Why is Bismarck the Capital of North Dakota?

Why is Bismarck the Capital of North Dakota?
Why is Bismarck the Capital of North Dakota?

The capital of North Dakota is Bismarck, having become the capital in 1883.

Within this post, we will talk about where exactly the capital of North Dakota is located, a brief history of Bismarck, when and why it became the capital, and some fun things to do in the area.

Where Is The Capital Of North Dakota Located?

Where Is The Capital Of North Dakota Located
Where Is The Capital Of North Dakota Located

The capital of North Dakota is located in Bismarck. It is geographically located in the Upper Midwest of the United States.

North Dakota is bordered by Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada to the north, South Dakota to the south, Montana to the west, and Minnesota to the east.

The closest city to Bismarck is Winnipeg in Canada (274 miles away), followed by Minneapolis MN (377 miles away) and Saint Paul MN (386 miles away).

The largest city in North Dakota is Fargo, although the capital city of North Dakota is Bismarck.

Brief History of Bismarck

State Capitol of North Dakota, Bismarck
State Capitol of North Dakota, Bismarck

Historically, Bismarck was a rich agricultural center with a regional river which led to its development. 

The city was founded in 1873 as the love child of the railroad expansion of the Great Plains and the stream boat transportation upon the Missouri River. The area was the perfect port for steamboats carrying military supplies and immigrants.

Originally, Bismarck was named after the first chief engineer of the railroad, Edwin Johnson, and called Edwinton. However, due to the fact that the railroad needed to attract bond investors from Germany, they renamed the city to Bismarck after Otto von Bismarck-Schönhausen, Germany’s “Iron Chancellor”.

Following that, Bismarck became a railroad transportation hub, and since then, a center for health care, government, industry, and technology.

When did Bismarck become the Capital of North Dakota?

Pioneer Family statue located on the North Dakota State Capital Grounds.
Pioneer Family statue located on the North Dakota State Capital Grounds.

Bismarck became the capital of North Dakota in 1883.

In 1889 the Omnibus Bill was passed by Congress, dividing Dakota into North and South. A few years before, the capital of the whole Dakota Territory was Bismarck, but the capital of South Dakota is now Pierre.

When Bismarck became the capital of North Dakota, a state capitol building found itself erected, and since then it has remained the capital city of the state.

Why is Bismarck the Capital of North Dakota?

Bismarck became the capital of North Dakota due to the fact that the capital was located in Yankton when the original territory of Dakota was first established in 1861: but it was not a very successful place to put the capital.

This was because Yankton was far away from cities such as Fargo, and it was difficult to travel there as it was not on any of the transcontinental railroad lines.

In 1882 a convention by the Republicans was held and there, a young sheriff called Alexander McKenzie his strong political talent and ability for organizing campaigns of a political nature. His hometown was in Bismarck, and as such, he believed that was where the capital should be. 

McKenzie purchased around 160 acres of land in preparation for the capital change, and then he spoke to other political members in order to get them on board. Then, a local legislator proposed a commission to decide on a new capital location – and from there, the new capital was decided.

Features of Bismarck, North Dakota

The size of Bismarck is approximately 91.12 km² with a population of around 73,435 (as of 2020).

Ever since 1804 when Lewis and Clark paddled up the Missouri River, the area has been a popular place to both visit and live. Nowadays, it is a cultural hub and a great place for history, shopping, and nature.

Many people around the world flock to Bismarck due to the fact that it has many great jobs available, and the Great Plains have always been a successful area. We will talk more about the best things to see and do in Bismarck below.

Best Places to Visit in Bismarck

North Dakota Heritage Center

For those who love natural history, the North Dakota Heritage Center is a great place to learn about the origins of the prairie city. Here, you can revisit the prehistoric times, check out some dinosaur bones, view the prairie post office, and take a look at the Native American Hall of Honor.

The North Dakota State Capitol Building

Of course, for those who are interested in the capital of North Dakota, a visit to the North Dakota State Capitol building is a must-do. It was built in the 1930s during the Great Depression, and is a true symbol of its time. There, you can go on a guided tour of the building and look out over Bismarck on the observation deck.

Dakota Zoo

For families, one of the best things to do in Bismarck is visit the Dakota Zoo. Here, you can see some arctic foxes, Bengal tigers, African tortoises, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, and American alligators, along with the resident gray wolves and a whole family of big cats.

Riverboat Cruises

Taking a cruise along the Upper Missouri River on a 150-passenger boat is a comfortable way to take in the countryside of Bismarck. The best time to go is in the evening where you can experience the sunset over the river, spending an hour or two taking in the true beauty of the city.

Former Governors’ Mansion

If you’re interested in taking a glimpse into the former governor’s life, then this is the best place to start. The mansion was built in 1884 and housed 20 governors until 1960, and it has since been painstakingly restored to its former glory. 

Camp Hancock 

Camp Hancock was originally built in 1872 in order to provide a safe haven for workers of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Here, the original log building still stands, and you can also visit the Bread of Life Church: the oldest church in Bismarck.

Gateway to Science Center

For those interested in science, the Gateway to Science Center is undoubtedly the place to be. Here, you can get hands-on with exhibits related to light, magnetism, electricity, machines, and air pressure. Not just that, but they often offer STEM adventure camps and after-school science clubs which are perfect for field trips.

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!