Bismarck, North Dakota

For other uses, see Bismarck.
Bismarck, North Dakota
City of Bismarck

Location of Bismarck in Burleigh County, North Dakota
Coordinates: 46°48′48″N 100°46′44″W / 46.81333°N 100.77889°W / 46.81333; -100.77889
Country United States
State North Dakota
County Burleigh
Founded May 14, 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 (2015)[3] 71,167
  Rank US: 490th
  Density 1,986.1/sq mi (766.8/km2)
  Urban 81,955 (349th)
  Metro 129,517 (304th)
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 (/ˈbɪzˌmɑːrk/) is the capital of the U.S. state of North Dakota and the county seat of Burleigh County.[5] It is the second-most populous city in North Dakota after Fargo, which is located on the eastern border along the Red River. The city's population was 61,272 at the 2010 census,[6] while its metropolitan population was 129,517. In 2015, Forbes magazine ranked Bismarck as the seventh fastest-growing small city in the United States.[7][8]

Bismarck was founded by European Americans in 1872 on the east bank of the Missouri River. It has been North Dakota's capital city since 1889, when the state was created from the Dakota Territory and admitted to the Union.

Bismarck is located across the river from Mandan, named after an historic Native American tribe of the area.[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.


For thousands of years, present-day central North Dakota was inhabited by indigenous peoples, who created successive cultures. The historic Mandan Native American tribe occupied the area long before Europeans arrived. They spoke the Hidatsa language.[10] The Hidatsa name of Bismarck is mirahacii arumaaguash ("Place of the tall willows");[11] the Arikara name is ituhtaáwe [itUhtaáwe].[12]

In 1872 European Americans founded a settlement at what was then called Missouri Crossing, so named because the Lewis and Clark Expedition crossed the river there on their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase in 1804-1806. It had been an area of Mandan settlement. Later the new town was called Edwinton, after Edwin Ferry Johnson (1803–1872), engineer-in-chief for the Northern Pacific Railway. Its construction of railroads in the territory attracted workers and settlers.

In 1873, the Northern Pacific Railway renamed the city as Bismarck, in honor of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Railroad officials hoped to attract German immigrant settlers to the area and German investment in the railroad.[13] The discovery of gold in the nearby Black Hills of South Dakota the following year was a greater impetus for growth. Thousands of miners came to the area, encroaching on what the Lakota considered sacred territory and leading to heightened tensions with the Native Americans. Bismarck became a freight-shipping center on the "Custer Route" from the Black Hills.[13] In 1883 Bismarck was designated as the capital of the Dakota Territory, and in 1889 as the state capital of the new state of North Dakota.


Early-May 2007 astronaut photography of Bismarck, North Dakota, taken from the International Space Station (ISS)

Bismarck is located at 46°48′48″N 100°46′44″W / 46.81333°N 100.77889°W / 46.81333; -100.77889 (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. Originally operated as a noted luxury hotel, it has been adapted for senior housing and a retail restaurant.

The city has developed around downtown Bismarck, the center of historic development. It is distinctive because the city's major shopping center, Kirkwood Mall, is located in the center city rather than in the suburbs. Several other major retail stores are in the vicinity of Kirkwood Mall, which was developed near the Bismarck Civic Center. The two Bismarck hospitals, St. Alexius Medical Center and Sanford Health (previously Medcenter One Health Systems) are both downtown. The streets are lined with small stores and restaurants, providing numerous amenities.

Much recent commercial and residential growth has taken place 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 and the state, 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 an historic neighborhood near downtown Bismarck. The neighborhood was named after the art deco Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. Some homes in this neighborhood date to the 1880s, although many were built in the first decades of the 20th century. At times, the city has proposed widening the streets in the neighborhood to improve traffic flow. Many residents object because such a project would require the removal of many of the towering American elms which line the streets. These have escaped the elm disease that destroyed street canopies of trees in Eastern cities.

After the completion of Garrison Dam in 1953 by the Army Corps of Engineers, which improved flood control, the floodplain of the Missouri River became a more practical place for development. Significant residential and commercial building has taken place in this area on the south side of the city. The Upper Missouri River is still subject to seasonal flooding.


Situated in the middle of the Great Plains, between the geographic centers of the United States and Canada, 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.


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201571,167[19]16.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[20]
2015 Estimate[3]

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, which means they must generally command a majority of the electorate. This the opportunity for smaller interest groups or minorities to elect candidates of their choice, reducing representation of the electorate. 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 (company wide, including multi-state area.)
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, the Catholic St. Mary's Central High School and Shiloh Christian School, operated by Protestants.

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, the 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 and North Dakota State Library.[28]


The Belle Mehus Auditorium, a 1914 historic building in downtown Bismarck, 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,[29] the Shade Tree Players children's theater group,[30] Dakota Stage Ltd,[31] 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. The Parks and Recreation District operates roughly 2,300 acres (930 ha) of public parkland.[32] Sertoma Park stretches more than 3 miles (4.8 km) along the banks of the Missouri River. Within the park are several miles of biking trails and the Dakota Zoo.

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 Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, located 7 miles (11 km) south of neighboring Mandan, North Dakota. It contains the partial reconstruction of Fort Abraham Lincoln, the headquarters of the 7th Cavalry and last command of General George Armstrong Custer before the Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass). The park includes On-a-Slant Village, a partially rebuilt earth lodge village that was once occupied by people of the historic 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.[33]

Hunting and fishing are popular in the area, with hunting seasons for deer, pheasant, and waterfowl. Fishing is a year-round sport on the Missouri River bordering Bismarck, and 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, which has 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 on the west side of the river; and two lakes several miles west of the city.

In February 2007, Bismarck broke the record for the most snow angels made in one place. A total of 8,962 participants came to the capitol grounds for the event.[34]

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 the Catholic facility 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.[35] Medcenter One was founded in 1908 as Bismarck Evangelical Hospital. In 1955 it was renamed as Bismarck Hospital, renamed again in 1984 to MedCenter One, and in 2012 became part of the Sanford Health system.[36]



Bismarck is served by the Bismarck Tribune, the city's daily newspaper. Established in 1873, the paper 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.[37] The daily newspapers of other major cities in North Dakota are also available at area newsstands.


Six television stations are 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 historic Northern Pacific Railway Depot, built in 1901 using the Mission Revival style. The building has been adapted for use as a Mexican restaurant.

The Capital Area Transit System (CAT) began operations in May 2004.[38] 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 para-transit service for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Bismarck Municipal Airport is south of the city. It 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. After a windstorm collapsed part of the roof connecting the expanded terminal to the original building, officials decided to demolish the entire complex and build the new terminal.

The BNSF Railway runs east-west through the city. The railway was originally integral to the growth of Bismarck and Mandan. Today it is used for freight. Due to restructuring in the railroad industry, there has not been Amtrak passenger 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–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.



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. 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. Other 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. High schools and colleges also feature track and field during the spring.

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. Slow-pitch softball is played by teams in the city. Bismarck is the host city of the world's largest charity softball tournament, the Sam McQuade Sr. Softball Tournament, in which more than 400 teams compete from all over the United States and Canada.

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 waived). The Bobcats won back-to-back Borne Cup championships as members of the America West Hockey League before merging into the NAHL in 2003. The Bobcats have made several trips to the NAHL's national tournament, claiming their first-ever Robertson Cup title in 2010.


The Dakota Wizards of the National Basketball Association Development League was formerly based in Bismarck. 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). They were 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.

Starting with the 2017 season, Bismarck will be home to the Bismarck Bucks, a professional indoor football team in Champions Indoor Football. Bismarck has previously been the home of two professional indoor 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.

Notable people


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Coordinates: 46°48′48″N 100°46′44″W / 46.813343°N 100.779004°W / 46.813343; -100.779004

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