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Drought and fires have inhibited tree growth; in fact, less than 1 percent of North Dakota’s land is forested, though rows of trees are commonly planted around farms to reduce wind erosion.
Seen from above, it appears as endless flat or rolling prairie, bearing the black earth of the plowed land, the green blanket of a new crop, or the yellow cover of ripened grain.
Although North Dakota’s climate is ideal for agricultural production, the state is vulnerable to major natural disasters (drought, floods, tornadoes, and blizzards) and has remained heavily dependent on government aid. The eastern half of North Dakota is part of the Central Lowland region of the United States.
The Missouri Escarpment separates the Drift Prairie from the Great Plains.
In essence, the state’s topography consists of three broad steps rising westward: the Red River valley (800 to 1,000 feet [250 to 300 metres] above sea level), the Drift Prairie (1,300 to 1,600 feet [400 to 500 metres]), and the Missouri Plateau (the North Dakota portion of the Great Plains, 1,800 to 2,500 feet [550 to 760 metres]).
Temperatures have surged above 120 °F (about 49 °C) in summer and have plunged into the −60s F (about −51 °C) in winter.
The western part of the state experiences lower humidity, less precipitation, and milder winters.
West of the Missouri River the landscape has been shaped by water and wind erosion, and along the Little Missouri River (a branch of the Missouri) are spectacular cliffs, buttes, and valleys that form the Devils Lake, in northeastern North Dakota, is the largest natural body of water in the state.
It has fluctuated widely in depth and area over time.
North Dakotans have generally been resilient, balancing realism with long-range optimism and seeking new methods of economic development while preserving their love of the land and what it can produce. Both the Red River valley, a flat, glacier-formed lake bed extending from 10 to 40 miles (15 to 65 km) on either side of the Red River of the North, and the Drift Prairie, a rolling plain covered with glacial drift, lie in North Dakota’s portion of the Central Lowland.