Bismarck, North Dakota

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City of Bismarck
Location of Bismarck in Burleigh County, North Dakota
Location of Bismarck in Burleigh County, North Dakota
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Dakota
 • MayorJohn Warford
 • City27.4 sq mi (71.0 km2)
 • Land26.9 sq mi (69.7 km2)
 • Water0.5 sq mi (1.3 km2)
1,686 ft (514 m)
 • City55,532
 • Density2,065.2/sq mi (797.4/km2)
 • Metro
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)701
FIPS code38-07200Template:GR
GNIS feature ID1035849Template:GR

Bismarck is the capital of the U.S. state of North Dakota, the county seat of Burleigh County,Template:GR and the second most populous city in North Dakota after Fargo. Its population was 55,532 at the 2000 census. Its metropolitan population was 94,719 in 2000, but was estimated in 2006 to have grown to 103,242.[1] Bismarck was founded in 1872. Bismarck has been North Dakota's capital since it gained statehood in 1889.

Bismarck sits on the Missouri Plateau directly across the Missouri River from Mandan. The two cities make up the core urban area of the Bismarck-Mandan Metropolitan Statistical Area

The North Dakota State Capitol, the tallest building in the state, towers over the central part of Bismarck. The state government employs many people within the city. As a hub of manufacturing, retail trade, and health care, Bismarck is the economic center of a large portion of south-central North Dakota.


The city that would become present day Bismarck was founded in 1872 under the name "Edwinton." This original name was in honor of Edwin M. Johnson, a chief engineer for the Northern Pacific Railway company. In 1873, the city's name was changed to "Bismarck" in honor of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The new name was introduced by the Northern Pacific Railway company in an effort to attract German immigrants to settle in the city. However, the discovery of gold in the nearby Black Hills in 1874 was the first real impetus for growth. In 1883, Bismarck became the capital of the Dakota Territory and, in 1889, of the state of North Dakota.


Bismarck is located at 46°48′48″N 100°46′44″W / 46.81333°N 100.77889°W / 46.81333; -100.77889Invalid arguments have been passed to the {{#coordinates:}} function (46.813343, -100.779004)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 71.0 km² (27.4 mi²). 69.6 km² (26.9 mi²) of it is land and 1.3 km² (0.5 mi²) of it (1.90%) is water.


North Dakota State Capitol

The North Dakota State Capitol complex is located just north of downtown Bismarck. The 19-story Art Deco Capitol building is the tallest building in the city at 241.75 feet (74 m). The Capitol building towers over the central part of the city and is easily seen from 20 miles (30 km) away on a clear day. Completed during the Great Depression in 1934, it replaced an earlier capitol building which burned to the ground in 1930. The Capitol grounds also 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 located in eastern Bismarck. Bismarck is also the home of the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House, a 66-bed house for the homeless.

Downtown Bismarck is located near the center of the city. The downtown area is rather distinctive because the city's major shopping center, Kirkwood Mall, is located there instead of in a suburban setting. Several other major retail stores are located in the vicinity of Kirkwood Mall, as is the Bismarck Civic Center. Downtown is also home to both Medcenter One Health Systems and St. Alexius Medical Center. The streets of downtown Bismarck are lined with small stores and restaurants.

The Cathedral District is a historic neighborhood located near downtown Bismarck. The neighborhood gets its name from the art deco Cathedral of the Holy Spirit located within 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.

Much of the recent commercial and residential growth in the city of Bismarck has taken place on the northern side of the city, due in large part to expanding retail shops. Shopping centers in this area include the Gateway Mall, Northbrook Mall, Arrowhead Plaza, and the new Pinehurst Square "power center" mall.


Bismarck, North Dakota
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches

Located in the Great Plains between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes, Bismarck possesses a climate similar to both locations. The climate is characterized by long, cold winters with average snowfall. Summers are warm, and frequently hot and humid. Thunderstorms occur in spring and summer, but in general, the Bismarck climate is quite dry.

The warmest month in Bismarck is July, where high and low temperatures average 85°F (29 °C) and 56 °F (14 °C) respectively. The coldest month is January, at 21 °F (-6 °C) and -1 °F (-18 °C). The wettest month is June, with 65.8 mm (2.59 in) of precipitation, and the driest month is December, averaging just 11 mm (0.44 in). The city receives an average of around 17 inches (430 mm) of rain per year, and 41 inches (1,000 mm) of snow per season.

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F (°C) 63 (17.2) 69 (20.5) 81 (27.2) 93 (33.8) 98 (36.6) 111 (43.8) 109 (42.7) 109 (42.7) 105 (40.5) 95 (35) 79 (26.1) 65 (18.3)
Norm High °F (°C) 21.1 (-6.1) 28.5 (-1.9) 40.2 (4.6) 55.9 (13.3) 69.1 (20.6) 77.8 (25.4) 84.5 (29.2) 83.3 (28.5) 71.6 (22.0) 58.2 (14.6) 38.2 (3.4) 25.7 (-3.5)
Norm Low °F (°C) -0.6 (-18.1) 7.8 (-13.4) 19.1 (-7.2) 30.6 (-0.8) 42.8 (6.0) 51.6 (10.9) 56.4 (13.6) 54.7 (12.6) 43.7 (6.5) 32.1 (0.1) 17.8 (-7.9) 4.8 (-15.1)
Rec Low °F (°C) -44 (-42.2) -43 (-41.6) -31 (-35) -12 (-24.4) 15 (-9.4) 30 (-1.1) 35 (1.6) 33 (0.5) 11 (-11.6) -10 (-23.3) -30 (-34.4) -43 (-41.6)
Precip in. (mm) 0.45 (11.4) 0.51 (12.9) 0.85 (21.6) 1.46 (37.1) 2.22 (56.4) 2.59 (65.8) 2.58 (65.5) 2.15 (54.6) 1.61 (40.9) 1.28 (32.5) 0.7 (17.8) 0.44 (11.2)
Source: [1]


Historical population
Census Pop.

As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there were 55,532 people, 23,185 households, and 14,444 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,065.2/mi² (797.4/km²). There were 24,217 housing units at an average density of 900.6/mi² (347.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.78% White, 0.28% Black or African American, 3.39% Native American, 0.45% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.17% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. 0.75% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

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 out 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% had 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 uses the city commission style of municipal government. Citizens elect five at-large city commissioners. The president of the city commission also fills the office of mayor of the city. The current mayor of Bismarck is John Warford. The city commission meets every second and fourth Tuesday of each month.


With over 4,300 employees, the state government of North Dakota is the largest employer in Bismarck. Bismarck's two major health care providers, Medcenter One Health Systems and St. Alexius Medical Center, together employ about 4,100 people. Other major employers in Bismarck include Bobcat/Ingersoll Rand, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck Public Schools, Midwest Motor Express, and the United States Federal Government.[2]

Bismarck is also the home of MDU Resources Group. As of 2007, the company was ranked as number 519 on the Fortune 1000 list. It is believed that the company will enter the Fortune 500 list in the near future, which would make it the only such company based in North Dakota.



The Bismarck Public Schools system has 15 elementary schools, three middle schools, two public high schools (Century High and Bismarck High), one alternative high school (South Central High School), and two private high schools (St. Mary's Central High School and Shiloh Christian). The system educates 10,400 students and employs 1,500 people.

Higher education

Bismarck is home to several colleges and a university. The University of Mary is the largest degree-granting institution in the city of Bismarck. It is a four-year university operated by the Sisters of St. Benedict. Bismarck State College, a two-year public college, is a member of the North Dakota University System. Bismarck is also home to United Tribes Technical College (a two-year tribal college) and a satellite campus of Rasmussen College (a two-year private college).


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The Belle Mehus Auditorium, a historic building dating back to 1914 and located in downtown Bismarck, is a center for the arts in the metropolitan area. Northern Plains Dance and Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra hold their performances there. Theatre companies in Bismarck include Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre[3], the Shade Tree Players[4] children's theater group, Dakota Stage Ltd[5], University of Mary, and Bismarck State College, along with the various high school groups. The Gannon and Elsa Forde Art Galleries are located 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 is one of the best known parks in Bismarck, spanning more than three miles (5 km) along the banks of the Missouri River. Along with four miles (6 km) of biking trails, Sertoma Park is also home to the Dakota Zoo and Super Slide Amusement Park. In total, the Parks and Recreation District operates approximately 2,300 acres (9 km²) of public park land.[6]

Bismarck is also home to five golf courses: 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).

Hunting and fishing are also common activities in the area. Hunting seasons for deer, pheasant, and waterfowl are popular. Meanwhile, fishing is a year-round sport with the Missouri River running through the Bismarck-Mandan community. There are public docks on the Missouri. The north location is at the "Port of Bismarck," which is also home to the Lewis and Clark Riverboat. The next location is the Fox Island landing, which is located about half a mile southwest of Riverwood Golf Course. Further south is the Bismarck Parks and Recreation-operated General Sibley Park, which includes a boat ramp and picnic area. With the recent popularity of poker, the Bis-Man Poker Club [2] has become another popular pastime.

The Bismarck area is also home to several dammed lakes, including McDowell Dam Lake, located six miles (10 km) east of the city, two dammed lakes located west of Mandan on I-94, and the man-made Lake Sakakawea, located 70 miles (110 km) north of Bismarck, which was formed by the Garrison Dam project.

  • In February 2007, Bismarck broke the U.S. world record for most snow angels made in one place. A total of 8,962 participants showed up to the capitol grounds for the event.

Health care

Bismarck is a regional center for health care. The city has two hospitals: Medcenter One Health Systems (238-bed) and St. Alexius Medical Center (285-bed). 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. Both St. Alexius and Medcenter One have joined forces to form the Bismarck Cancer Center.[7]



The only daily newspaper in Bismarck is the Bismarck Tribune. The paper was established in 1873 and is the oldest continuing business in the area. The Tribune is the official newspaper of the city of Bismarck, Burleigh County, and the state of North Dakota.[8] 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 include:

Bismarck also carries KWMK, an affiliate of The CW, on cable channel 14, as well as a public access channel, Community Access Television, on cable channel 12.


Bismarck is home to a number of radio stations. All of the commercial stations are owned by either Clear Channel Communications or Cumulus Media. Many of the lower frequency stations are broadcasters of national Christian radio networks. The local stations include:

FM Radio

AM Radio


Because of its central location within North Dakota, Bismarck has become a major transportation hub for the central part of the state.

Bismarck Municipal Airport is located south of the city and has the largest passenger volume in western North Dakota and the second highest within the state. The airport's main airline is Northwest, although it is also served by United Express and Allegiant Air. A new $15 million dollar terminal opened in May 2005. The previous terminal had been in use for over 40 years.

The BNSF Railway runs east-west through the city. There has not been Amtrak service in Bismarck since 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 metropolitan area and connects Bismarck and Mandan. U.S. Route 83 runs north and south through the northern half of Bismarck until merging with Interstate 94. U.S. Route 83 doesn't split away from Interstate 94 again until roughly 25 miles (40 km) east of the Bismarck.

In May 2004, "Capital Area Transit" System (or "CAT") was launched.[9] This public bus system is operated by the Bis-Man Transit Board and includes eleven routes throughout the Bismarck-Mandan metropolitan area. Bis-Man Transit also offers a taxi service for senior citizens and people with disabilities.


Like in many other cities, athletics (both non-professional and professional) are popular activities in the Bismarck community.


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

The fall season is dominated by football, both high school and college. Several high schools in the area have a football rivalry with each other. The University of Mary added the sport in 1988. Most games are played in the Community Bowl. Popular sports during the winter months include ice hockey, wrestling and basketball. During the spring season, baseball is one of the top non-professional sports in the city with all high schools, BSC, and U-Mary providing teams. U-Mary also has a softball team. Another popular high school and college sport during the spring months is track and field. The summer months see no high school or college athletics, but the city is home to American Legion baseball and auto racing. The July 4th holiday is the also the height of rodeo time with rodeos held in both Mandan and Bismarck during the period. Summer months also see another popular sport in Bismarck, slow-pitch softball. Bismarck is the home of the world's largest charity softball tournament, the Sam McQuade Charity Softball tournament that hosts 400+ teams from all over the United States and Canada.


Professional teams in Bismarck include the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League and the Bismarck Bobcats of the North American Hockey League. Pro sports are a recent development in the area. Both the semi-pro Bobcats and pro Wizards took root in the mid to late 1990s. The Wizards won titles during their IBA and CBA days and are the current champions of the NBA Development League. Bismarck has also been the home of two indoor pro football teams, but both teams quickly left the city after start-up. Bismarck also had a pro baseball team, the Dakota Rattlers that relocated after several seasons in Bismarck.

The Bobcats are actually Junior players (20 and under, sometimes 21 if waivered). If they were professional or semi-pro they would not be able to go on to play college.

Notable residents


External links