Devils Lake is a city located in Ramsey County, and serves as the capital of that municipality. Named after the nearby body of water, Devils Lake boasted a population of 7,141 as of the 2010 census. Devils Lake was initially surveyed in 1883 and named Creelsburg; later, the city was re-named Creel City, after the surveyor, Heber M. Creel. It was re-named once again in 1884, this time to Devils Lake.
Historically, the region that would come to be called Devils Lake was first home to the Dakota people; following the arrival of European settlers in the mid-1800’s, however, the local Native American tribes were re-located to reservations, owing to a treaty signed with the United States. The Dakota people had named the nearby lake “mni wak’án,” essentially meaning “pure water source.” However, this was mis-translated by settlers as “Devils Lake,” and the name stuck, even to the point of eventually naming the city itself after the body of water years later.
The first post office of the city – first founded as a small township by Lieutenant Heber M. Creel, a West Point graduate and topographical engineer – was established in 1882, with the town initially being named Creelsburg in his honor. Following an expansion of property and population due to the building of the Great Northern Railway, Creelsburg became a full-fledged city, changing its name to Creel City. Upon its incorporation in 1884, the city once again underwent a name change, this time becoming the City of Devils Lake; this was soon shortened to simply Devils Lake, which it remained as ever since.
Devils Lake is served by Devils Lake Public Schools, which operates Sweetwater Elementary School, Prairie View Elementary School, Minnie H Elementary School, Central Middle School, and Devils Lake High School. A private school, St. Joseph’s Catholic School, is also located in the city.
Amtrak, the U.S. national passenger rail system, serves Devils Lake, operating its Empire Builder daily in both directions between Chicago and Seattle and Portland, Oregon. SkyWest Air Lines also operates two flights daily to the Devils Lake Municipal Airport from Denver International Airport.
Devils Lake – the city’s watery namesake – is located in Ramsey County and Benson County in northeastern North Dakota, and is the largest natural body of water and the second-largest body of water in North Dakota, following Lake Sakakawea. Being a closed-basin body of water, the lake only flows into the Sheyenne River via the Tolna Coulee upon reaching an elevation of 1,458 feet, depending on the amount of precipitation; an unofficial lake elevation record of 1,454.3 feet was reached in June of 2011.
Devils Lake is well known for its wide variations in lake levels, with large swings between low and high water levels. This owes in large part to its nature as a closed-basin lake, lacking a natural outlet. The release of water is dependent upon evaporation and seepage, and flooding has been a regular problem in the area over the years due to these factors. In the 1990’s, a period of extended rainfall resulted in the moving or/or destruction of over 400 houses.