Moving to North Dakota just might bring you some peace, given that it’s known as the Peace Garden State. The nickname stems from the state’s International Peace Garden, built along its border with the province of Manitoba, Canada, as a gesture of friendly relations between the countries. If hitting the links is how you prefer to find your zen, North Dakota has more golf clubs per capita than any other state in the nation – with one course for every 5,468 people. Prefer nature? Set in the badlands of western North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and its famous wildlife – including bison, bighorn sheep and elk - attract tourists and residents alike, as does the Dakota Zoo, which houses approximately 123 species along the bank of the Missouri River in Bismarck, the capital.
It might not be long before the golf courses get a little more crowded, given that North Dakota is the fastest growing state in the country with a population growth rate of over 12% between 2010 and 2015. That’s a far cry from the previous decade when more than 90 percent of North Dakota's counties were experiencing out-migration. As of early 2016, the state had a population of over 739,000 people, compared to 637,000 residents in 2009. Despite this rapid increase, North Dakota still had the fourth smallest state population and the fourth lowest population density in the U.S.
What caused this dramatic reversal? You can thank the oil boom in western North Dakota, which brought a surge of job seekers to the state to fill well-paying positions in the oil fields. Even in early 2016, after energy prices faltered, the North Dakota Census Office reported that the state had more jobs per capita than any other state. Accordingly, it also had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation in December 2015 – just 2.7%, nearly 50% lower than the U.S. average unemployment rate of 5%. Thanks to these positive indicators, the Census Office now predicts that the state population could reach a million people by 2040.
It doesn’t hurt that real estate prices in North Dakota are relatively affordable. As of early 2016, the median home value statewide was $166,818 – roughly $17,000 less than the U.S. median – while the median rental price was $781. In Bismarck, the second-largest city with over 68,000 residents, the median home value was $217,683. And with a population of over 155,000, Fargo, the largest city, had a median home value of $185,710. Statewide, the median household income in early 2016 was $53,741 – nearly even with the U.S. median – while the high school graduation rate of over 90% was the 11th highest in the nation. Approximately 89% of North Dakotans are white, 5% are Native American, 3% are Hispanic, 1% are Asian and 1% are black, while Germans and Norwegians represent the largest reported ethnic heritages at 35% and 20% of the population, respectively.
North Dakota is bordered by Canada as well as three states: South Dakota to its south, Minnesota to its west and Montana to its east. Split in three regions from east to west, North Dakota offers a variety of terrain. The Red River Valley, found in east North Dakota, is flat and offers some of the richest soil in the nation. A number of lakes, rivers and rolling hills can be found just to the west of the Red River Valley. Rugged valleys, hills and an area rich in minerals comprises the Great Plains, which cover nearly half of North Dakota. One of the most interesting types of geography in North Dakota is its badlands, which are a valley of clay that was carved out by wind and water. This produced different rock formations, including cones, pyramids and buttes.
Ducks, white pelicans and sharp-tailed grouse can be found across the skies and waterways of North Dakota. Lucky for them, there are more wildlife refuges in North Dakota than any other state in the nation, primarily centered on wetlands and prairie potholes. In total, there are 63 refuges covering nearly 300,000 acres. If North Dakota was not your list of states to visit or reside in because you think it’s too cold, here are some things to consider. The state averages 200 sunny days a year, and some days in the middle of summer the sun rises before 6 a.m. and sets after 9 p.m. Monthly average temperatures range from 84 degrees in summer to -5.1 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. Finally, sirens have been put into place in North Dakota to warn residents of impending tornadoes. If a tornado is detected within 15 miles of your location, rest assured the sirens will sound.