Williston (North Dakota)

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. The 2010 U.S. Census reported that the population was just short of 15,000, but the current population is now believed to be over 30,000.


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 recently discovered 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken Formation. The Three Forks Salish Formation also contains recoverable oil. With these recent 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 the recent growth, Williston still maintains a small town atmosphere. Most residents are friendly and will happily give visitors directions.

Williston news and weather.

Get in

By car

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.

By plane

By train

Get around




During the recent oil boom, Williston experienced a severe labor shortage. Jobs were easy to find, wages were the highest in the state, and the companies offered great benefits. The waning of the oil boom in early 2015 has changed the labor equation considerably, with many companies letting workers go or closing.

Oil-field jobs



Downtown Williston offers many shopping opportunities.




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.

Note: Most motels are either clustered downtown or near the airport at the northern limit of town.

Stay safe

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 701-577-1212.

Go next

Routes through Williston

Spokane Malta  W  E  Minot Fargo
Shelby Malta  W  E  Ray Minot
END Fortuna  N  S  Alexander Spearfish

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, December 14, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.