Ten years ago Williston, North Dakota was a quiet agricultural town with a population of around 12,000.Now, oil prices and drilling advancements have turned Williston into one of America’s biggest oil boomtowns, pushing its population to over 30,000.The influx of workers has caused apartment rents to skyrocket, it’s now the most expensive place in America to rent an entry-level apartment, with 700-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath apartments topping $2,000 a month. That’s more than a similar apartment would go for in Silicon Valley,New York or San Francisco Simply put, there aren’t enough apartments to meet demand from workers arriving in town, many of whom are lured by six-figure salaries. And these workers aren’t paying top dollar for ultra-luxury buildings with fancy amenities. According to Apartment Guide, many new buildings feature mudrooms in the front, where workers can remove their dirty shoes and overcoats. Even trailers are expensive. The ratio of men to women in Williston is about 12 to 1.
Click through to see what life is like in what is now America’s most expensive town.
Williston, North Dakota is in the Northwestern portion of the state, not far from Montana and Canada.
The town happens to sit in the center of the large Bakken oil formation — 640 square miles of oil, holding up to 34 billion barrels.
Despite seeing a boom in the 1950s and a second one in the late ’70s, Williston hasn’t changed much over the years.
But with this third boom, the town is filled with all facets of the oil industry. This truck is filled with potassium carbonate for fracking.
Despite offering a wealth of job opportunities and a better-than-living wage, there are very few places to live. Most workers strive to get into one of the many “Man Camps.”
Some of the nicer camps have recreation rooms like this, and laundry facilities.
Everywhere you look there are campers filled with job seekers.
There is some new housing finally going up. This model home went on the market for more than originally thought as prices from labor to materials are skyrocketing.
These homes are all owned by Halliburton.
Land like this went for $500 an acre not long ago. The people who own this 153 acres recently turned down $200K an acre.
These apartments are almost fully leased before they’re completed. If you can manage to get one, expect to pay $2,000 a month for a small, one-bedroom and $3,400 for a three-bedroom apartment.
For a while, Wal-Mart was allowing campers to park in its lot and workers to sleep there, but the superstore asked everyone to move last year.
Living here can be a struggle with pre-fabricated homes 20 miles from town renting for $1,500 a month.
Modest homes like this 4-bedroom rent for $4,500 a month and 5 bedrooms go for about $6,000.
Some men try to bring their families, but it can be tough. Schools are crowded and conditions are harsh.
Men outnumber women 12 to 1.
And it’s not entirely a savory place: Strippers reportedly can earn up to $350,000 a year entertaining the local clientele.
A new $70 million rec center is coming to offer recreation for families of all ages. The city hopes workers will stay and settle down, rather than go back home.
There is also a shortage of service industry workers. This restaurant closed down when it failed to find sufficient staff. It converted to a buffet.
The waitress at Lonnie’s Roadhouse Cafe, where locals and over-the-road truckers alike gather for breakfast and news of the day, said it’s not uncommon for some to make $750 a day waiting tables.
The diner is where locals go to talk about what has happened to their town since technology thrust it onto the forefront of America’s oil shale boom.
The oil industry wages are good. With no experience, it is common for workers to start at over $100,000. The hours are long and the work can be rough, but many come here from across the U.S. to save their homes.
The work can also be dangerous. Gases like hydrogen sulfide can be found along with the oil. This yellow flag at the drill site announces that poisonous gas may be present.
The hours are so long that men mostly just sleep and work. Spouses look for ways to make money by providing the most basic of services to the overworked crews. Like cooking.
And doing their very dirty laundry.
Entrepreneurs are here too, offering services and wares to oil field crews much like they did in towns during California’s gold rush of the 19th century.
From roadside espresso, to tortillas in a make-shift restaurant constructed of plywood and two-by-fours and attached to an RV …
… to very specialized accountants, there is money here to be made.
All of this is goes on amid some pretty stunning scenery.
And an abundance of wildlife.