Unit Study Supplement: North Dakota, U.S. 39th State
Did you know that there are more than twice as many cattle as people in North Dakota? It is the 19th largest state but also one of the least populated (under 800,000). So what is North Dakota known for? It is the US leader in production of honey (number one in the nation), durum and spring wheat, dry edible beans and peas, flaxseed and canola oil. It also grows the most sunflowers, ranks third among the states in sugar production, and has 25 billion tons of lignite (“brown coal”) below its surface, which could supply the region with coal for the next 800 years!
In this article you’ll learn interesting facts about North Dakota, including a North Dakota history timeline, geography facts and more. Time4Learning members can download our list of PreK-12 interactive activities that align with your study of North Dakota. Start out with these quick North Dakota facts for students:
North Dakota Fast Facts
|Became a State:||November 2, 1889|
|Order it Joined the Union:||39th state|
|State Song:||North Dakota Hymn|
|State Flower:||Prairie Rose|
|State Nickname:||Heaven, Norse Dakota, Peace Garden State, Flickertail State, Roughrider State, The 701|
|Notable North Dakotans:||
North Dakota Historical Facts
First explored by French Canadian, Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye and his crew, North Dakota was originally inhabited by Native Americans, including the Sioux people. During the 1700s, Europeans (including the French, Scottish, and English) arrived on steamboats on the Missouri River and set up fur-trading posts and settlements, and Canadians and other Americans came to the area for the fur trade. By 1800, a group known as Métis, people of mixed Native American and European descent, was established.
Germans who had migrated to Russia, as well as Norwegians, also settled in North Dakota. As a result of the geography and work of the early settlers, North Dakota eventually became a land mainly consisting of farms and ranches with more than half of its population living in cities. In more remote areas, like in the Badlands region, children still attend one-room schoolhouses from Kindergarten through eighth grade.
North Dakota became the 39th state in 1889 on the same day as South Dakota. President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the two statehood documents and signed them in random order, but North Dakota has been listed as being first because it is before South Dakota alphabetically. The original state capitol building in Bismarck burned down in 1930 and was replaced by what is now the tallest building in North Dakota (242 feet high) and the third tallest capitol in the US.
Read the North Dakota history timeline below to learn important North Dakota history facts through the events that occurred in this state.
Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye explored villages near what is now Bismarck
First permanent trading post in North Dakota was established at Pembina
US acquired part of North Dakota from France through the Louisiana Purchase
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrived in North Dakota and spent more time in the state than in any other state
US acquired the remainder of North Dakota (the area drained by the Red and Souris rivers) through the Rushs-Bagot Agreement
Smallpox reduced the Mandan Native American population from 1,800 to 125 in just a few months
Dakota Territory was established
Homestead Act allowed pioneers to acquire land in North Dakota
Railroads reached the Red River, the eastern border of North Dakota, from Minnesota
Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln (near Mandan, ND) for what became the Battle of Little Bighorn (in Montana)
Beginning of the “Dakota Boom,” where large wheat farms were created across the state (until about 1886)
North Dakota’s David Henderson Houston invented a camera and named it “Kodak” by scrambling the first four letters of “Dakota” and adding a “K.” The rights were later sold to George Eastman.
North Dakota became the 39th state in the US
Farmers’ Nonpartisan League was formed, establishing a state-owned flour mill, grain elevator, and bank
North Dakota Farmers Union was founded to control the selling of grain and purchase of farm supplies
First mosque in the US was built by Lebanese immigrants in Ross
Satchel Paige, a Black pitcher, played for the Bismarck town team, setting North Dakota apart (along with Minnesota) as a state with racially integrated baseball teams long before the major leagues were integrated
Garrison Dam was completed on the Missouri River. It became important for hydroelectric power and irrigation but also flooded Native American farmland.
A collection of 406 road-side plants found in North Dakota showed that 80% showed evidence of genetic modification
North Dakota was the fastest growing state due to an oil boom in the Bakken fields of western North Dakota
Bring history and geography to life with Time4Learning’s interactive online social studies curriculum for grades 2-12.
North Dakota Geography Facts
North Dakota is home to the Enchanted Highways, a 32-mile stretch of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures, and it holds records for the most snow angels made in one place (8,962 people), the world’s largest hamburger (3,591 pounds), the world’s largest buffalo monument (26 feet and 60 tons), the largest pancake feed (34,818 pancakes), and the world’s largest Holstein cow sculpture (38 feet high, 50 feet long, and visible for five miles).
Grand Forks holds an annual Potato Bowl where it set a record amount of 5,220 pounds of french fries served in 2015. North Dakota has unusual city names like Buttzville, Cannon Ball, and Zap and engages in the unique sport of lawn mower racing. North Dakota is also known for its tornadoes and is one of the coldest states with harsh winters (as low as -60° F) and hot summers (as high as 120°F).
North Dakota consists of 90% of farms and ranches, which makes it a great place for agritourism (visitors participating in everyday farm/ranch activities). It also has more wildlife refuges than any other state. Little Missouri National Grasslands, the largest grassland in the US, has an area of more than 1 million acres. The plains of North Dakota used to be inhabited by huge herds of bison, and due to the efforts of President Roosevelt, there are still about 90,000 bison living in North Dakota. Forests make up less than 1% of the state, the smallest amount of forest in a state in the US. North Dakota’s geography serves as habitats for antelope, elk, bear, and deer, in addition to its bison.
Check out this map of North Dakota to start getting familiar with the state. Then read through the following North Dakota geography facts. Print out the map of North Dakota provided below and add these items to the map.
- North Dakota is bordered on the north by the provinces of Saskatchewan (western) and Manitoba (eastern), the state of Montana on the west, South Dakota on the south, and Minnesota on the east.
- Following the Sioux word, “Dakota,” which means “friend” or “ally,” the International Peace Garden, a symbol of peace and friendship, lies on the border of North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada.
- The Missouri River flows diagonally, roughly between the northwest corner and the middle of the state on the southern border.
- The capital of North Dakota, Bismarck, lies in the center of the state, just south of the middle, on the Missouri River.
- Lake Sakakawea, a reservoir resulting from the construction of Garrison Dam, is found midway through the state on the Missouri River. It has a longer shoreline than the Pacific coast of California.
- Lake Oahe extends from the Missouri River into South Dakota.
- Devils Lake and the smaller Lac Aux Morts are located in the northeastern quarter of the state.
- North Dakota’s highest point, White Butte, is 3,506 feet above sea level, and is found in the Badlands, along the Little Missouri River, in the southwest corner of the state.
- North Dakota’s lowest point is on the Red River, at 750 feet above sea level, which lies on the eastern border with Minnesota.
North Dakota State Map
Download our FREE North Dakota state map printable. Use it as a coloring page or use it to plot the state’s geographical features.
Activities for Children in North Dakota
How else can you discover fun facts about North Dakota? Although North Dakota is the least visited state in the country, you can see below why it might be worth your time. Homeschoolers in North Dakota can experience engaging day trips while visitors may be able to plan extended visits to some of the state’s most interesting places. Here are some possibilities to supplement the learning of North Dakota facts for kids:
- International Peace Garden (Dunseith): Celebrate the friendship between the US and Canada in this scenic 2,300-acre garden. Enjoy hiking and driving trails, take a guided or self-guided tour of the Formal Garden, or simply enjoy its two freshwater lakes, waterfalls, and wildlife. See over 155,000 flowers displayed among terraces, walkways, and flowing waters, and visit the American and Canadian floral flag displays. Enjoy the octagonal reflecting pool of the Sunken Garden, observe the 13-foot floral clock, and listen to the chimes from the Carillon Bell Tower every 15 minutes. See the Peace Poles presented by the Japanese government, pause at the 9/11 Memorial, and visit the Peace Chapel, the only building that straddles the US and Canadian borders.
- Medora Musical (Medora): See the most popular tourist spot in North Dakota, founded in 1883 by a French nobleman, Marquis de Mores, and witness the “Greatest Show in the West,” the Medora Musical. The live, outdoor show is a tribute to patriotism and is dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt (and his time in the Badlands) and the Spirit of the Old West. Have dinner at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue for a western style treat before the show. Kids 17 and under can see the musical free on Wednesdays and Sundays.
- National Buffalo Museum (Jamestown): Experience the Old West by viewing a film about the importance of the American Bison and seeing a bison hide tipi replica, 19th-century firearms, animal mounts, a 10,000-year-old bison skeleton, and a 47,500-year-old bison skull. Visit the mounted albino buffalo, White Cloud, and take pictures with the world’s largest buffalo monument. You can also see the museum’s live herd of Buffalo roaming the property.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Medora): Named after the president who founded the national park system, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in the scenic Badlands and includes canyons, petrified forest, and a variety of wildlife. Enjoy hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, fishing, camping, and canoeing/kayaking, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Kids can take part in a Junior Ranger Program, and you can pick up a Family Fun Pack at the Visitor Center when you arrive. You can buy a day pass, an annual pass, or use your America the Beautiful national park pass. Fourth graders and their families are free through the “Every Kid in a Park” voucher program, and there are several fee free days scheduled each year. Whether or not you will be visiting, take advantage of the online information available through the website’s Kids Research Center.
Looking for more things to do with your kids in North Dakota? Check out this post full of field trip ideas in North Dakota!
North Dakota Freebies and Deals for Homeschoolers
You can learn more North Dakota facts and information without spending a lot of money. Below are just a few ideas:
- Lewis and Clark Trail (Various Locations): Follow the trail capturing the famous journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and visit 15 historic and informational sites. While some of the sites do charge admission, you can enjoy free self-guided tours of Sitting Bull’s Burial Site, the North Dakota State Capitol, the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum (listed below), Double Ditch Indian Village, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, and Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. Garrison Dam and Power Plant also offers free one- to two-hour tours by appointment. You can camp in a Cheyenne tipi at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park for just $35 a night!
- North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum (Bismarck): Explore North Dakota’s largest museum showing the state’s history from 600 million years ago to today and highlighting its people, geography, and development. See rare beadwork, a 1950s soda shop, and a life-size cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Learn about the history of the horse, North Dakota’s role in World War I, and much more about North Dakota’s history and culture through exhibits and learning labs. Admission is free. If you cannot visit, access the North Dakota Night Sky online exhibit to learn how research about living in space is changing life in North Dakota.
- Plains Art Museum (Fargo): This museum offers free admission as well as Low-Sensory Mondays on the first Monday of every month. Collections include Native American art, contemporary and modern art, photography and prints, and regional art. Youth classes and “Adult + Child” classes are available at the adjoining Center for Creativity at a cost for those who want to learn such arts as painting, pottery, clay handbuilding, and screenprinting.
- Scandinavian Heritage Park (Minot): This site honors the area’s immigrant history, offering replicas and artifacts from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Experience a full-scale replica of the Gol Stave Church from Norway, a real Stabbur, a Danish windmill, the Sondre Norheim Eternal Flame, and a 25-foot high Dala Horse from Sweden. Visit statues remembering fairy tale author, Hans Christian Andersen, and explorer, Leif Erickson. Admission is free.
North Dakota Learning Games for Children
Test your North Dakota facts knowledge with these free games and activities: