Devils Lake is a natural lake in northeastern North Dakota that is the terminus of a nearly 4,000-square-mile subbasin in the Red River of the North Basin. The lake has not reached its natural spill elevation to the Sheyenne River (a tributary of the Red River of the North) in recorded history. However, geologic evidence indicates a spill occurred sometime within the last 1,800 years. From 1993 to 1999, Devils Lake rose 24.5 feet and, at the present (August 2000), is about 13 feet below the natural spill elevation. The recent lake-level rise has caused flood damages exceeding $300 million and triggered development of future flood-control options to prevent further infrastructure damage and reduce the risk of a potentially catastrophic uncontrolled spill. Construction of an emergency outlet from the west end of Devils Lake to the Sheyenne River is one flood-control option being considered. This report describes the climatologic and hydrologic causes of the recent lake level rise, provides information on the potential for continued lake-level rises during the next 15 years, and describes the potential effectiveness of an emergency outlet in reducing future lake levels and in reducing the risk of an uncontrolled spill. The potential effects of an outlet on downstream water quantity and quality in the upper Sheyenne River also are described.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Climatology, hydrology, and simulation of an emergency outlet, Devils Lake basin, North Dakota
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey
Dakota Water Science Center, North Dakota Water Science Center