Don’tcha Know?: The State’s Superlatives

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JACK DURA | THE SPECTRUM North Dakota’s (and North America’s) tallest structure is the KVLY-TV tower near Blanchard, which is 2,063 feet high.
JACK DURA | THE SPECTRUM
North Dakota’s (and North America’s) tallest structure is the KVLY-TV tower near Blanchard, which is 2,063 feet high.

Superlatives. Things of the greatest quality or degree. Everywhere has them, even North Dakota, and oh boy, are they great. But what are they?

What are the longest, largest, smallest, tallest, oldest record-holders in North Dakota? For starters, size is a nice place to begin.

If we’re talking cities, nothing beats Fargo. The 143-year-old city boasts nearly 114,000 people (a sixth of the state’s population) and sits in a 49-square-mile footprint. Biggest city? You betcha.

On the other end of the spectrum is Ruso, a city of four near Minot. Yep, just four people. Head west from Ruso and you’ll find North Dakota’s largest lake and deepest point: Lake Sakakawea, covering nearly 480 square miles and diving as deep as 180 feet at the face of the Garrison Dam.

Oppositely, my research says Camp Lake, incidentally near Ruso, is the state’s smallest at 104 acres in size.

Let’s keep going since we’re on the subject of water. North Dakota’s longest river is not the Red River but the Sheyenne, a 591-mile, twisty, turny tributary. It’s prone to flooding in spring, giving the folks of Valley City quite a time when the snow melts.

JACK DURA | THE SPECTRUM North Dakota’s (and North America’s) tallest structure is the KVLY-TV tower near Blanchard, which is 2,063 feet high.
JACK DURA | THE SPECTRUM
North Dakota’s (and North America’s) tallest structure is the KVLY-TV tower near Blanchard, which is 2,063 feet high.

On the subject of rivers, bridges come to mind, and North Dakota’s longest is out west on the Fort Berthold Reservation, running over Lake Sakakawea near New Town at 4,483 feet long.

On a completely different note, let’s examine a superlative all of us can personally strive for: North Dakota’s longevity record. Mary Schumacher of Grand Forks set that with her age of 111 years, 62 days when she passed away in 2009.

Another age superlative goes to the Gingras Trading Post near Walhalla: North Dakota’s oldest building, built in 1843 for fur trade. Fairly isolated in the northeast, this 171-year-old building lies in the vicinity of another superlative, the state’s longest road.

U.S. Highway 2 cuts through 356 miles of North Dakota on its 2,500-mile span across northern America. U.S. 2 is just five miles longer than Interstate 94 in North Dakota, which runs south through Fargo.

In the grand scheme of things, North Dakota is at the center of North America, more landlocked than central Asia. While the folks in Rugby think they claim this point of interest, some parties say it’s a few miles south near Balta.

Another superlative of continental proportions is North Dakota’s tallest structures. The KVLY-TV and KXJB-TV towers are respectively the two tallest structures in North America. Coincidentally, they stand about three miles away from each other in Traill County, both over 2,000 feet high and stabilized by guy wires.

Staying on the subject of height, our state’s tallest building is not a skyscraper like other states, but a coal-based power plant in Beulah — the Antelope Valley Station at 361 feet. Nearly a third of that height is the state’s largest tree, a cottonwood near Sheldon that stands at 115 feet tall.

Since we’re on the subject of height in nature, our state’s highest point is found out west at White Butte near Amidon at 3,506 feet above sea level. The Red River at Pembina is at the bottom of North Dakota at 750 feet.

Continuing with North Dakota’s nature records, our state hit its highest temperature in July 1936 with 121 degrees Fahrenheit in Steele. Also that year in February was the state’s lowest temperature, -60 degrees, the lowest temperature recorded east of the Rockies.

Finally, North Dakota takes another natural superlative on a grand level with the latest sunset on the summer solstice in the Lower 48. Fortuna sees the sun set at 10:03 p.m. on June 23, past bedtime for many North Dakotans.

And there you have it, my selected superlatives of North Dakota in this, its 125th year of statehood.

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