The Rise of Devils Lake

The Rise of Devils Lake

There is a concentration of vanishing places in the lands surrounding Devils Lake — places like Hamar, Grand Harbor, and the remains of a ski jump.  In the last few decades, Devils Lake has risen steadily and has driven even more people from their homes and farms, and inundated numerous roads and highways.

Devils Lake, North Dakota

We’ve visited the topic of Devils Lake’s rising waters on several occasions, and we used Google Earth to create an animation that shows the expanding shoreline of the lake.

Our first experience with the Rise of Devils Lake however came in 2005 when we posted the photos of the Harmon residence shown on this page, just before it succumbed to the rising lake.  We ended up using that photo in our first book, accompanied by the comments of Gail Biby, who grew up there. These photos represent the rest of the batch that we shot from the shoulder of that then-busy highway which has since been raised and relocated.

Devils Lake, North Dakota

Devils Lake, North Dakota

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Devils Lake, North Dakota

This was once the road to the casino, but it washed out.

Devils Lake, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.

12 thoughts on “The Rise of Devils Lake

  1. Wow, I have not been up there in about 10-12 years or so. Is that washed out road the one that runs north from New Rockford?

    Is there a diversion project for the rising water?

    1. There are two diversions, but they are like garden hoses trying to empty a lake. Ultimately, Devils Lake will overflow through the Tolna Coulee, as it does about once every thousand years. The Corps of Engineers has built a control structure to limit flows, otherwise there would be massive downstream flooding. The Corps will allow the outlet to form naturally and choose its own level, so the maximum Devils Lake elevation will only be about four feet higher than it is now.

    1. Thanks guys I love this stuff I need to go to North Dakota a place I do not know! Georges Bank is my back yard I fished it as Captain in 100 foot scallop boats with 12 man crews, but I would love to be there in North Dakota all by myself! North Dakota truly is a sea of grass there is something special about great expanses like those found there.

    2. The great North Dakota historian Elwyn Robinson summarized North Dakota history with six great themes, one of which was “The Too Much Mistake,” i.e. too many people settled this semi-arid landscape, exceeding the carrying capacity of the land for humans. So North Dakota is rife with abandoned farmsteads. Although its population has now come back to its 1930s peak, North Dakota is much more urban than it once was. Abandonment, whether from natural causes or economics, is endemic in North Dakota, making this photo project, Ghosts of North Dakota, possible.

  2. This was my mothers’ family home. A great, albeit sad, historical record for our family. I understand that the Harmons’ bought the home from my Grandfather.

    1. FYI: My parents did not buy this home from anyone. It belonged to the Concrete Sectional Culvert Company and was one of the perks for the plant/office manager, my dad, Charles Harmon.

      1. That explains the name the power company gave to the substation that was just up the road a bit – “Concrete Block”. It was replaced in the ’90s by one just a bit further north on higher ground and which has a different name now.

      2. I grew up in that house and it is not a farm house. My father, Oliver Rude, was the manager of the Concrete Sectional Culvert Company which leased land from the Fort Totten Indian Band. That is where I lived for 18 years. My family eventually moved to Grand Forks in about 1958 as my father assumed a new job. The manufacturing plant was down a hill from our house and as children we would have a good long hike to get to the lake.
        Deloise Rude Fitton
        British Columbia Canada

      3. Yes, Gail is right. The house was owned by the company and the Harmons moved in when our family moved to Grand Forks. I think I remember Gail as a child. I certainly remember your mom and dad.

        1. Dee,
          I remember your family well. My mom is still alive at 97 and we were just talking about the Rudes a week or so ago. She remembers you all and talked about the wonderful times you had together. My dad died in 1989. It was a wonderful place to grow up which made for a delicious childhood.

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