Fargo, North Dakota
Downtown as seen from Main Avenue, facing east
Gateway to the West
Location within Cass County
|o Mayor||Tim Mahoney (D)|
|o City||49.74 sq mi (128.83 km2)|
|o Land||49.74 sq mi (128.83 km2)|
|o Water||0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)|
|Elevation||904 ft (274 m)|
| o Estimate |
|o Rank||US: 222nd|
|o Density||2,506.12/sq mi (967.61/km2)|
|o Urban||176,676 (US: 194th)|
|o Metro||245,471 (US: 189th)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (CST)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
58102-58109, 58121-58122, 58124-58126
|GNIS feature ID||1028945|
|Highways||I-29, I-94, I-94 Bus., US 10, US 52, US 81, US 81 Bus., ND 294|
Fargo is a city in and the county seat of Cass County, North Dakota, United States. The most populous city in the state, it accounts for nearly 17% of the state population. According to the 2019 United States Census estimates, its population was 124,662, making it the 222nd-most populous city in the United States. Fargo, along with its twin city of Moorhead, Minnesota, as well as the adjacent cities of West Fargo, North Dakota and Dilworth, Minnesota, form the core of the Fargo-Moorhead, ND-MN Metropolitan Statistical Area, which in 2018 contained a population of 245,471.
Founded in 1871 on the Red River of the North floodplain, Fargo is a cultural, retail, health care, educational, and industrial center for eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. The city is also home to North Dakota State University.
Historically part of Sioux (Dakota) territory, the area that is present-day Fargo was an early stopping point for steamboats traversing the Red River during the 1870s and 1880s. The city was originally named "Centralia," but was later renamed "Fargo" after Northern Pacific Railway director and Wells Fargo Express Company founder William Fargo (1818-1881). The area started to flourish after the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the city became known as the "Gateway to the West."
A major fire struck the city on June 7, 1893, destroying 31 blocks of downtown Fargo, but the city was immediately rebuilt with new buildings made of brick, new streets, and a water system. More than 246 new buildings were built within one year. There were several rumors concerning the cause of the fire.
The North Dakota Agricultural College was founded in 1890 as North Dakota's land-grant university, becoming first accredited by the North Central Association in 1915. In 1960, NDAC became known as North Dakota State University.
Early in the century, the automobile industry flourished, and in 1905, Fargo became home to the Pence Automobile Company.
On Labor Day in 1910, Theodore Roosevelt visited Fargo to lay the cornerstone of the college's new library. To a crowd of 30,000, Roosevelt spoke about his first visit to Fargo 27 years earlier, and credited his experience homesteading in North Dakota for his eventual rise to the presidency.
Fargo-Moorhead boomed after World War II, and the city grew rapidly despite a violent F5 tornado in 1957 that destroyed a large part of the north end of the city. Ted Fujita, famous for his Fujita tornado scale, analyzed pictures of the Fargo tornado, which helped him develop his ideas for "wall cloud" and "tail cloud." These were the first major scientific descriptive terms associated with tornadoes. The construction of two interstates (I-29 and I-94) revolutionized travel in the region and pushed growth of Fargo to the south and west of the city limits. In 1972, the West Acres Shopping Center, the largest shopping mall in North Dakota, was constructed near the intersection of the two Interstates. This mall became a catalyst for retail growth in the area.
Fargo has continued to expand rapidly but steadily. Since the mid-1980s, the bulk of new residential growth has occurred in the south and southwest areas of the city due to geographic constraints on the north side. The city's major retail districts on the southwest side have likewise seen rapid development.
Downtown Fargo has been gentrified due in part to investments by the city and private developers in the Renaissance Zone. Most older neighborhoods, such as Horace Mann, have either avoided decline or been revitalized through housing rehabilitation promoted by planning agencies to strengthen the city's core.
NDSU has grown rapidly into a major research university, and forms a major component of the city's identity and economy. Most students live off-campus in the surrounding Roosevelt neighborhood. The university has established a presence downtown through both academic buildings and apartment housing. In addition, NDSU Bison Football has become a major sport following among many area residents.
Since the late 1990s, the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Statistical Area has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates among MSAs in the United States. Coupled with Fargo's low crime rate and the decent supply of affordable housing in the community, this has prompted Money magazine to rank the city near the top of its annual list of America's most livable cities throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.
On May 30, 2020 in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota peaceful marches turned to violence. At around 8 pm CT tear gas was fired on rioters as they were previously ordered to disperse after becoming physically aggressive. Damages from the riot include damaged police vehicles, and the vandalism and looting of local restaurants, hotels, and banks. This resulted in Mayor Tim Mahoney declaring a state of emergency in Fargo and enforcing a curfew at 10 pm on May 30. At around 11 pm the city came back under control.
Fargo is a core city of the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area, which also includes Moorhead, West Fargo, and Dilworth as well as outlying communities.
Fargo sits on the western bank of the Red River of the North in a flat geographic region known as the Red River Valley. The Red River Valley resulted from the withdrawal of glacial Lake Agassiz, which drained away about 9,300 years ago. The lake sediments deposited from Lake Agassiz made the land around Fargo some of the richest in the world for agricultural uses.
Fargo's largest challenge is the seasonal floods due to the rising water of the Red River, which flows from the United States into Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. The Red flows northward, which means melting snow and river ice, as well as runoff from its tributaries, often create ice dams causing the river to overflow. Fargo's surrounding Red River Valley terrain is essentially flat, leading to overland flooding. Since the potentially devastating 2009 Red River flood, both Fargo and Moorhead have taken great strides in flood protection, only a near record flood would cause concern today.
Its location makes the city vulnerable to flooding during seasons with above average precipitation. The Red River's minor flood stage in Fargo begins at a level of 18 feet, with major flooding categorized at 30 feet and above. Many major downtown roadways and access to Moorhead are closed off at this level. Record snowfalls late in 1996 led to flooding in 1997, causing the Red to rise to a record crest of 39.5 feet, nearly overtaking city defenses. In 2008-2009, significant fall precipitation coupled with a rapid snowmelt in March 2009 caused the Red to rise to a new record level of 40.84 feet, but again Fargo remained safe, in large part due to flood mitigation efforts instituted after the 1997 event and sandbagging efforts by the city residents. Further upgrades were made to city infrastructure and additional resources brought to bear following the 2009 flood, which caused no issues for the city in 2010 despite another rapid melt that caused the Red to rise to 37 feet (which ranks among the top ten highest levels ever recorded). Recent discussions have focused on a $1.5 billion diversion project to channel the Red's water away from the city, but such a project is in the planning stages and being evaluated by various government agencies. As of 2012, Fargo has bought 700 houses in flood-prone areas.
Because of its location in the Great Plains and its distance from both mountains and oceans, Fargo has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa/Dfb), featuring long, exceedingly cold winters and warm to hot, humid summers. It lies in USDA Plant hardiness zone 4a. The city features winters among the coldest in the contiguous United States; the coldest month of January has a normal mean temperature of 9.3 °F (-12.6 °C). There is an annual average of 43 days with a minimum of 0 °F (-18 °C) or lower. Snowfall averages 50.1 inches (127 cm) per season. Spring and autumn are short and highly variable seasons. Summers have frequent thunderstorms, and the warmest month, July, has a normal mean temperature of 71.0 °F (21.7 °C); highs reach 90 °F (32 °C) on an average of 12.7 days each year. Annual precipitation of 22.6 inches (574 mm) is concentrated in the warmer months. Record temperatures have ranged from -48 °F (-44 °C) on January 8, 1887 to 114 °F (46 °C) on July 6, 1936; the record coldest daily maximum is -29 °F (-34 °C) on January 22, 1936, while, conversely, the record warmest daily minimum was 82 °F (28 °C), set four days after the all-time record high. On average, the first and last dates to see a minimum at or below the freezing mark are September 30 and May 8, respectively, allowing a growing season of 144 days.
In 2011, Fargo won The Weather Channel's "America's Toughest Weather City" poll. Almost 850,000 votes, blizzards, cold, and floods secured the title for the city.
|Climate data for Fargo, North Dakota (Hector Int'l), 1981-2010 normals,[a] extremes 1881-present[b]|
|Record high °F (°C)||55
|Mean maximum °F (°C)||39.6
|Average high °F (°C)||18.4
|Average low °F (°C)||0.1
|Mean minimum °F (°C)||-22.5
|Record low °F (°C)||-48
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||0.70
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||11.2
|Average precipitation days||8.3||7.2||8.3||7.4||11.0||11.7||9.5||9.1||8.7||8.3||7.1||9.2||105.8|
|Average snowy days||8.9||6.7||5.3||1.8||0||0||0||0||0||0.8||5.4||9.5||38.4|
|Average relative humidity (%)||73.1||74.7||76.0||65.6||60.0||66.1||66.9||66.5||69.2||68.8||75.7||76.1||69.9|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||140.9||153.9||212.3||241.6||283.2||303.2||350.2||313.2||231.2||178.9||113.1||107.4||2,629.1|
|Percent possible sunshine||51||53||58||59||61||64||73||71||61||53||40||40||59|
|Average ultraviolet index||1||2||3||5||6||8||8||7||5||3||1||1||4|
|Source 1: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961-1990)|
|Source 2: Weather Atlas |
As of the census of 2010, there were 105,549 people living in the city. The population density was 2,162.0 inhabitants per square mile (834.8/km2). There were 49,956 housing units at an average density of 1,023.3 per square mile (395.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.2% White, 2.7% African American, 3.0% Asian, 1.4% Native American, 0.6% from other races, and 2.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 2.2% of the population.
There were 46,791 households of which 24.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 50.7% were non-families. 36.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.87.
The median age in the city was 30.2 years. 19.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 19.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 29% were from 25 to 44; 21.7% were from 45 to 64; and 10.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.4% male and 49.6% female.
The median household income was $44,304, and the median income for a family was $69,401, with the mean family income being $89,110. The per capita income for Fargo was $29,187. About 16.0% of the population and 7.7% of families were below the poverty line.
As of the census of 2000, there were 90,599 people, 39,268 households, and 20,724 families living in the city. The population density was 2,388.2 inhabitants per square mile (922.0/km2). There were 41,200 housing units at an average density of 1,086.0 per square mile (419.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.2% White, 1.0% African American, 1.2% Native American, 1.6% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.4% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 1.3% of the population.
There were 39,268 households, of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 41.8% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.2% were non-families. 34.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the city, the population was spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 19.2% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 100.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.3 males.
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $35,510, and the median income for a family was $50,486. Males had a median income of $31,968 versus $22,264 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,101. About 6.6% of families and 11.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.8% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.
Since the 1970s, Fargo has been a major destination for refugee resettlement in the United States. This is due in large part to the presence of the non-profit Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, which facilitates resettlement, as well as a need for unskilled employment by Fargo businesses fueled by the region's low unemployment rate. Of the roughly 400 to 500 refugees that arrive in North Dakota each year, around 70 percent settle in Fargo.
Various waves of refugees have been resettled in Fargo, including Vietnamese and Cambodians in the 1970s and 1980s, Bosnians and Iraqi Kurds in the 1990s, Sudanese in the 2000s, and Nepali Bhutanese in the 2010s. In addition, many refugees from Somalia have migrated to Fargo after being resettled elsewhere in the United States; members of the large Somali community in nearby Minneapolis-St. Paul often recommend Fargo-Moorhead as a place for new arrivals to find employment and start a new life, a trend which increased noticeably after 2009. While some refugees in Fargo end up leaving for other cities, many stay, and some petition for family members to join them.
Fargo uses the city commission style of local government. Four commissioners and a mayor are elected at large for four year terms. Dr. Tim Mahoney is Fargo's current mayor. The Fargo City Commission meets every two weeks in its chambers above the Fargo Civic Center. The meetings are broadcast on a Government-access television (GATV) cable channel. In 2017, there was an attempt to recall City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn by a group who argued his constant expressing of concern over refugee resettlement in the city was a xenophobic dog-whistle meant to rile up anti-refugee sentiment in the community. While the group says it did reach the required number of signatures, it ultimately chose not to submit them because they did not know how many signatures would be eliminated in the review process, and Commissioner Piepkorn threatened to obtain the list of signers via FOIA request, which was interpreted as a political threat by the group.
Fargo was historically a Republican-leaning area. As recently as the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush carried Fargo as well as the rest of Cass County with nearly 60 percent of the vote in both areas. Fargo has become more politically diverse and competitive. Since 2008, no Republican presidential candidate has received over 50% of the vote in Cass County. In 2008, Democratic candidate Barack Obama won the majority of votes in Cass County, with a voting percentage very close to the percentage Obama received in the entire nation, while John McCain won the majority of votes in North Dakota. Mitt Romney's winning margin in 2012 over Barack Obama in Cass County was 49.9% to 47% while Donald Trump received 49.3% of votes in 2016 compared to 38.8% against Hillary Clinton and 11.9% for third party candidates. In 2018, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp achieved a 14-point lead in Eastern North Dakota even though the state as a whole soundly elected Republican Kevin Cramer.
The economy of the Fargo area has historically been dependent on agriculture. That dominance has decreased substantially in recent decades. Today the city of Fargo has a growing economy based on food processing, manufacturing, technology, retail trade, higher education, and healthcare. In a study published by Forbes, Fargo was ranked the best small city in the nation to start a business or a career.
According to the City's 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the largest employers in the city are:
|#||Employer||# of employees|
|2||North Dakota State University||4,464|
|4||Fargo Public Schools||1,816|
|6||Case New Holland||1,250|
|7||West Fargo Public Schools||1,248|
|8||Wanzek Construction, Inc.||1,100|
|10||Eventide Senior Living Center||1,006|
The Fargo Public Schools system serves most of the city, operating fifteen elementary schools, three middle schools, and four high schools: Fargo North High School, Fargo South High School, Judge Ronald N. Davies High School, and an alternative high school (Woodrow Wilson). The original high school in the city was the Central High School.
In addition to public schools, a number of private schools also operate in the city. The John Paul II Catholic Schools Network operates Holy Spirit Elementary, Nativity Elementary, Sullivan Middle School, and Shanley High School. Additionally, the Oak Grove Lutheran School and Park Christian School (which is in Moorhead, Minnesota) serve grades pre-K through 12, while Grace Lutheran School serves grades pre-K through 8.
Fargo is home to North Dakota State University (NDSU), which has over 14,500 students. NDSU was founded in 1890 as the state land grant university focusing on agriculture, engineering and science, but has since branched out to cover many other fields of study. NDSU, along with Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College in Moorhead, form the Tri-College University system of Fargo-Moorhead. Students can take classes at any of the three institutions. These three colleges also form a vibrant student-youth community of over 25,000. NDSCS-Fargo is a campus of North Dakota State College of Science. Located in the Skills and Technology Training Center on 19th Avenue North in Fargo, NDSCS-Fargo serves as the home to academic programming and non-credit training.
Fargo is also home to several private collegiate institutions, including Rasmussen College, a branch location of the University of Mary, and Masters Baptist College operated by Fargo Baptist Church. The University of Jamestown's Doctor of Physical Therapy program is based in Fargo.
The Fargo Public Library was established in 1900 and for many years was housed in a Carnegie-funded building. In 1968, the library moved into a new facility as part of urban renewal efforts in the downtown area. The original 1968 building was demolished and replaced with a new library which opened in 2009. In addition, Fargo Public Library operates the Dr. James Carlson Library in south Fargo, and the Northport branch in north Fargo. In 2002 and 2006, the Southpointe and Northport Branches were opened serving the city's south and north sides. The Dr. James Carlson Library, which replaced the earlier Southpointe Branch, opened to the public on November 16, 2007. A new downtown Main Library opened April 25, 2009. The Fargo Public Library is headquartered in downtown Fargo. In 2014, over 1 million items were checked out from Fargo Public Library. "Books and magazines made up nearly half of the total and digital media and other non-print items made up more than a third. The rest are inter-library loans and renewals," according to Melisa Duncan, a library spokeswoman."
Fargo offers a wide variety of cultural opportunities for a city of its size. This is likely due, in part, to the presence of three universities in the area. Most theatre and events are either promoted or produced by the universities, although there are several private theatre companies in the city including Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre (FMCT), Theatre 'B' in downtown Fargo, Ursa Major Productions, Music Theatre Fargo Moorhead, Tin Roof Theatre Company, The Entertainment Company and others. Music organizations in the area include the Fargo-Moorhead Opera, the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, and the Fargo-Moorhead Youth Symphony. Fargo also boasts a dance company in the Fargo-Moorhead Ballet.
The Fargo Theatre is a restored 1926 Art Deco movie house that features first-run movies, film festivals, and other community events. The Fargodome routinely hosts concerts, Broadway musicals, dance performances, sporting events, as well as fairs and other gatherings.
The Winter Carnival in Fargo is a tradition that began in 1928.
The Plains Art Museum is the largest museum of art in the state. It is in downtown Fargo and features regional and national exhibits. It also houses a large permanent collection of art. There are several other museums in Fargo including The Children's Museum at Yunker Farm, The Fargo Air Museum, The Courthouse Museum, The Roger Maris Museum in West Acres Shopping Center, the North Dakota State University Wall of Fame in the Scheels All Sports store and the historic Bonanzaville village (West Fargo).
The Fargo Park District operates many neighborhood parks throughout the city. The Fargo area contains the following golf courses: Edgewood Golf Course (18-hole), Fargo Country Club (18-hole) Rose Creek Golf Course (18-hole), El Zagal (9-hole), Prairiewood Golf Course (9-hole), and the new Osgood Golf Course (9-hole). In the winter Edgewood serves as a warming house and also provides cross country skis. Rose Creek and Osgood golf courses offer golfing lessons in the summer months. Fargo also has a skate park near dike west and Island park. Fargo and sister city Moorhead also hold ferry rides during the summer, on the historic Red River, to promote education of the fertile soil of the Red River Valley.
Fargo has three sister cities:
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead is the city's major newspaper. The High Plains Reader, an independent weekly newspaper, also operates in the community. North Dakota State University's student paper, The Spectrum, is printed twice weekly during the academic year. The city is also served by other publications such as Area Woman, From House To Home, Bison Illustrated, OPEN Magazine, Fargo Monthly,Design & Living, and Valley Faith.
Fargo is also home to several radio and television stations. Gray Television owns NBC affiliate KVLY-TV and CBS affiliate KXJB-LD, and Red River Broadcasting owns Fox affiliate KVRR. Forum Communications, which also owns The Forum, owns ABC affiliate WDAY-TV and WDAY radio. Major Market Broadcasting owns independent station KRDK-TV, which was formerly CBS affiliate KXJB. Prairie Public Broadcasting operates KFME-TV, a PBS station, and also operates NPR affiliate KDSU-FM (however, KDSU is owned by North Dakota State University). Midwest Communications operating under Midwest Radio of Fargo-Moorhead, owns KFGO, Froggy 99.9, 104.7 MIX-FM, Y94, Rock 102 and 740 The Fan. Conservative talk host Scott Hennen owns WZFG, and Great Plains Integrated Marketing owns KQLX, Thunder 106.1 and Eagle 106.9. Local resident James Ingstad operates eight radio stations under RFM Media, including Bob 95, 107.9 The Fox, Big 98.7, Q105.1, True Oldies 1660AM, 92.7 The Drive, and 94.5 The City.
KNDS 96.3 FM is an FCC approved radio station, owned with a license held by the independent Alliance for the Arts, operating on the 96.3 frequency in Fargo, North Dakota and the surrounding area. KNDS strives to provide the area with independent music not heard elsewhere in the FM radio community, while maintaining an emphasis on community/area partnership. North Dakota State University's ThunderRadio club operates the station 
Radio Free Fargo 95.9 FM, KRFF-LP, is a local, non-profit, listener-supported independent radio station serving the Fargo-Moorhead metro area. Radio Free Fargo previously worked to run KNDS.
Fargo has four local yellow pages publishers: SMARTSEARCH, which is locally owned and operated; yellowbook, owned by the Yell Group, a United Kingdom-based company; Dex, owned by RH Donnelley and based in North Carolina; and Phone Directories Company (PDC), based in Utah.
Fargo is a major transportation hub for the surrounding region. It sits at the crossroads of two major interstate highways, I-29 and I-94 and is the home of an airport.
Fargo is served by Hector International Airport, which has the longest public runway in the state. An Air National Guard unit and the Fixed-Base Operation Fargo Jet Center and Vic's Aircraft Sales are also at Hector.
The Fargo-Moorhead metro area is served by a bus service known as MATBUS. The bus service operates routes Monday-Saturday, many of which specifically cater to the area's college student population, who comprise half of its ridership.Greyhound Lines, Jefferson Lines and Rimrock Stages Trailways bus services additionally link Fargo to other communities.
The BNSF Railway runs through the metropolitan area as successor to the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railroad. Amtrak service is provided via the Empire Builder passenger train at the Fargo Amtrak station.
The street system of Fargo is structured in the classic grid pattern. Routes that run from north to south are called streets, and routes that run from east to west are called avenues.
The major north/south roads (from west to east) include:
The major east/west roads (from north to south) include:
The tallest buildings in Fargo include:
Fargo is an Academy Award-winning 1996 film which takes place primarily throughout Minnesota. Fargo is only seen briefly at the film's opening scene set in a bar and mentioned only twice in the film. None of Fargo was shot on location in or near Fargo. A television series based on the film debuted in 2014, and occasionally featured the city in episodes.
"When you have a 100-year flood four years out of five, that's a great challenge," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said.