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Bismarck is the capital of the U.S. state of North Dakotamarker, the county seat of Burleigh Countymarker, and the second most populous city in North Dakota after Fargomarker. Its population was 55,532 at the 2000 census. Its metropolitan population was 94,719 in 2000, but was estimated in 2008 to have grown to 104,944. Bismarck was founded in 1872 and has been North Dakota's capital since it gained statehood in 1889.

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

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


At a place once known as Missouri Crossing, the city that would become present-day Bismarck was founded in 1872 and given the name Edwinton, in honor of Edwin Ferry Johnson (1803–1872), a distinguished civil engineer who was engineer-in-chief for the Northern Pacific Railway from June 1866 to November 1870. In 1873 the Northern Pacific Railway changed the city's name to Bismarck, after the Germanmarker chancellor Otto von Bismarck, in an effort to attract German immigrants to settle along its route. But the discovery of gold in the nearby Black Hillsmarker in 1874 was the first real impetus for growth. Bismarck became the capital of the Dakota Territory in 1883 and of the state of North Dakotamarker in 1889.


Bismarck is located at (46.813343, -100.779004) .

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


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 Centermarker. The two Bismarck hospitals, St. Alexius Medical Center and 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 Mall, Northbrook Mall, Arrowhead Plaza, and the new Pinehurst Square "power center" mall.

The North Dakota State Capitolmarker 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 (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 house the North Dakota Heritage Center, the North Dakota State Library, the North Dakota Governor's Residencemarker, 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 which 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.

The Ruth Meiers Hospitality House, a 66-bed shelter for the homeless, is east of downtown Bismarck.


Because it is situated in the Great Plainsmarker between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakesmarker, Bismarck possesses a climate similar to both regions,{Clarify me|date=June 2009}} characterized by long, cold winters with average snowfall, and warm summers, 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 about of rain and of snow per year.

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) 68 (20.0) 81 (27.2) 93 (33.8) 98 (36.6) 111 (43.9) 114 (45.5) 109 (42.7) 105 (40.5) 95 (35.0) 79 (26.1) 66 (18.9)
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) -45 (-42.8) -45 (-42.8) -36 (-37.8) -12 (-24.4) 15 (-9.4) 30 (-1.1) 32 (0.0) 32 (0.0) 10 (-12.2) -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: National Weather Service [9165]


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/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, 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: Germanmarker (57.9%), Norwegianmarker (18.2%), Russian (7.7%), Irishmarker (7.2%), Englishmarker (5.0%), Swedishmarker (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 John Warford. The city commission meets every second and fourth Tuesday of each month.


With over 4,300 employees, the state government of North Dakotamarker is the largest employer in Bismarck. Bismarck's two major health care providers, St. Alexius Medical Center and Medcenter One Health Systems, together employ about 4,100 people. Other major employers in Bismarck include Bobcat (now a subsidiary of the Korean company Doosan Infracoremarker), Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Coventry Health Care, Bismarck Public Schools, Midwest Motor Express, and the United States Federal Government.

Bismarck is the home of MDU Resources Group, which in 2009 was ranked number 473 on the Fortune 500 list.


Elementary, middle and high schools

The Bismarck Public Schools system operates 15 elementary schools, three middle schools (Simle, Wachter, Horizon), two public high schools (Century High 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 three 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 Schoolmarker and Shiloh Christian School.

Higher education

There are five colleges and a university in Bismarck. The University of Mary, a four-year university operated by the Sisters of Saint Benedict, is the largest degree-granting institution in the city. Bismarck State College is a two-year public college and a member of the North Dakota University System. United Tribes Technical College is a two-year tribal college. Rasmussen College, a two-year private college, is the North Dakota satellite campus of the Rasmussen College system.


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

Theater companies in Bismarck include Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre, the Shade Tree Players children's theater group, Dakota Stage Ltd, 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 spans more than three miles (5 km) along the banks of the Missouri Rivermarker and contains several miles of biking trails, the Dakota Zoomarker, and Super Slide Amusement Park.

In total, the Parks and Recreation District operates roughly 2,300 acres (9 km²) of public parkland.

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).

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, six miles (10 km) east of the city, and two lakes a few miles west of the city. The extensive Lake Sakakaweamarker is70 miles (110 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.

Health care

Bismarck is a regional center for health care. The city has two hospitals: St. Alexius Medical Center (285-bed) and Medcenter One Health Systems (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 Dakotamarker. St. Alexius and Medcenter One have joined forces to form the Bismarck Cancer Center. Medcenter One was founded in 1908 as Bismarck Evangelical Hospital, renamed in 1955 to Bismarck Hospital, then renamed again in 1984 to its present designation, MedCenter One.



The only daily newspaper in Bismarck is the Bismarck Tribune. 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 Countymarker, and the state of North Dakotamarker. 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 Minotmarker, Willistonmarker, and Dickinsonmarker. The stations are:

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 supports some twenty-seven 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 are:

FM Radio

AM Radio


The old Northern Pacific Railway Depot, built in 1901 using the Mission Revival style.
The building now houses a Mexican restaurant.
Because it is nearly in the center of North Dakotamarker, Bismarck has become a major transportation hub.

Bismarck Municipal Airportmarker 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 and Northwest. 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 eventually it was decided to demolish the entire complex and build the new terminal.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe 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 Minotmarker, north of Bismarck, where the Empire Builder line runs.

Two federal highways pass through Bismarck. Interstate 94 runs east and west through the city and connects Bismarck and Mandanmarker. The north-south U.S. Route 83 merges in north Bismarck with Interstate 94 to run east for roughly 25 miles (40 km) beyond which it again runs north-south.

The Capital Area Transit System (CAT) began operations in May 2004. 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 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 Schoolmarker, 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 Charity Softball tournament in which compete more than four hundred teams from all over the United States and Canada.


One professional basketball team is based in Bismarck, the Dakota Wizards of the National Basketball Association Development League. Professional sports are a recent development in the area. The Wizards took root in the mid- to late-1990s. The Wizards won titles during their International Basketball Association and Continental Basketball Association days and are the current champions of the National Basketball Association Development League. Bismarck has also been the home of two indoor professional football teams, 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 20 and under, sometimes age 21 if waivered).

Notable residents


  1. Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical area population and estimated components of change: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008
  3. Information about Bismarck economy
  4. Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre website
  5. Shade Tree Players website
  6. Dakota Stage Ltd website
  7. Information about Bismarck Parks and Recreation District
  8. Detroit radio station hopes to break snow angel record
  9. Bismarck Cancer Center website
  10. Bismarck Tribune information
  11. Capital Area Transit information

External links

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