Devils Lake, North Dakota

The Rise of Devils Lake

Devils Lake is summertime fun land to tens of thousands of visitors every summer, but just before the turn of the century, it was also a prominent geographic obstacle to railroad lines in east-central North Dakota, which resulted in a concentration of now vanishing places in the lands surrounding the lake — places like Hamar, Grand Harbor, and the ski jump at Sully’s hill.  In the last few decades however, Devils Lake has risen steadily and has driven more people from their homes and farms, and inundated numerous roads and highways.

We’ve visited the topic of Devils Lake’s rising waters on several occasions.  Once when 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 this photo of the Harmon residence, 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

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 Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Comments
7 Responses to “The Rise of Devils Lake”
  1. grm says:

    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?

    • fred schumacher says:

      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.

  2. MLD says:

    Would love to see photos of the farmhouse in its prime. So sad.

    • cape cod bill says:

      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.

    • fred schumacher says:

      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.

  3. jen devine says:

    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.

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  1. […] all around the lake. We’ve shown you some views of the inundation in the past, including the Harmon home and a satellite view of the […]



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