History and Industry

Watford City, North Dakota

Watford City mixes tradition with the future of energy

Watford City lies in western North Dakota, just 40 miles east of Montana, and 190 miles west of Bismarck, the state’s capital.

Founded in 1914, Watford City has a tradition of hard-work and great opportunities. Originally planted by entrepreneurs anticipating future service by the Great Northern Railway, the city has benefited from good fortune and rich natural resources.

Farmland, ranching, energy production, and tourism have historically defined the area, and Watford City serves as the county seat and central hub for McKenzie County’s rural population.

Located close by is Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a showcase for the beauty of North Dakota’s badlands and natural diversity.

Although the 2010 census put the population of Watford City at only 1,744, there has been an enormous surge in people and opportunities in recent years due to shale oil and natural gas exploration within the Bakken region.

The Bakken Formation is one of several shale deposits covering parts of Montana, North Dakota, and Canadian provinces Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Oil was first discovered near Watford City in the early ‘50s, but large-scale mining was impractical with the extraction techniques of the day. Even oil estimates as recently as 2007 put the amount of technically recoverable oil at only a fraction of the formation’s total reserves.

However, the development and use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking, which creates new paths for oil with high-pressure water blasts) have allowed oil recovery since 2008 to exceed all expectations.

Oil companies have moved into the region, but the potential oil production demands more infrastructure, people, and services than the rural communities are prepared to provide.

Because of its proximity and base of services, Watford City has been a prime destination for the influx of workers, scientists, and entrepreneurs.

Watford City Square is proud to be part of the exciting present and thriving future, of Watford City.

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Learn more about Watford City’s proud past and promising future.


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