1884 Historical Atlas

Excerpt From Andreas' "1884 Historical Atlas of Dakota"

This prominent county lies in the northeast part of the Territory, within the water shed of the Red River of the North, and is bounded as follows: north by Cavalier and Towner counties; south by Foster County; east by Nelson and Walsh counties, and west by Benson County. It contains about the equivalent of 27 1/2 congressional townships, 990 square miles or 633,600 acres. From this amount must be deducted about 100 square miles or 64,000 acres, for the area covered by water, of which the portion of Devils Lake in this county includes about seventy nine square miles or 50,600 acres; the Sweet water Lakes, thirteen squares miles or 8,320 acres, and Dry Lake (as its name implies, sometimes dry), and land surface equal to 890 square miles or 569,600 acres. About one tenth of the surface of the county is water. With the exception of the Sweet Water Lakes, this water is salt or brackish.

Minnewaukan, or Devils Lake, has a length in a right line east-southeast and west-northwest, of thirty-two miles, but measured along the center of its channel it stretches out to a length of about forty-five miles. The water of this lake resembles that of the ocean, holding in solution chloride of sodium, magnesium, sulphate and carbonate of soda and lime, The lake abounds in splendid fish of the pike family, known as pickerel weighing from a few pounds to thirty pounds each. Bathing in this lake is highly recommended for nervous and rheumatic diseases.

The water, which is exceedingly clear, varies greatly in depth, the deepest places reaching 100 feet or more. A broad and beautiful sandy beach extends along the margin in many localities, and in places a person can wade to a distance of fifty yards from shore without getting beyond depth. The lake varies in width from 300 yards to six miles, the widest point being nearly opposite Tort Totten. It is wonderfully diversified in its outline, and abounds in picturesque bays, narrow straits and broad reaches of deep blue water, on which the storm king often raises white capped surges worthy of Lake Michigan. Its principal subdivisions are West Bay, Tellers Bay, Creel's Bay, Lamoreaux Bay, Devils Heart or Donahue's Bay, Mission Bay, Fort Totten Bay, Hill's Bay, and Mauvais Bay. The distance around the shore of this lake, measuring its sinuosities, is about 130 miles. The north shore of the lake is comparatively level, or gently undulating, but on the southern side it is rough, broken and hilly in many portions. The highest elevations are the Devils Heart near the southwest extremity of Donahue's Bay, and Sully' Hill across the bay, northeast from Fort Totten.

The high point known as Devils Heart is situated near the southwest extremity of Donahue's Bay, about eight miles east, southeast from Fort Totten, and is the highest elevation in the vicinity of the lake. It rises, solitary and alone, in the midst of the prairie to the height of several hundred feet above the common level, and is visible for many miles in all directions, the views from its breezy top is extensive and interesting, covering the whole Devils Lake country, and very probably the outlines of the Turtle Mountains. There are considerable hills around the west end of the lake, but between these and Fort Totten it is comparatively level. In places the banks are abrupt and filled with boulders of the drift period, and these are frequently found in other localities. This lake, and others contiguous, are probably the result of glacial action, or of diluvial action in the Champlain epoch.

The islands and peninsulas in and around this curious body of water abound in excellent timber, much of which has been reserved by the United States authorities for use at Fort Totten. The heaviest bodies are on Rock Island, 3,000 acres, and Graham's Island, 3,000 on the north shore. Narrow fringes of timber skirt the lake in many localities. Correctly speaking, both Graham's and Rock Island are peninsulas, though they were once surrounded by water.

The lake has no visible outlet, though there may be under-ground connection with the Sheyenne River on the south. The only stream worthy of mention tributary to it is the Grand Coulee, which comes down from the northwest, and in rainy seasons discharges a large amount of water. The lake has been diminishing for years, for the reason that the amount of evaporation exceeds the annual rain-fall. It is probable, however, that the settlement of the country will have the effect to increase the precipitation, and keep the level of the lake up to its present standard, or even increase its volume. The lake has receded some six feet in the last ten or twelve years.

The elevation of this lake above mean tide, as determined by careful observations, is stated to be 1,423 feet, and 814 feet above the level of Lake Superior. Sully's Hill has an elevation of 275 feet above the lake.

This region abounds in wild game, and especially wild fowl, including pelicans, geese, brant, sand-hill cranes, prairie and wood grouse, white breasted grouse, many varieties of ducks, including the celebrated canvas-back, mallard, red-head, blue-bill, spoon-bill, blue and green winged teal, and the shell drake. The curlew, golden plover, yellow-legged plover, prairie plover, sand-piper and many others abound in their season.

Large game is rapidly disappearing, but elk deer and antelope are still met with.