A Slow-Growing Monster ~ Devils Lake, ND

One of many ND "prairie potholes", with sprawling Devils Lake in the background
One of many ND “prairie potholes”, with sprawling Devils Lake in the background

When crossing over from Minnesota to North Dakota we envisioned wide-open plains but what greeted us instead was water, everywhere.  I’m certain parts of the state look more like the wheat fields we had passed, but in this northeastern section of North Dakota, shallow wetlands known as “prairie potholes” dotted the fields, and the slow-growing monster known as Devils Lake shimmered in the distance.

This was once Sioux territory and they called this lake mni wak’áη chant.  Broken down into separate words the translation of “Bad Spirit Lake” was converted to Devils Lake by early Europeans.  For the Sioux, the word ‘bad’ referred to the salinity of the water, making it unfit to drink and ‘spirit’ the mirages they often saw across the water.

Aerial view of Devils Lake - photo credit Google
Aerial view of Devils Lake – photo credit Google

Devils Lake is the largest “natural” body of water in North Dakota and is a closed lake, meaning it has no outlet to river systems.  It is completely dependent upon precipitation, evaporation, and seepage to contain its size and is much higher in salinity than other lakes due to its closed nature.  Over the past 20 years it has nearly quadrupled in size, swallowing up thousands of acres of land, millions of trees, hundreds of buildings, and at least two towns in its path.

We have read that Devils Lake is within four feet of flowing into the nearby Sheyenne River.  Due to its salinity, the potential environmental impact of water being diverted away from the lake has officials and surrounding communities in a quandary.  No other place in America has faced this kind of dilemma other than the Great Salt Lake, which I believe was resolved when Utah experienced a drought.

Nice big sites at Grahams Island
Nice big sites at Grahams Island

We recently spent a few days at Grahams Island State Park, surrounded by Devils Lake. The state park was lovely and reminded us of a well-manicured city park, with sites in our section well-spaced and filled with plenty of mature shade trees.  Don’t come to the park expecting lots of hiking or biking trails, although I did venture out on my bike across the causeway a time or two.  This park is better experienced sitting under an oak tree reading a good book or looking out over the lake.  Better yet, if you are a fisherman, Devils Lake is known as the perch capital of the world, although campers were catching their limit of walleye the few days we were there.

Another discovery made during our visit was that of vast fields of golden sunflowers bowing in homage to the sun.  I learned that sunflowers are primarily grown in the Dakotas, with 50% of the U.S. production in North Dakota.  These beauties are grown for oilseed, sunflower seeds for snacks and bird food, and the fields stretched on for miles.

The very best part of our stay at Grahams Island was having friends Pam and John join us and true to form, we found a couple of opportunities to enjoy a meal together, once at our place, once at theirs.  Pam’s seafood paella rocked!

Hmm, wonder what these two guys find so funny?
Hmm, wonder what these two guys find so funny?

Good food, good friends and lots of laughter – the simple pleasures of life.  We look forward to meeting up again with them this winter, which is just about the best part of this full-time lifestyle, finding like-minded folks on the road. 🙂

43 thoughts on “A Slow-Growing Monster ~ Devils Lake, ND

    • I was just the same way about them Sue. In fact, one day as I was wading waist-high in weeds up a steep hill to get to one of the fields, I wondered about the type of snakes in North Dakota. That did not deter me however. 🙂

  • Just had no idea there were sun flowers in ND…AND I had no idea about that lake. Fascinating stuff! So happy you got to catch up w/ Pam & John again. Good peeps!

    • I had no idea about the sunflowers either and they were amazing, like a golden sea. The lake is really a huge problem for the small communities in the area and ND has already spent a small fortune to try to contain the problem. Pam and John are good peeps, just like a crazy Dane and a Cuban fella we know. 😉

  • We saw a couple amazing fields of sunflowers as we left Minot to head to Glasgow. The fields were packed with huge blooms. But my favorite was the beautiful blue flax field right outside our park.

    I am so glad we joined you at Devils Lake. It is such a unique place. Did you catch the TV antenna out in the water as we crossed the causeway? I tried to get a photo as we left but I just caught the edge.

    We did eat well didn’t we, without even leaving the park (not that there was anywhere to go)!

    Can’t wait for our next meet up on the trail!

    • The sunflowers were amazing and I wish I had seen the blue flax. It was fun to learn a bit more about ND, like the lake itself and those wetlands we saw everywhere. I learned that those “prairie potholes” were the result of glacier activity and they fill up with the spring snowmelt, kinda interesting.

      I did see the TV antenna out in the water when we were leaving and Terry and I wondered if there was a house still attached to it.

      We do ok in the cooking department, imho.

      Looking forward to this winter and hearing all about your time in Glacier.

  • Those fields of sunflowers are gorgeous, LuAnn! And the info about Devil’s Lake is so interesting — I didn’t realize a lake could grow like that and swallow up anything in its path. I wonder if the RV park is next? It looks like you’ve been having a wonderful time meeting up with Pam & John.

    • The sunflower fields were spectacular and I am sporting several bug bites after hiking through waist-high weeds to get to one of the fields. The things we do for a few photos! :

      I enjoyed reading the backstory on Devils Lake and I think there are still a few small communities that are concerned for their future. As for the RV park, they have already moved the road down by the lake once and may need to do so again.

      Pam and John have been a great couple to meet on the road. Hope to meet you and Eric as well sometime.

  • That is a VERY interesting story about that area, and about Devil’s Lake. Great photos, as well. I wish I could see that field of sunflowers. I think they are my favorite; they make me smile, just to see them. So glad you are getting to visit with other RVers on your journey.

  • Looks like a very relaxing place to stop. Those sunflower fields are wonderful! It’s great how you and the Wrights keep leapfrogging along on your travels. It’s a good lifestyle all right!

    • The sunflower fields were pretty special Lisa.

      As for the Wrights, they have now gone their separate way and we wish we were headed in their direction. We have a wedding to attend in Colorado late September so we are slowly heading that way now.

      Perhaps we will meet up with you and Hans sometime this winter…would really like that.

  • Your header photo looks like a painting. Gorgeous.

    We are so jealous that you four get to spend so much time together. When we leave here, we better run into all four of you! Keep enjoying your adventure.

    • If you are planning to be in AZ this winter, I think there is a good chance that may happen. We would love to meet you and Paul. Let’s stay in touch. 🙂

  • I love the matching tablecloth and bench covers! I am send this to my daughter who lives up in NE Montana. Devils’s Lake might be a new place for them to camp and fish.

    • If they like to fish Gale, I am told they would love this lake. Almost half of the campers in the park were sporting boats, so I think it is very popular.

  • Sunflowers! I would love to see a field of them! I probably would be snapping away like crazy.
    Im so happy for you that your route matched up with Pam and John and got to socialize several times and exchange delicious foods!

    • I was standing out in a field of sunflowers, after having slogged through waist-high weeds and up a hill and thought of you. First, I thought of how much you would enjoy playing in the sunflower fields and second, I wonder about chiggers.

      We were so glad to see Pam and John again and hope someday to spend more time with you and Steve.

      Enjoy the rest of your summer!

  • I’ve read Pam and John’s side of your meet. They seemed to forget to mention about the paella though. Sounds like something I’d be interested in. Oh, I would love to see the beds of sunflowers. I failed to visit giant ones in Okinawa. Thanks for the knowledge on the lake. Very interesting. Safe travel and have fun!

  • You make the best discoveries and end on a happy note, it is almost like an episode of Lost (can you guess what I am watching at the moment). There is something about sunflowers that make me happy…I blame all that yellow.

  • LuAnn, somehow we’ve managed to miss Devil’s Lake, so I was glad you visited. It’s gorgeous! We realized that the last time we drove through North Dakota it was the dead of winter and we were focused on not sliding off the road. Not the smartest time to travel. ) I am fascinated by the threat posed to the nearby Sheyenne River. Is there some kind of contingency plan in place? ~Terri

    • I hadn’t read of any viable contingency plan as to this point. The state has spent millions of dollars to address this issue but nothing has worked yet. 😦

  • Hmmm… I see how you sneak in educational moments in your posts… 😉

    LOVE the sunflowers.
    I wouldn’t mind having my back yard full of them.
    But – don’t think hubby would like that.
    I know for sure the kids wouldn’t. Where would they play?
    I know – the drive-way. 🙂

    Nice that you meet up with friends here & there during your travels too.

    • When we stopped at Devils Lake it was just going to be for a couple of days of relaxation. When I started to read a bit further about the lake, I found it to be quite interesting. And then I found the sunflowers…wow! I’m sure your kids would love being relegated to the driveway. 😉

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