Devils Lake (population approx. 7,300) historically was the territory of the Dakota people, who called the lake mni wak’áŋ chante, which translates as mni (water), wak’áŋ (literally “pure source” but often interpreted as “spirit” or “sacred”), and chante (heart). The city’s name, Devils Lake, is an approximate translation of this Native name. The first post office in Devils Lake was founded in 1882, and later expanded by the Great Northern Railway. The town grew considerably when it was chosen for a train station connecting the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba railroads and later became a division terminal of the Great Northern Railway.
Since the early 1990s the water level of Devils Lake has risen dramatically, causing destruction of many homes and farmland. Because the lake is an endorheic basin—or a “closed” basin that retains water and allows no outflow—there is no natural drainage system to allow the water to flow out when rainfall is high. While this complicates commercial and residential development, it also makes the area ideal for fishing, ice fishing, and other watersports due to the high levels of nutrients and saline in the water. With Sullys Hill National Game Preserve on the lake’s southern shore and Grahams Island State Park located on an island in the lake, Devils Lake is also a destination for hunting and outdoor recreation.
The Arts Council of the Lake Region supports arts education and local organizations that encourage creativity and community connections throughout the Devils Lake area. Through grants and partnerships, the Arts Council encourages learning through artist residencies at local schools, enables inspiring performances by local orchestras and theater companies, promotes interactive workshops on crafts and history, and much more.