Devils Lake Basin

Devils Lake Basin

The Devils Lake Basin in northeast North Dakota is a subbasin of the Red River of the North Basin. Devils Lake and Stump Lake are the two primary closed basin lakes at the southern edge of the basin. As closed basin lakes, they receive and store runoff from their respective drainage basins and their water levels can fluctuate from dry to overflowing in response to changing climatic conditions.

There is geologic evidence that the lakes have overflowed to the Sheyenne River and dried up completely on several occasions over the past 10,000 years. More recent history also shows that dramatic swings in lake elevation are possible. In 1940, Devils Lake was nearly dry at an elevation of 1401 feet (NGVD 29), and in June 2011, the lake reached a modern-day record high elevation of 1454.3 feet. This fluctuation of over 53 feet of lake elevation is a change of over 300 square miles of lake area.

Since 1993, the Devils Lake Basin has experienced a wet cycle which has wreaked havoc on basin residents by threatening communities, flooding tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land, and forcing the abandonment of homes, roads, and other facilities. These conditions have caused the State of North Dakota to take an active role in flood prevention and mitigation. Specifically, the State has implemented three broad strategies to attempt to prevent future damaging flooding in the Devils Lake Basin. These strategies include construction and operation of outlets to the Sheyenne River, basin water management, and infrastructure protection.

Devils Lake Fact Sheet

Devils Lake Elevation Graph (4,000 Years) - A figure that estimates lake elevation in Devils Lake over the last 4,000 years, based upon tree ring and soils data.

Devils Lake Period Of Record Elevation Graph - Measured changes in the elevation of Devils Lake since record keeping began.

Local Water Links


For more information on the Devils Lake Basin, please contact Yaping Chi, Water Resource Engineer at (701) 328-9049.