1957, the Economic Development Commission was established to attract new industries. In recent years, North Dakota's industrial growth has been slowed by decreases in oil prices as well as environmental concerns.



Additional topics

21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - North, Lord to Olympic Games