View of a modern residential neighborhood in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck is a big city situated in Burleigh County in the US State of North Dakota. Bismarck also serves as the state's capital and its second-most populous city. The city of Bismarck is located on the eastern banks of the Missouri River, approximately 315 kilometers from Fargo, North Dakota, and 328 kilometers from Pierre, South Dakota. Bismarck functions as an economic center of North Dakota's south-central portion and South Dakota's north-central portion. 

Geography And Climate Of Bismarck

State Capitol of North Dakota in Bismarck.
State Capitol of North Dakota in Bismarck.

Bismarck covers a total area of 90.12 sq. km, of which 88.83 sq. km is occupied by land, and 1.29 sq. km is covered by water. Placed at the heart of the Great Plains, exactly halfway between the US and Canada's geographic centers, Bismarck experiences a humid continental climate, with hot and wet summers and cold, snowy winters. July is the year's warmest month having an average temperature of 21.8°C, while January is the year's coldest month at - 10.7°C. 

History Of Bismarck

North Dakota State Library on the North Dakota State Capitol Grounds, Bismarck
North Dakota State Library on the North Dakota State Capitol Grounds, Bismarck. 

The Mandan Native American tribe were the earliest recorded residents of the area that now comprises Bismarck. The modern city was founded in 1872 as a result of extensive railway construction in the area. The city was mainly used as a military encampment and a supply hub along the railroad. A year after its founding, the city was given its modern name of Bismarck. The name was changed to honor the founding father of the modern German nation and to potentially attract German settlers and investors to the area.

To this day, Bismarck is the only state capital named after a foreign government official. Eventually, gold was discovered in the area, and Bismarck experienced an era of growth and increased settlement. It was named the capital of the then-Dakota Territory in 1883, replacing Yankton. When North Dakota achieved statehood in 1889, the state government chose Jamestown to be the capital. The residents of Bismarck are said to have reacted poorly to this and raided Jamestown for their state documents. The decision to make Jamestown the capital was supposedly reversed after this incident.

During the era of the gold rush, Bismarck was known as a haven of crime and conflict. The early years of statehood in the 1890s were a period of economic decline, and to further the misery, a fire destroyed a great swath of the city in 1898. The state capitol building itself was destroyed in a separate fire in 1930. The rebuilding process was controversial and included a strike that ended after the declaration of martial law. Only a year later, North Dakota Governor William Langer, the same man who declared martial law on the strikers, was himself convicted of felonies and removed from office.

WWII saw the creation of the Fort Lincoln Internment Camp in 1941. This facility held German, Italian, and Japanese prisoners of war. Fort Lincoln also interned civilians of those aforementioned ethnicities at times, violating their human rights. Bismarck continued to grow in the post-war period and developed a thriving retail industry. The city also began to reverse its lawless reputation from the previous century. The 1970s brought great development and change in Bismarck, an era considered Bismarck's greatest era of growth. The population grew, and new business inroads were being created for the city. Bismarck would also benefit from North Dakota's oil industry in the ensuing decades. Today, Bismarck is a thriving town, and the second most populated city in North Dakota, behind Fargo.

The Population And Economy Of Bismarck

Bismarck has a population of 73,622 inhabitants as per the latest US Census. Approximately 89% of the city's population is White, and 2.7% is Black. There is a sizable Native American population at 4.3%, and Hispanic residents make up 2.5% of the population. Around 66% of Bismarck's population is said to be religious, with 25% of that population adhering to the Catholic tradition. Approximately 23% of religious Bismarck residents adhere to Lutheran traditions. The remaining religious populace of Bismarck mostly follows other Christian denominations. The only non-Christian group on record is a 0.4% Muslim population.

The state government is the biggest employer in Bismarck, followed by Sanford Health and the public school system. The federal government is also another major employer. Bismarck is a prime spot for the retail and service industries, with the various businesses employing most of the city's population.

Attractions In Bismarck

North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck, North Dakota
North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck, North Dakota. Editorial credit: Nagel Photography /

There are a fair amount of things to do and see in Bismarck. One can visit the Dakota Zoo and admire exotic and exciting animals from around the world. There are also beautiful views and potential activities on and around the Missouri River. One can bring oneself or one's family to the Superslide Amusement Park or visit the Gateway to Science center for a more educational experience. One can also visit the Kirkwood Mall, which is the primary shopping area in Bismarck. Finally, there are prominent breweries with friendly atmospheres and entertainment elements, such as Bismarck Brewing and the Laughing Son Brewing Company.

Bismarck may not be the biggest state capital you have ever heard of. However, the city has an incredible story filled with intrigue, drama, and growth. Rolling Stone actually rated Bismarck as the most boring town in the United States; however, that rating may not be entirely fair. Perhaps if one knows where Bismarck comes from, it may make more sense as to why the city has chosen to be quieter in the modern day. Furthermore, with a little bit of digging, it becomes clear to see that Bismarck is by no means boring, looks can be deceiving, and perhaps it is only misunderstood.

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