Williston is a city on the Missouri River, near the northwestern corner of North Dakota, that is now experiencing explosive growth due to an oil boom. It is about 230 miles northwest of Bismarck - the state capital - by car. Williston is the county seat. Its population grew from 15,000 in 2010 to about 27,000 in 2018.
Williston was founded as a Northern Pacific Railroad stop in 1887 and named for Daniel Willis James. It was chosen over the nearby town of Buford as the site of a turntable which led to its early growth. In 1951, oil was first discovered in the Williston Basin. Williston experienced rapid growth during its first oil boom in the 1980s. After the boom died down, the population shrank to about 13,000. Geologists have discovered 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken Formation. The Three Forks Salish Formation also contains recoverable oil. With these discoveries, Williston experienced another oil boom and rapidly increased in size. While the rest of the country remained in a recession, Williston boasted a strong economy, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, plenty of jobs, and the highest wages in North Dakota. Following a sharp decline in oil prices in the second half of 2014, the boom ended (at least for the time being).
Despite this growth, Williston still maintains a small town atmosphere. Most residents are friendly and will happily give visitors directions.
US Highway 2 runs east-west, intersecting with Interstate 29 in Grand Forks and Interstate 15 in Shelby, Montana.
US Highway 85 runs north-south, intersecting with Interstate 94 west of Dickinson.
- 1 Sloulin Field International Airport (ISN IATA). U.S. customs service is available to handle private flights from Canada.
- Amtrak, 1 S Main St. Service on the Empire Builder, which travels between Chicago and Seattle/Portland daily.
- Basin Cab, 1804 2nd St W, ☏ .
- 1 Fort Buford Historic Site, ☏ .
- 2 Knife River Indian Villages.
- Cut Bluff Overlook. A historic sight 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.
- 3 Writing Rock State Historic Site (12 miles northeast of Grenora, ND), ☏ . Free, donations welcome. The site of two granite boulders carved with petroglyphs of thunderbirds, mythical Native American creatures. Dates between 1000-1700 AD.
- 4 Lewis and Clark State Park, 4904 119th Road NW Epping, ND 58843 (about 20 miles east of Williston on Hwy 1804), ☏ . A beautiful park between rugged bluffs on the shore of Lake Sakakawea.
- 5 Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center (One half-mile east of Fort Buford), ☏ .
- Cottonwood Lake (north of town). Fishing for pike and perch.
- Gaming, Williston State College Foundation Gaming at DK's Lounge, the River's Edge, the New 4-Mile Bar, Travel Host Lounge, Super 8 Lounge, Whispers and the Sports Den.
- Skunk Hollow Shooting Range (drive 5 miles south of Williston on Hwy 85, turn left onto gravel road and follow signs). Well-known by the locals, Skunk Hollow offers a rarely crowded shooting range, and excellent hiking, hunting, and fishing opportunities. 2 miles from Cut Bluff, the site of a campsite used by Lewis and Clark.
- Grand Theatre, 211 Main St, ☏ . Catch the latest movie.
- Little Muddy Canoe Trail (east of Williston & North of 1804), toll-free: . Thompson site and White Bridge are the access points. The trail is six miles long and travel time is 1½-2 hours.
- Million Dollar Lanes Bowling, 1804 2nd Ave. W, ☏ .
- Spring Lake Park, North on Highway 85, ☏ . Enjoy swinming, fishing, playground equipment, walking trails, and fireworks on the 4th of July
- Thunder Valley Go-Cart Track (west of town on Highway 2), ☏ .
- Williston Skate Park, Corner of 2nd Ave. & 11th Street (located in Harmon Park), ☏ . Skateboarding, rollerblading, and biking
- Williston Municipal Golf Course (west of Williston on 26th Street), ☏ . 9-hole course featuring a clubhouse, practice range, and trap range.
- Eagle Ridge Golf Course (north of Williston on Highway 2), ☏ . Featured in the top 100 golf courses of America, this 18-hole course boasts a clubhouse, practice range and Italian restaurant
- 78th Annual Band Day, Main St. Parade starts at 10AM with bands from all over. Concerts and vendors are set-up in Harmon Park for an afternoon of music enjoyment and family fun.
Downtown Williston offers many shopping opportunities.
- Hedderich's, 122 Main St, ☏ . Offers antiques, locomotive sets, Native American artifacts, and a large selection of used books
- Books on Broadway, 12½ W Broadway, toll-free: . Full line bookstore, gift items, greeting cards, mail service, special orders, specializing in regional history & unique children's books & toys, coffee bar.
- Second Page Books, 501 Main Street Suite #3, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM. Almost-new books: classics, fiction and non-fiction, large print, children's, audiobooks on tape & CD, textbooks and home school materials.
- Hansen's Unlimited Ceramics & Gifts, 113 1st Ave. E., ☏ . Paint your own pottery to display or use.
- Castle Gift Shop, 313 Main St, ☏ . Fenton art glass, crystal, & gifts.
- Cedar Chest, 201 Main St, ☏ . Gifts and items for country-style decor.
- Collector's Corner, 109 Main St, ☏ . Oak furniture, parlor stoves, general antiques, collectibles, furniture stripping & refinishing.
- Judy's Cupboard, 224 Main St, ☏ . Kitchen items, Dakota made prducts and gift registry available.
- Larry Lynne Antiques, 10 West Broadway, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-5PM or by appointment. Quality antiques at affordable prices. A general line of furniture, glassware, pictures, etc.
- Silver Dollar Antiques, 10 1st Ave East, ☏ . Tuesday & Wednesday, Friday & Saturday 11AM-5PM. Glass, Depression Glass, pottery.
- Plainsman Studio, 3 4th Street East, Suite 103, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-F 12:30-5:30PM, Sa 10AM-2PM. A photography gallery in the historic Plainsman Building.
- Airport International Inn (Highway 2 & 85 North), ☏ .
- Burger Queen & Pizza, 2516 2nd Ave West, ☏ .
- China Sun, 1804 2nd Ave West, ☏ .
- Courthouse Cafe, 205 E Broadway, ☏ .
- Dakota Family Farms, 1906 2nd Ave West, ☏ .
- Economart Lunch Counter, 300 West 11th St, ☏ .
- Ginger's Cafe, 216 Main St, ☏ .
- Gramma Sharon's Cafe, 150 16th St. West, ☏ .
- Hedderich's Soda Shop, 122 Main St, ☏ .
- The Lunch Box, 20 W Broadway, ☏ .
- Pierce's Homesteak Dining Co., 18 2nd St West, ☏ .
- Castle Cafe, 313 Main St, ☏ .
- Trapper's Kettle, 3901 2nd Ave West, ☏ .
- We Be Pizza, 819 West 11th St, ☏ .
- Avalanche Bar & Grill, 1002 2nd Street West, ☏ .
- Chuck's Lounge, 218 Main St, ☏ .
- Million Dollar Lanes/Sports Den, 1804 2nd Ave W, ☏ . Bowling.
- P. Nuttz, 3712 4th Ave West (Williston Events Center), ☏ .
- Travel Host Lounge, 2nd Ave. W, ☏ .
The oil boom in Williston resulted in a severe housing shortage, but the situation has changed with the boom going bust. Many developments built to house workers during the boom now stand empty, and other developments were canceled. Booking a hotel room in Williston on short notice was difficult or impossible during the boom, with oil companies contracting with area hotels to house workers, but should now be considerably easier.
Most motels are either clustered downtown or near the airport at the northern limit of town.
- Best Value Inn, 213 35th St W, ☏ .
- Country Garden Bed & Breakfast, 805 1st Ave West, ☏ .
- [dead link] El Rancho Motor Hotel, 1623 2nd. Avenue West, ☏ .
- Marquis Plaza and Suites, 1525 9th Ave NW, ☏ .
- Super 8 Lodge, 2324 2nd. Ave West, ☏ .
- The Vegas, 2420 2nd Ave W, ☏ .
- Travel Host Motel, 3801 2nd Ave. W, ☏ .
North Dakota has one of the lowest crime rates in North America, and Williston has one of the lowest of North Dakota. Most residents do not lock their doors, and in wintertime many people leave their cars running in parking lots as they run their errands.
Violent crime and rape are rare, and usually occur due to the influence of alcohol. However, women should use common sense when walking alone near bars at night. Most residents and police officers will pull over and offer rides to people walking at night or in the winter. The biggest threat are drunk drivers. If needed, the police can be reached at ☏.
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park - The park includes badlands, open prairie, hard wood draws. It is home to bison, prairie dogs and many other wildlife species.
|Routes through Williston|
|Spokane ← Malta ←||W E||→ Minot → Fargo|
|Shelby ← Glasgow ← Jct N S ←||W E||→ Ray → Minot|
|Weyburn ← becomes ← ← Fortuna ←||N S||→ Alexander → Spearfish|