North Dakota – Land of 10,000 Miles of Rivers?

North Dakota has a lot of water and a lot of rivers.  The 38 longest rivers in the United States are listed below.

RankNameLength (miles)
1Missouri River2,341
2Mississippi River2,202
3Yukon River1,979
4Rio Grande1,759
5Colorado River1,450
6Arkansas River1,443
7Columbia River1,243
8Red River1,125
9Snake River1,040
10Ohio River979
11Colorado River of Texas970
12Tennessee River935
13Canadian River906
14Brazos River860
15Green River760
16Pecos River730
17White River (Arkansas)720
18James River710
19Kuskokwim River702
20Cimarron River698
21Cumberland River696
22Yellowstone River678
23North Platte River665
24Milk River625
25Ouachita River605
26Saint Lawrence River600
27Gila River600
28Sheyenne River591
29Tanana River584
30Smoky Hill River576
31Niobrara River568
32Little Missouri River560
33Sabine River553
34Red River of the North550
35Des Moines River525
36White River (South Dakota)506
37Trinity River506
38Wabash River503


Six of these rivers are located in North Dakota.  They are the:

National RankState RankNameMiles
11Missouri River2,341
182James River710
223Yellowstone River678
284Sheyenne River591
325Little Missouri River560
346Red River of the North550


After these six rivers the next longest are the:

State RankNameMiles
7Souris River435
9Pembina River319
9Wild Rice River251
10Maple River198


And here are more than 30 other rivers that are well known by local residents.

1Bois de Sioux River
2Cannonball River
3Cedar Creek
4Cut Bank Creek
5Deep River
6Des Lacs River
7Elm River, tributary of Red River of the North
8Elm River , tributary of James River
9Forest River
10Goose River
11Green River
12Heart River
13Knife River
14Little Goose River
15Little Heart River
16Little Knife River, tributary of Knife River
17Little Knife River, tributary of Missouri River
18Maple River , tributary of Sheyenne River
19Maple River, tributary of Elm River
20North Fork Grand River
21Park River
22Pembina River
23Pipestem River
24Rush River
25Spring Creek
26Tobacco Garden Creek
27Tongue River
28Turtle River
29White Earth River
30Wild Rice River
31Wintering River


 The top 10 rivers in North Dakota have a combined length of 6,633 miles but of course not all of these miles are in North Dakota. 

Minnesota has a great advertising slogan in their nickname of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

We could probably claim to be the Land of 10,000 Miles of Rivers if we added up all the creeks, streams and other named tributaries.  Somehow though it doesn’t quite have the ring to it of Minnesota’s nickname.

Minnesota calls any body of water over 10 acres as a lake and counts 11,842 of them.  It seems like North Dakota could at least be the Land of 5,000 Lakes if we could find somebody to count them all.

A lot of these rivers and lakes are under-utilized for fishing, tourism and recreational usage.  Most of the land around the river is very, very beautiful and with some time and effort they could really be developed into a better destination place not only for tourists but for all the local residents to enjoy. 

Adding hiking trails, canoe ramps, camping areas, restrooms, picnic areas and parking areas could all be done at a relatively low cost.  It would be much less than the cost of adding a new building and might even attract more visitors.

I think promoting these rivers could also help the image of North Dakota.   A lot of people might think of the Badlands when they think of North Dakota.  We need to make sure people are aware that we have lots of fishing, hunting and beautiful river valleys here.