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Williston, North Dakota
Business district of Williston
Business district of Williston
Location of Williston, North Dakota
Location of Williston, North Dakota
Country United States
State North Dakota
County Williams
 • Total 7.56 sq mi (19.58 km2)
 • Land 7.50 sq mi (19.42 km2)
 • Water 0.06 sq mi (0.16 km2)
1,877 ft (572 m)
 • Total 14,716
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,962.1/sq mi (757.6/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 701
FIPS code 38-86220
GNIS feature ID 1032815
Highways US 2, US 2 Bus., US 85, US 85 Bus., ND 1804

Williston is a city in and the county seat of Williams County, North Dakota, United States. The 2010 census gave its population as 14,716, and the Census Bureau gave the 2015 estimated population as 26,977, making Williston the sixth largest city in North Dakota. The North Dakota oil boom is largely responsible for the sharp increase in population.

Williston's newspapers, both in print and online, are the daily Williston Herald and the weekly The Williston Trader. Sloulin Field International Airport is a public airport 3.2 km (2.0 mi) north of the business district. Williston is the home of Williston State College and the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Pageant.


Founded in 1887, Williston was named for Daniel Willis James, a board member of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, by his friend, railroad owner, James J. Hill.


Williston is located at the crossroads of U.S. Highways 2 and 85.

It is near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, at the upper end of the Lake Sakakawea reservoir.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.56 square miles (19.58 km2), of which 7.50 square miles (19.42 km2) is land and 0.06 square miles (0.16 km2) is water.

The municipality is 18 miles (29 km) from the Montana-North Dakota border and 60 miles (97 km) from the Canada–United States border.


Williston has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification 'BSk'); it is part of USDA Hardiness zone 4a. The normal monthly mean temperature ranges from 11.0 °F (−11.7 °C) in January to 70.1 °F (21.2 °C) in July. On average, there are 2.9 days that reach 100 °F (38 °C) or higher, 25 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs, 42 days with a low of 0 °F (−18 °C) or below, 9.6 days with lows plummeting to at least −20 °F (−29 °C), and 7.7 days that do not rise above 0 °F annually. The average window for freezing temperatures is September 19 thru May 20, allowing a growing season of 121 days; . Extreme temperatures officially range from −50 °F (−46 °C) on December 23, 1983 and February 16, 1936 up to 110 °F (43 °C) on July 5, 1936; the record cold daily maximum is −29 °F (−34 °C) on January 16, 1930, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 78 °F (26 °C) last set July 19, 1974.

Precipitation is greatest in June and July and averages 14.37 in (365 mm) annually, but has ranged from 6.13 in (156 mm) in 1934 to 22.04 in (560 mm) in 1896. Snowfall averages 45.3 in (115 cm) per season, and has historically ranged from 8.0 in (20 cm) in 1908–09 to 107.2 in (272 cm) in 2010–11; the average window for measurable (≥0.1 in or 0.25 cm) snowfall is October 20 thru April 23, although snow in May occurs at most several times per decade and September snow is a much rarer event. Due to the relative aridity, there are only 4.1 days where 24-hour snowfall exceeds 3 in (7.6 cm). <section begin="weather box" />

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Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 295
1900 763 158.6%
1910 3,124 309.4%
1920 4,178 33.7%
1930 5,106 22.2%
1940 5,790 13.4%
1950 7,398 27.8%
1960 11,866 60.4%
1970 11,230 −5.4%
1980 13,336 18.8%
1990 13,136 −1.5%
2000 12,512 −4.8%
2010 14,716 17.6%
2015 (est.) 26,977 83.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
2015 Estimate

Williston is in northwestern North Dakota's booming oil patch where adequate, affordable housing has become a concern. According to a February 2014 article in Business Insider, Williston had the highest apartment rents in the United States. The 2010 census counted a population of 14,716, up from 12,680 in 2000, but the number of current residents is likely much higher because the count did not include those living in temporary housing. In September 2011, the mayor estimated the actual population at 20,000. The aforementioned 2014 Business Insider story estimated that the population was over 30,000.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 14,716 people, 6,180 households, and 3,589 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,962.1 inhabitants per square mile (757.6/km2). There were 6,542 housing units at an average density of 872.3 per square mile (336.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.6% White, 0.3% African-American, 3.3% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.3% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.2% of the population.

There were 6,180 households of which 29.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 9.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 41.9% were non-families. 34.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.99.

The median age in the city was 35.5 years. 23.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 10% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.7% were from 25 to 44; 25.4% were from 45 to 64; and 14.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 51.0% male and 49.0% female.

Arts and culture

Sites of interest

  • Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site – a reconstructed fur-trade era fort owned and maintained by the National Park Service.
  • Fort Buford – a pioneer age military fort. An interesting site is the military graveyard.
  • Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center – A museum highlighting the history of the area where the Missouri River and the Yellowstone River merge.
  • Lake Sakakawea – a large man-made lake located close to Williston. The lake offers plenty of recreational activities.
  • The Confluence – where the Missouri River and the Yellowstone River meet. A historical center, boat ramp, camp site, and bike path are located here.
  • Eagle Ridge Golf Club – an eighteen-hole golf course located on Highway 2 north of Williston. It measures 6,240 yards (5,710 m) from the back tees.
  • Williston Municipal Golf Course – a 9-hole golf course located at 3600 42nd Street West in Williston.
  • The Links of North Dakota at Red Mike Resort – an 18-hole links course east of Williston. Golfweek ranked it 41st among America's 100 best modern courses in 1997, 75th in 1998, and 81st in 1999.
  • Cut Bluff Overlook – a historic site located about two miles (3 km) east of Williston on the south side of Highway 1804. Commemorating Lewis and Clark's campsite near Cut Bluff on the south banks of the Missouri River.
  • James Memorial Art Center – Originally the community library (est 1911), The James was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.It now serves as an art & cultural center for the community, offering art exhibits and art classes.
  • Old Armory – The Old Armory was built in 1915 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The Old Armory is now home to community theater non-profit organization Entertainment, Inc!, founded in 1981. Entertainment, Inc! produces five shows each year.
  • Williston Area Recreation Center – a 234,00 square foot recreation center, built in 2014, that includes an indoor surfing, golf simulators, and a water park. There are also the more traditional Tennis and Basketball courts, along with turf fields and an indoor track.

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