What is North Dakota known for?
North Dakota is known for its rugged badlands, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and its Native American culture. Famous landmarks in North Dakota include the International Peace Garden and Dakota Thunder, the world’s largest buffalo monument. North Dakota is also famous for holding the Guinness World Record for the most snow angels and largest metal sculpture made of scrap metal.
North Dakota is the least visited state in America. Frankly, that’s not fair. North Dakota deserves a lot more attention! If you love the great outdoors, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park can’t be beaten.
If you’re into art, you’ll appreciate North Dakota’s unique collection of giant statues. Or, if golf is your game, North Dakota is home to one of the most epic golf courses in America. Read on to learn more about these attractions, and much more, in the state of North Dakota!
- 23 Things North Dakota is Known For
- 1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- 2. The Roughrider State
- 3. Native American Culture
- 4. Lewis and Clark
- 5. The Dakota Territory
- 6. Natural Resources
- 7. The Peace Garden State
- 8. The Flickertail State
- 9. North Dakota State Fruit
- 10. Bismarck, North Dakota
- 11. Fargo, North Dakota
- 12. Grand Forks, North Dakota
- 13. The Geographical Center of North America
- 14. The Red River Valley
- 15. World’s Largest Buffalo Monument
- 16. The National Buffalo Museum
- 17. “Buffalo City”
- 18. The Enchanted Highway
- 19. Salem Sue
- 20. Guinness World Record for Most Snow Angels
- 21. Bully Pulpit Golf Course
- 22. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
- 23. The Turtle Mountains
- FAQs About Famous North Dakota Things
23 Things North Dakota is Known For
1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
President Theodore Roosevelt first traveled to North Dakota as a young man to hunt buffalo. There he fell in love with the rugged badlands around the Little Missouri River.
He referred to North Dakota as the “love of his life,” frequently returning to visit throughout his life. The Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota bears his name and is the only national park named for a person.
2. The Roughrider State
One of North Dakota’s nicknames, “the Roughrider state,” was coined in tribute to Roosevelt’s Volunteer Cavalry unit which fought in the Spanish-American War. Several members of the troop hailed from North Dakota, and, given the state’s ties with Theodore Roosevelt, it seemed a fitting title. In 1970 and 1971 movements tried to have this nickname placed on the state’s license plates. Both times, they were both rejected in favor of the already-existing, more peaceful nickname (more on that later!).
3. Native American Culture
North Dakota is famous for its Native American tribes. Tribes such as the Mandan, the Arikara, and the Standing Rock Sioux lived on the land since time immemorial. The name “Dakota” comes from a Sioux word meaning “friend” or “ally.” Local tribes often lived in earth lodges and on the shores of Lake Sakakawea in west central North Dakota, one can find a replica village of these dwellings.
4. Lewis and Clark
America’s most famous explorers were some of the first white men to travel through North Dakota. Commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Purchase, they followed the course of the Missouri River in their travels through North Dakota.
It was in North Dakota that Lewis and Clark met Sacagawea. She was originally a member of the Lemhi Shoshone of Idaho but had lived among the Hidatsa in North Dakota.
❓ Trivia Time: What states does the Missouri River run through?
5. The Dakota Territory
As the United States expanded westward, the territories it acquired gradually divided into the states we recognize today. North Dakota and South Dakota had once been unified as the Dakota Territory.
The Dakota Territory was divided into the geographical areas of present-day North Dakota and South Dakota by outgoing President Grover Cleveland on February 22, 1889. On November 2 of that same year, they became states. President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the papers involved in the process to hide which became a state first, but North Dakota is usually listed as first.
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6. Natural Resources
Despite seeming like a large, empty place, North Dakota abounds in natural resources. Its vast plains make for excellent farmland for wheat, corn, and soybeans. In terms of wheat production, North Dakota is second only to Kansas, which is well-known for its amber waves of that grain. The oil industry, as well as the coal and natural gas industries, also plays a major part in North Dakota’s economy.
7. The Peace Garden State
Another one of North Dakota’s nicknames comes from the International Peace Garden. This garden spans the border with Manitoba, Canada, being accessible from either side. The United States and Canada created this garden as a symbol of the long-standing good relations between the two nations.
“The Peace Garden State” appears on North Dakota license plates, and there’s a unique story of how it got to be there. In 1956, the North Dakota Motor Vehicle Department took it upon itself to put this nickname on the plates, no questions asked. Instead of backlash, the decision proved so popular that the state legislature formally adopted the nickname in 1957.
8. The Flickertail State
North Dakota derives this nickname “The Flickertail State” from the abundant population of Richardson ground squirrels throughout the state. These squirrels are also known as flickertails squirrels because they flick their tails while running or before entering their burrows. Although they look similar to prairie dogs, they are a different species.
9. North Dakota State Fruit
The state fruit of North Dakota is the chokecherry. The name may seem a little hard to swallow, but the fruit has long been used by Native Americans to make pemmican. These tart berries are not related to cherries, being instead a member of the rose family. They grow on a small tree-like shrub and, in modern times, are made into jams, syrup, and wine.
❗ Fun Fact: The state of Washington is known for growing the most cherries in America!
10. Bismarck, North Dakota
North Dakota’s capital and second-largest city (just over 74,000) sits in the southern part of the state along the banks of the upper Missouri River.
The North Dakota State Capitol Building is the tallest building in the state, standing 241’ high. One can visit the North Dakota State Capitol grounds, one of the city’s main tourist attractions, which feature a wealth of information presented on plaques and monuments.
Bismarck is also home to the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The society oversees museums throughout the state and also maintains a historical museum in Bismarck dedicated to the story of North Dakota’s development.
11. Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo is the largest city in North Dakota, with a population of just over 125,000. Health care forms one of the major pillars of the city’s economy, accounting for over 17% of employment in the city.
Here one finds North Dakota State University, famed for its football team. North Dakota State maintains a rivalry with the University of South Dakota. The two teams face off annually to win the Dakota Marker, a trophy replica of a monument marking the border between North Dakota and South Dakota.
West Fargo is home to Bonanzaville, an Old-West museum consisting of 40 historic buildings on a 12-acre lot. The museum’s most famous attraction is its annual “Pioneer Days” festival held in August. Fargo is also known for sitting along the border with Minnesota.
12. Grand Forks, North Dakota
Like Fargo, Grand Forks also shares a border with Minnesota. It is the third-largest city in the state and is famous for its agricultural processing. Its name comes from the fork of the Red River and the Red Lake River. Despite having a population of less than 60,000, the city boasts an impressive arts scene complete with art galleries and even a symphony orchestra and a ballet company.
13. The Geographical Center of North America
The tiny town of Rugby in the northern part of North Dakota has long held the title of Geographic Center of North America. Recent research, however, questions this claim, stating that more accurate surveys put it 145 miles to the southwest.
The newer, more accurate claim, should, so the science says, name the appropriately named town of Center as the geographical center of North America. However, the debate is far from a heated one, being more about obscure bragging rights than crucial geographical decisions.
14. The Red River Valley
Grand Forks and the rivers that gave the city its name lie in this valley immortalized by an old cowboy song. The term Red River Valley refers, in general, to a larger area spanning North Dakota, Minnesota, and even into Canada. The Red River forms the boundary between North Dakota and Minnesota, flowing northward into Canada.
15. World’s Largest Buffalo Monument
North Dakota is famous for the herds of buffalo that roamed its plains. A truly unique tribute to the buffalo towers at 26’ in the town of Jamestown, North Dakota.
The concrete statue weighs a whopping 60 tons! From its creation in 1959 until 2010, the hulking sculpture had no name. A contest was held to find a suitable nickname for the monument, and, in the end, it was christened “Dakota Thunder”
❗ Fun Fact: 1959 was a good year for largest things, it seems. It was also the year that Alaska, known as the largest state in America, entered the union.
16. The National Buffalo Museum
Jamestown also houses the National Buffalo Museum. The exhibits at this museum showcase the significance of the buffalo in the lives of local Native American tribes and white settlers.
The museum also maintains a “living exhibit”–two herds of bison. In case you’re wondering what the difference between bison and buffalo is, this linked article from Britannica.com provides a guide for discerning the differences.
17. “Buffalo City”
With the presence of the previously-mentioned sculpture and museum, it’s easy to see why Jamestown acquired the nickname “Buffalo City.” Establishments throughout the town add “Buffalo City” to their names, from a local church to a truck repair shop and much more.
This epithet may lead to some confusion, though, as a tiny town named Buffalo lies less than 60 miles east of Jamestown. Not only that but New York state is known more widely for its own city called Buffalo.
18. The Enchanted Highway
“The Enchanted Highway” is the name given to the unique collection of gigantic metal sculptures lining 32 miles of highway in southwest North Dakota. In fact, this is the largest metal sculpture collection anywhere in the world. The Geese in Flight sculpture also holds the record in The Guinness Book of World Records as the largest scrap-metal sculpture in the world standing 110’ tall and 150’ wide.
19. Salem Sue
If you thought the giant buffalo in Jamestown was impressive, just wait til you see Salem Sue. This colossal cow sculpture depicting a Holstein heifer looms over the fields of New Salem North Dakota at an impressive 38’ tall and 50’ long.
Created as a tribute to the dairy farmers of North Dakota, Salem Sue is the largest animal sculpture in the state. North Dakota may not be the only state with large statues of animals, but it certainly seems to have a taste for them.
20. Guinness World Record for Most Snow Angels
There are certainly some unique local and world records in North Dakota. In addition to giant animal sculptures, North Dakota also set a new record for most snow angels made at once in a single place. On February 17, 2007, 8,962 people gathered on the state capitol grounds to shatter the previous record of 3,784.
21. Bully Pulpit Golf Course
This golf course in western North Dakota ranks among the 100 most popular public golf courses in America, and it’s not hard to see why. Few courses boast such majestic surroundings as Bully Pulpit. Even if you’re not into golf, the greens are worth visiting for the views alone. The nearby town of Medora provides lodging and dining options for those looking for a more epic golfing excursion.
22. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park stands on the site of a former military fort named for the famous American president.
Here one can find a replica of the historic fort buildings and the Custer House, a reconstruction of General George Custer’s home. Custer lived here with his wife Libbie until his death in 1873. This took place at the Battle of Little Big Horn in neighboring Montana, known for being the site of Custer’s Last Stand.
23. The Turtle Mountains
These mountains in the northern part of North Dakota are one of the few naturally forested places in the state.
This region was the historic home of the Plains Ojibwa tribe, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa, and the Métis tribe. On the American side (the mountains extend into Canada) one of the more popular sites to visit is the Lake Metigoshe State Park.
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FAQs About Famous North Dakota Things
What are 3 famous things about North Dakota?
Three famous things about North Dakota are:
– North America’s geographical center is in North Dakota.
– The only national park that is named for a person is in North Dakota
– North Dakota’s capitol building is the only asymmetrical state capitol building.
What famous people are from North Dakota?
Novelist Louis L’Amour, NBA coach Phil Jackson, baseball legend Roger Maris, and actor Josh Duhamel come from North Dakota.
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These are a few of the things North Dakota is known for. The state may have a reputation for being “empty,” but the truth is quite different. There’s no shortage of things to do and see in North Dakota! Now you don’t have to wonder “what is North Dakota known for” anymore!