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The Missouri riverbed is covered with a thick layer of glacial drift to the north and east.

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]).

The state’s name derives from the Dakota division of the Sioux peoples who inhabited the plains before the arrival of the Europeans in the 18th century.

Indeed, present-day North Dakota was first inhabited by various Native American groups who were hunters and farmers.

Throughout the 1990s, water levels began to rise dramatically because of increased rainfall and decreased evaporation.

By the turn of the 21st century, the water had risen some 25 feet (7.5 metres), causing extensive flooding and destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in its surrounding area.

The grasslands still serve as a natural habitat for herds of buffalo and antelope, though many of the buffalo are protected in state parks.