Area, 70,665 sq mi (183,022 sq km).
Pop. (2000) 642,200, a 0.5% increase from 1990 pop.
Largest city, Fargo.
Motto, Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.
State bird, Western meadowlark.
State flower, wild prairie rose.
State tree, American elm.
Situated in the geographical center of North America, North Dakota is subject to the extremes of a continental climate. Semiarid conditions prevail in the western half of the state, but in the east an average annual rainfall of 22 in. (55 cm), much of it falling in the crop-growing spring and summer months, enables the rich soil to yield abundantly. North Dakota is one of the most rural states in the nation; the cities and towns supply the needs of neighboring farms, and industry is largely devoted to the processing of agricultural products.
On the plateau cattle graze, finding shelter in the many ravines, and large ranges are an economic necessity. In the northwestern area of the state oil was discovered in 1951, and petroleum is now North Dakota's leading mineral product, ahead of sand and gravel, lime, and salt. There are also natural-gas fields. Underlying the western counties are lignite reserves; close to the lignite beds are deposits of clay of such varied types that they serve as both construction and pottery materials.
Despite mineral production and some manufacturing, agriculture continues to be North Dakota's principal pursuit, and the processing of grain, meat, and dairy products is vital to such cities as Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, and Bismarck.
With such attractions as the Badlands, the International Peace Garden on the Canadian border, and recreational facilities provided by reservoirs (resulting from dam building in the 1950s), tourism has become North Dakota's third-ranking source of income, behind agriculture and mineral production.