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Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck, North Dakota
City of Bismarck
North Dakota state capitol
North Dakota state capitol
Location of Bismarck in Burleigh County, North Dakota
Location of Bismarck in Burleigh County, North Dakota
Country United States
State North Dakota
County Burleigh
Founded 1872
 • Mayor Mike Seminary
 • City 31.23 sq mi (80.89 km2)
 • Land 30.85 sq mi (79.90 km2)
 • Water 0.38 sq mi (0.98 km2)
Elevation 1,686 ft (514 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • City 61,272
 • Estimate (2013[3]) 67,034
 • Density 1,986.1/sq mi (766.8/km2)
 • Urban 81,955 (349th)
 • Metro 123,751 (316th)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 58501-58507
Area code(s) 701
FIPS code 38-07200
GNIS feature ID 1035849[4]
Highways I-94, I-94 Bus., US 83, ND 95, ND 810, ND 1804

Bismarck is the capital of the State of North Dakota and the county seat of Burleigh County.[5] It is the second most populous city in North Dakota after Fargo. The city's population was 61,272 at the 2010 census,[6] while its metropolitan population was 123,751. In 2014, Forbes magazine ranked Bismarck as the seventh fastest-growing small city in the United States.[7][8]

Bismarck was founded in 1872 and has been North Dakota's capital city since the State was created from Dakota Territory and admitted to the Union in 1889.

Bismarck is on the east bank of the Missouri River, directly across the river from Mandan.[9] The two cities make up the core of the Bismarck-Mandan Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The North Dakota State Capitol, the tallest building in the state, is in central Bismarck. The state government employs more than 4,000 in the city. As a hub of retail and health care, Bismarck is the economic center of south-central North Dakota and north-central South Dakota.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Cityscape 2.1
    • Climate 2.2
  • Demographics 3
    • 2010 census 3.1
    • 2000 census 3.2
  • Law and government 4
  • Economy 5
  • Education & Libraries 6
    • Elementary, middle and high schools 6.1
    • Higher education 6.2
    • Libraries 6.3
  • Culture 7
    • Recreation 7.1
  • Health care 8
  • Media 9
  • Transportation 10
  • Sports 11
    • Amateur 11.1
    • Professional 11.2
  • Notable people 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


Before the arrival of white settlers, present-day central North Dakota was inhabited by the Mandan Native American tribe.[10] The Hidatsa name of Bismarck is mirahacii arumaaguash ("Place of the tall willows");[11] the Arikara name is ituhtaáwe [itUhtaáwe].[12] In 1872 the future capital city was founded at what was then called Missouri Crossing, so named because the Lewis and Clark Expedition crossed the river there. The new town was called Edwinton, after Edwin Ferry Johnson (1803–1872), engineer-in-chief for the Northern Pacific Railway. In 1873, however, the Northern Pacific Railway renamed the city Bismarck, in honor of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, in hopes of attracting German investment.[13] The discovery of gold in the nearby Black Hills the following year was the real impetus for growth. Bismarck became a freight-shipping center on the "Custer Route" from the Black Hills.[13] In 1883 Bismarck became the capital of the Dakota Territory, and in 1889 the state capital of North Dakota.


Astronaut Photography of Bismarck North Dakota taken from the International Space Station (ISS)

Bismarck is located at (46.813343, -100.779004).[14]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 31.23 square miles (80.89 km2), of which, 30.85 square miles (79.90 km2) is land and 0.38 square miles (0.98 km2) is water.[1]


Downtown Bismarck; Patterson Place (built in 1911 as the McKenzie Hotel) was the tallest building in the state until construction of the capitol building. Once a noted luxury hotel, it now has senior housing and a restaurant.

Downtown Bismarck is near the center of the city, and is distinctive because the city's major shopping center, Kirkwood Mall, is there rather than in a suburban setting. Several other major retail stores are in the vicinity of Kirkwood Mall, as is the Bismarck Civic Center. The two Bismarck hospitals, St. Alexius Medical Center and Sanford Health (previously Medcenter One Health Systems) are both downtown, and the streets are lined with small stores and restaurants.

Much recent commercial and residential growth has happened in the northern section of the city, largely because of expanding retail centers. Among the shopping centers in northern Bismarck are Gateway Fashion Mall, Northbrook Mall, Arrowhead Plaza, and the new Pinehurst Square "power center" mall.

The North Dakota State Capitol complex is just north of downtown Bismarck. The 19-story Art Deco capitol is the tallest building in the city, at a height of 241.75 feet (73.69 m). The capitol building towers over the central part of the city and is easily seen from 20 miles (32 km) away on a clear day. Completed during the Great Depression in 1934, it replaced an earlier capitol building that burned to the ground in 1930. The capitol grounds house the North Dakota Heritage Center, the North Dakota State Library, the North Dakota Governor's Residence, the State Office Building, and the Liberty Memorial Building. The North Dakota State Penitentiary is in eastern Bismarck.

The Cathedral District is a historic neighborhood near downtown Bismarck. The neighborhood gets its name from the art deco Cathedral of the Holy Spirit that stands in the district. Some homes in this neighborhood date back to the 1880s, although many were built in the first decades of the 20th century. For years, the city has put forth controversial proposals to widen the streets in the neighborhood, but any such project would require the removal of many of the towering American elms which line the streets.

After the completion of Garrison Dam by the Army Corps of Engineers, the flood plain of the Missouri became a more practical place for development, and significant residential and commercial building has taken place on the south side of the city.


Situated in the middle of the Great Plains, between the geographic centers of the United States and North America, Bismarck displays a highly variable four-season humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) with strong semi-arid influences. Bismarck's climate is characterized by long, cold, somewhat snowy and windy winters, and hot summers that are at times humid. Thunderstorms occur in spring and summer, but much of the rest of the year is dry.

The warmest month in Bismarck is July, with a daily mean of 21.3 °C (70.3 °F), with typically wide variations between day and night. The coldest month is January, with a 24-hour average of −12.1 °C (10.2 °F). Precipitation peaks from May to September and is rather sparse in the winter months. Winter snowfall is typically light to moderate, occurring with the passage of frontal systems; major storms are rare.


2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 61,272 people, 27,263 households, and 15,624 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,986.1 inhabitants per square mile (766.8/km2). There were 28,648 housing units at an average density of 928.6 per square mile (358.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.4% White, 0.7% African American, 4.5% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.3% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.3% of the population.

There were 27,263 households of which 27% had children under the age of 18 living with them (the lowest percentage in North Dakota[21]), 44.1% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.7% were non-families. 34.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.82.

The median age in the city was 38 years. 20.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 11% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.2% were from 25 to 44; 26.8% were from 45 to 64; and 15.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.6% male and 51.4% female.

2000 census

At the time of the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 55,532 people, 23,185 households, and 14,444 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,065.2 per square mile (797.4/km²). There were 24,217 housing units at an average density of 900.6 per square mile (347.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.78% White, 3.39% Native American, 0.89% from two or more races, 0.75% Hispanic or Latino, 0.45% Asian, 0.28% Black or African American, 0.17% from other races and 0.03% Pacific Islander.

The top six ancestries in the city are: German (57.9%), Norwegian (18.2%), Russian (7.7%), Irish (7.2%), English (5.0%), Swedish (4.3%).

There were 23,185 households, of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.1% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.5% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the city, the population was spread out with 23.5% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 29.1% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 93.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.8 males.

The median income per household in the city was $39,422, and the median income per family was $51,477. Males had a median income of $33,804 versus $22,647 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,789. About 5.7% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.5% of those under age 18 and 7.4% of those age 65 or over.

Law and government

Bismarck operates under the city commission style of municipal government. Citizens elect five at-large city commissioners. The president of the city commission fills the office of mayor of the city. The current mayor of Bismarck is Mike Seminary. The city commission meets every second and fourth Tuesday of each month.


According to the City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[22] the largest employers in the city are the following:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Sanford Health 25,000
2 State of North Dakota 4,400
3 St. Alexius Medical Center 2,264
4 Bismarck Public Schools 1,804
5 United States government 1,200
7 MDU Resources 616
8 Walmart 690
9 Aetna 618
10 City of Bismarck 544
11 Mid Dakota Clinic 530
12 Missouri Slope Lutheran Care Center 530
13 University of Mary 503
14 Coventry Health Care 460
15 Basin Electric Power Cooperative 455

Education & Libraries

Elementary, middle and high schools

The Bismarck Public Schools system operates sixteen elementary schools, three middle schools (Simle, Wachter, Horizon), three public high schools (Century High, Legacy High School, and Bismarck High) and one alternative high school (South Central High School). The system educates 10,400 students and employs 1,500 people.

Three Bismarck Catholic parishes operate primary schools (kindergarten through eighth grade): St. Mary's Grade School, St. Anne's Grade School, and Cathedral Grade School. St. Mary's Grade School, founded in 1878, is the oldest continuously operating elementary school in North Dakota.

The city has two private high schools, St. Mary's Central High School and Shiloh Christian School.

Higher education

There are five colleges and a university in Bismarck. The University of Mary[23] is a four-year university, operated by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery.[24] Bismarck State College[25] is a two-year public college, largest degree-granting institution in the city, and a member of the North Dakota University System. United Tribes Technical College[26] is a two-year tribal college. Rasmussen College,[27] a two to four-year private college, has a campus location in Bismarck. Sanford Health, formerly Medcenter One, operates a nursing school that offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The campus is located just north of the medical center.


Bismarck libraries include Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library[28] and North Dakota State Library.[29]


The Belle Mehus Auditorium, a historic building in downtown Bismarck dating to 1914, is a center for the arts in the area. Performances of Northern Plains Dance and the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra are held there.

Theater companies in Bismarck include the Capitol Shakespeare Society, Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre,[30] the Shade Tree Players children's theater group,[31] Dakota Stage Ltd,[32] University of Mary, Bismarck State College, and various high school groups. The Gannon and Elsa Forde Art Galleries are at Bismarck State College. The Missouri Valley Chamber Orchestra, founded in 2000, is the community's newest orchestra and performs a variety of musical genres.


Bismarck has a large park system and an extensive network of exercise trails. The Bismarck Parks and Recreation District, established in 1927, operates many parks, swimming pools, and several golf courses within the city.

Sertoma Park stretches more than 3 miles (4.8 km) along the banks of the Missouri River and within the park are several miles of biking trails, the Dakota Zoo, and Super Slide Amusement Park.

In total, the Parks and Recreation District operates roughly 2,300 acres (930 ha) of public parkland.[33]

There are five golf courses in Bismarck: four 18-hole courses (Apple Creek Country Club, Hawktree Golf Club, Riverwood Golf Course, and Tom O'Leary Golf Course), and one 9-hole course (Pebble Creek Golf Course).

Partially rebuilt Mandan Village On-a-Slant, located in Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park outside Bismarck
One of the main tourism attractions of the Bismarck area is Mandan tribe. Guided tours of both sites are offered in the summertime. There are also a museum on park history, nature trails, and a campground.[34]

Hunting and fishing are popular with hunting seasons for deer, pheasant, and waterfowl. Fishing is a year-round sport on the Missouri River bordering Bismarck. There are public docks on the river. From north to south, there is a dock at the Port of Bismarck, from which the Lewis and Clark passenger riverboat plies the Missouri; Fox Island Landing, about a half mile southwest of Riverwood Golf Course; and the Bismarck Dock at General Sibley Park, where there is a boat ramp and picnic facilities.

Near Bismarck are several dammed lakes, including McDowell Dam Lake, 6 miles (9.7 km) east of the city, Harmon Lake, 8 miles (13 km) north of neighboring Mandan, and two lakes a several miles west of the city. The extensive Lake Sakakawea is 62 miles (100 km) north of Bismarck, upstream of Garrison Dam.

In February 2007, Bismarck broke the record for most snow angels made in one place. A total of 8,962 participants came to the capitol grounds for the event.[35]

Health care

Bismarck is a regional center for health care. The city has two hospitals: St. Alexius Medical Center (285-bed) and Sanford Health (238-bed). When it was opened in 1885, St. Alexius was the first hospital in Dakota Territory and is the oldest health care provider in the state of North Dakota. St. Alexius and Medcenter One have joined forces to form the Bismarck Cancer Center.[36] Medcenter One was founded in 1908 as Bismarck Evangelical Hospital, was renamed in 1955 to Bismarck Hospital, renamed again in 1984 to MedCenter One, and in 2012 became part of the Sanford Health system.[37]



Bismarck is served by the Bismarck Tribune, the city's daily newspaper. The paper was established in 1873 and is the oldest continuously operating business in the city. The Tribune is the official newspaper of the city of Bismarck, Burleigh County, and the state of North Dakota.[38] The daily newspapers of other major cities in North Dakota are also available at area newsstands.


There are six television stations based in Bismarck, and all of them have rebroadcasters in Minot, Williston, and Dickinson. The stations are:

Bismarck also carries KWMK, an affiliate of The CW, on cable channel 14, as well as Public-access television channels, on cable TV channels 2 and 12.


Bismarck supports some twenty-seven radio stations. Most of the commercial stations are owned by either Clear Channel Communications, Cumulus Media. Many of the lower frequency stations are broadcasters of national Christian radio networks. The local stations are:

FM Frequencies
AM Frequencies

NOAA Weather Radio station WXL78 broadcasts from Bismarck.


The old Northern Pacific Railway Depot, built in 1901 using the Mission Revival style. The building now houses a Mexican restaurant.

Bismarck Municipal Airport is south of the city and has the largest passenger volume in western North Dakota and the second highest within the state. The airport is served by United Express, Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Frontier Airlines. A new $15 million terminal opened in May 2005. The previous terminal was built in the mid-1960s and expanded in the mid-1970s. A windstorm collapsed part of the roof connecting the expanded terminal to the original building, and it was decided to demolish the entire complex and build the new terminal.

The BNSF Railway runs east-west through the city. There has not been Amtrak service in Bismarck since the North Coast Hiawatha service ended in 1979. The closest Amtrak station is in Minot, north of Bismarck, where the Empire Builder line runs.

Two federal highways pass through Bismarck. Interstate 94 runs east and west through the city. The north-south U.S. Route 83 merges in north Bismarck with Interstate 94 and runs east for roughly 25 miles (40 km) before turning south.

The Capital Area Transit System (CAT) began operations in May 2004.[39] This public bus system is operated by the Bis-Man Transit Board and has eleven routes throughout Bismarck and Mandan. Bis-Man Transit also operates a taxi service for senior citizens and people with disabilities.


Professional and amateur sports are popular in Bismarck.


High school and college sports are the main feature of the local athletics landscape. The athletic teams at the three public Bismarck high schools, Bismarck High School , Century High School, and Legacy High School are known as The Demons, The Patriots, and The Sabers respectively. The athletic teams at St. Mary's Central High School, Bismarck's Catholic high school, are known as The Saints. The teams at Bismarck State College and United Tribes Technical College are known as The Mystics and Thunderbirds, and both compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association. The teams at the University of Mary are The Marauders and compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Bismarck has an American Legion baseball team called the Governors.

In the Fall, the accent is on high school and college football and there are spirited rivalries among the several high schools in the area. The University of Mary added the sport in 1988. Most University of Mary football games are played in the Community Bowl. Popular sports during the winter months include ice hockey, wrestling and basketball. In Spring, baseball is one of the top amateur sports in the city with each high school, Bismarck State College, and The University of Mary providing teams. The University of Mary also has a softball team. Another popular high school and college sport during the Spring months is track and field. Summer months see no high school or college athletics, but in the Summer Bismarck has American Legion baseball and auto racing. The Fourth of July holiday is the height of rodeo time with rodeos being held in Mandan and Bismarck. The Summer months also see another popular sport in Bismarck, slow-pitch softball. Bismarck is the host city of the world's largest charity softball tournament, the Sam McQuade Sr. Softball Tournament in which more than four hundred teams from all over the United States and Canada compete.


One professional basketball team formerly based in Bismarck was the Dakota Wizards of the National Basketball Association Development League. The Wizards' first season took place in 1995 in the International Basketball Association. The Wizards won one title during their International Basketball Association days (1995-2001) and two during their Continental Basketball Association days (2001-2006) and were also the 2006-07 champions of the NBA D-League, their first season in the league. The team relocated to Santa Cruz, California in 2012, a year after being purchased by the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association. Bismarck has also been the home of two indoor professional football teams, the Bismarck Blaze and the Bismarck Roughriders, but both teams left the city soon after they were formed. Bismarck once had a professional baseball team, the Dakota Rattlers, but the team relocated to Minot after several seasons in Bismarck.

The Bismarck Bobcats hockey team of the North American Hockey League is made up of Junior players (age twenty and younger, sometimes age twenty-one if waivered). The Bobcats won back-to-back Borne Cup championships as members of the AWHL before merging into the NAHL in 2003. Recently the Bobcats have made two trips to the NAHL's national tournament, claiming their first-ever Robertson Cup title in 2010, defeating the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 3-0 on May 9, 2010. The Bobcats play at the VFW Sports Center on Washington Street, on the north side of Bismarck.

Notable people


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External links

  • City of Bismarck official website
  • Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau website
  • Bismarck Municipal Airport website
  • Bismarck, North Dakota at DMOZ

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