1. North Dakota may, or may not, be the 39th state to have joined the union. Turns out North and South Dakota joined at the same time (as if people didn’t already have enough trouble telling them apart!), and then-Secretary of State James Blaine shuffled up the paperwork so no-one would know which state was first to sign. The reason why North Dakota is listed in the #39 spot while South Dakota takes #40 is just because of alphabetical order, that’s all.
2. The North Dakota legislature has twice rejected resolutions to drop the “North” from the state’s name. At neither time was any attempt made to reunite the state with the other Dakota.
3. Lewis and Clark spent more time in North Dakota (or what would become North Dakota) than any other state. In fact, they hooked up with Sacagawea outside of not-yet-Bismarck. They also met their first grizzly bears in North Dakota—guess it’s a good thing they didn’t get the two mixed up, or the dollar coin would look very different today.
4. North Dakota, as of 2013, ranks as the happiest state in the union, at least according to the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. The real shocker? Not only did it make the leap from being #19 in 2012, but it also edged out Hawaii, which had been holding on to the top spot for the last few years.
5. North Dakota and Hawaii might share top honors for happiness, but there’s one aspect in which they’re markedly different (besides the weather, climate, demographics, availability of pineapple, and a few other trifling details)—North Dakota, unlike Hawaii, is the state least likely to be visited by tourists.
6. North Dakota also has the fewest endangered species of any state. Hmmmm, wonder if there’s any connection there?
7. North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields topped the one million barrel a day production level last December, becoming only the fourth-ever U.S. oil field to do so, and one of only 10 worldwide.
8. Thanks to those super-productive oil fields, North Dakota’s budget surplus is expected to hit $3 billion by next year.
9. North Dakota led the nation last year (2013) in growth of millionaires per capita. Probably something to do with that oil boom, I’d guess.
10. North Dakota, in 2012 and 2013, was the fastest-growing state in the union. Probably also oil boom-related.
11. All of that population growth was not occurring in the tiny city of Maza. As of the 2000 census the town had five people, but the 2010 census didn’t even bother to count them.
12. No matter how small a podunk, each incorporated area in North Dakota is officially a city. The state simply can’t be bothered with differentiating between towns, villages, boroughs, hamlets or any other type of geopolitical minutiae.
13. North Dakota’s got a city named Buttzville, And one named Flasher. Heheh.
14. North Dakota, were it to secede from the union, would have the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.
15. North Dakota had an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent as of April 2014, by far the lowest rate in the nation.
16. Almost 25 percent of North Dakotans are employed in the agriculture industry, and about 90 percent of the state’s land is taken up by farms.
17. North Dakota is home to the nation’s largest state-owned sheep research center. Not baaaaad.
18. North Dakota produces nearly half of the nation’s spring wheat, and is also a top producer of durum wheat, barley, oats, canola, flaxseed, lentils and edible beans. (This last-named begs the question—which state is tops in producing the inedible kind?)
19. Although North Dakota’s state flower is the wild prairie rose, the one flower they grow more of than anything else is the sunflower, which is harvested for its oil. North Dakota usually ranks No. 1 in the nation when it comes to sunflower production (sorry, Kansas!), but wet weather and flooding had it coming in second behind South Dakota in both 2011 and 2013.
20. North Dakota’s still tops when it comes to honey production, though. Sweet!
21. North Dakotan meatpackers were the first to refrigerate their beef and ship it out that way, rather than sending live cattle on boxcars to the Chicago slaughterhouses.
22. North Dakota produces enough beef to make 2 billion hamburgers each year, and enough wheat to make bread for 108 million buns.
23. And how ’bout some fries to go with those burgers? J.R. Simplot in Grand Forks processes over 400 million lbs. of fries per year, most of them sold to McDonald’s.
24. North Dakotans are really serious about their burgers, too—Rutland has a monument that marks the creation of the world’s largest hamburger, a 3,591 lb. whopper cooked in 1982. And the previous record holder? This 3,020 burger was made in Towner, ND.
25. Most of the nation’s pasta is made from North Dakota-grown durum wheat. In fact, the state claims to produce a sufficient amount to provide each American with 93 pounds of pasta per year. Hmmm, don’t think I manage to consume quite that much, wonder who’s been eating my share?
26. According to a 2010 study, some 80 percent of the weeds growing alongside North Dakota’s roads show evidence of genetic modification. Too weird—who’d want to modify a weed?
27. Fargo North, Decoder was a character on the 1970s “Electric Company” TV series, an Inspector Clouseau-type detective who un-scrambled words and phrases. He was played by Skip Hinnant, who also voiced Fritz the Cat in the X-rated animated film of the same name.
28. Most of the movie “Fargo” actually took place in Minnesota, and, apart from a few exterior shots of Fargo itself, was filmed there, as well.
29. Although the woodchipper scene in “Fargo” was set in Moose Lake, Minn., the actual movie prop is now on display at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, complete with fake leg and trapper hats for your photoshopping pleasure.
30. The documentary “Jesus Camp” was filmed in North Dakota, at a campground outside Devils Lake, but it focuses on three children from Missouri. After the movie came out to somewhat mixed reactions, the camp itself shut down indefinitely.
31. The city of Rugby claims to be the geographic center of North America, despite the fact that no-one’s actually verified that claim, but, eh, it’s probably close enough. Anyway, they went to all the trouble of erecting a monument, complete with U.S., Canadian and Mexican flags. Since no rival claimant has surfaced, I say we just let it stand.
32. The Casselton Can Pile, built in 1933 by gas station owner Max Taubert, is the world’s largest tower of oil cans. It may (or may not) be 50 feet high.
33. The old-time sheepherders on White Butte must have gotten as bored as Mr. Taubert did, since they piled up rocks into mounds which are still standing today and have been nicknamed “rock johnnies”.
34. You won’t get bored driving the Enchanted Highway, which stretches 32 miles between Regent and Gladstone, since it’s decorated every few miles by some of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures. In fact, one of these sculptures, “Geese in Flight”, even earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
35. Self-taught sculptor Gary Greff, who created the Enchanted Highway sculptures, also turned an old elementary school into a castle, which he opened in 2012 as the Enchanted Castle hotel.
36. Temperatures in North Dakota can vary quite drastically throughout the year, but never so much so as in 1936: February of that year saw a record low of 60 below in Parshall, while July saw a high of 121 in Steele.
37. Turtle Lake is home to the annual U.S. and World Championship Turtle Races, whose entrants have been known to set blazing speeds of up to a quarter-mile per hour.
38. Lake Sakakwea, a reservoir about 50 miles outside of Bismarck, is the third-largest man-made lake in the U.S. It has a shoreline of 1,320 miles, just 30 miles fewer than that of the entire state of Florida.
39. Devils Lake is said to be the “Perch Capital of the World.” Guess that sure beats being the Crappie Capital.
40. In 1881, a North Dakotan named David Henderson Houston filed a patent on the first roll film camera, which had actually been invented by his brother Peter. Eight years later he sold the patent to George Eastman, and also provided a suggestion for the name—he wanted to go with Nodak, an abbreviation of No[rth] Dak[ota], but Eastman decided to change the initial “N” to a “K,” and the rest is photographic history.
41. If Rhode Island decided to have a party, and invite all its equally tiny friends, North Dakota’s got room enough for 46 of them inside its roomy borders.
42. Less than 1 percent of North Dakota is forest land, which makes it the top state for tree-free living. Good news if you’re a dendrophobe.
43. North Dakota has more golf courses per capita—one course for every 5,468 people—than does any other state.
44. North Dakota also has the highest number of churches per capita.
45. North Dakota is one of only two states in the union where less than 1 percent of all church-goers attend non-denominational services. North Dakota has a high population of both Lutherans and Catholics.
46. North Dakota’s number one cryptid is the Thunderbird. The petroglyphs at Writing Rock depict such a beastie, and the state has had numerous sightings in modern times as well, including one as recently as 2009.
47. The world’s largest buffalo (statue) can be found at Frontier Village in Jamestown. In case you’re wondering, he’s a boy, and he’s anatomically correct.
48. Jamestown is also home to the National Buffalo Museum, which has its own herd of bison. The most famous of these are undoubtedly the three rare albinos: White Cloud, Dakota Miracle and Dakota Legend. According to Native American legend, albino buffalo are supposed to be sacred. Well, I’m not sure if these three have any super-special buffalo powers or anything, but they are awfully cute.
49. The Daily Beast, compiling a list of states ranked from most to least attractive based on criteria such as number of natives working as fashion models and competing in beauty pageants, found North Dakota to be the least attractive state in the union. Looking at their methodology from a different perspective, though, it seems all they’ve proved is that North Dakota just isn’t as shallow as all the other states.