Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - North Dakota - North Central -

Also known as:  Devils Lake

Spring 2011: Water levels continue to rise with melting snow and spring rains, reaching 1,453 feet above sea level and about 177,000 acres in April.

As the largest natural freshwater lake in North Dakota, Devil’s Lake is one of the state’s most popular recreation destinations. Offering every water sport you could want, in addition to great hiking and biking opportunities around its scenic shores, this approximately 160,000-acre reservoir offers four seasons of fun.

There’s nothing evil about Devils Lake, though its name might make you think otherwise. The lake’s name comes from the original Native American word “Miniwaukan.” Early explorers to the area learned the name from area natives, but translated it incorrectly as “Bad Spirit” – its real meaning is “Spirit Water” or “Enchanted Waters.” Adding to the mistranslation, Devil’s Lake is steeped in local lore. A favorite Sioux legend details the region’s very own lake monster, which is said to have wiped out an entire army and killed all of the lake’s fish. Combining the lake’s poorly-translated name and its mythical past, the Devils Lake moniker stuck.

Devil’s Lake’s is ideal for boaters, providing days of exploration. On a warm summer day, you’ll find the lake’s surface dotted with speed boats, pontoon boats, and even the occasional sailboat. For those who prefer a slower pace, canoes and kayaks are common along the shore and in quiet coves. And when the days are hot and the sky is blue, water skiers and wakeboarders are also a common sight, as the lake’s open acres are ideal for high-speed joyrides and adrenaline-pumping action.

Of course, casual boaters aren’t the only ones out on the lake’s waters. As the “Perch Capital of the World”, Devil’s Lake is a favorite for anglers hoping to catch the next record-breaker. Many perch exceed two pounds, and are joined by excellent catches of northern pike, walleye, and white bass. Take out your own boat, or hire one of the lake’s several proficient and knowledgeable guides. Both summer time and ice fishing are popular here, so no matter your schedule or your angling preferences, Devil’s Lake will show you a great time.

Coming to rural Devil’s Lake will make anyone feel closer to nature, and some visitors like to extend their stay. 90% of the lake’s shoreline is undeveloped, allowing you a quiet, comfortable vacation with only the trees, stars, and lapping lake waters as your camping neighbors. There are several official camping spots along the lake, offering everything from primitive camping to campsites with hot water and RV-hookups. Whatever your pleasure, Devils Lake will surely deliver.

For nature lovers, Grahams Island State Park is a great starting point for many lake activities. With over 1,142 acres to explore, the park is home to a boat launch, more than 100 campsites, miles of hiking trails, overnight cabins, and incredible nature watching. To get a lay of the land, set out onto Grahams Island State Park’s hiking trails, and visually witness the area’s history.

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve, located on the lake’s southern shore, provides 1,674 protected acres set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. Wildlife at the preserve includes bison, Rocky Mountain elk, white-tailed deer, prairie dogs, and waterfowl. Bring your camera and binoculars for nature trail hiking or auto touring. The preserve provides groomed cross-country ski trails in winter.

Known as North Dakota’s prairie pothole region, Devil’s Lake shows visible marks of the retreating glaciers more than 10,000 years ago. As you walk, you’ll see depressions in the earth — colloquially referred to as potholes — that collect water. As you walk, be sure to carry the park’s official plant checklist, and keep your eyes open for the area’s many trees, bushes, and flowers.

Devils Lake is a terminal lake, meaning that rain and melting snow flow in, but there is no natural outlet for water to escape, except by evaporation. Water levels vary, from a low of 1,402 feet in 1940 to its current level of 1,452 feet above sea level. Devils Lake will naturally overflow into the Red River Basin at 1,458 feet, but this has not happened in recorded history. However, a regional wet cycle that began in 1993 has raised lake levels by 29 feet, increasing the lake’s size from 45,000 acres to more than 160,000 acres, causing widespread flooding. The state of North Dakota has operated an outlet on the lake’s west end since 2005, with plans to increase its capacity to reduce water levels.

If you can drag yourself away from the lake, the Devil’s Lake area offers much in the way of history, museums, and culture. Visit the old Sheriff’s House in downtown Devil’s Lake, and see what a North Dakota home looked like at the turn of the century. Head over to the Fort Totten State Historic Site to see where pioneers first settled, investigate old schools, and learn about the area’s history. Or simply take a walking tour of Devil’s Lake historic downtown, feasting your eyes on 14 pieces of history, as determined by the National Register of Historic Places.

Devils Lake is a place of vast natural beauty and rich historical offerings. The lake area offers a lot of something for everyone, and when the time comes to leave, you’ll find that your Devil’s Lake to-do list is nowhere near complete.

Things to do at Devil’s Lake ND

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Devil’s Lake ND

  • Bass
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Devil’s Lake ND Photo Gallery

Devil’s Lake ND Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 161,280 acres

Shoreline Length: 1,000 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,452 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,401 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,458 feet

Maximum Depth: 75 feet

Drainage Area: 3,320 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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