5 Outdoorsy Things to do in Devils Lake ND

by Jenna Lee

5 Fun and Outdoorsy Things to do in Devils Lake ND with Your Family

If you’re looking to get your family outdoors on your next vacation, check out Devils Lake, ND. Devils Lake is located about 90 miles west of Grand Forks in the Northeast corner of North Dakota. The town, nestled on the shores of the largest lake in the state and in the middle of the Prairie Pothole Region, is an outdoor lovers paradise. From epic wildlife photography to legendary fishing, there are tons of fun things to do in Devils Lake if you enjoy the great outdoors. Check out a few of these ideas and start planning your summer outdoor adventure in Devils Lake ND.

This article is a sponsored post written in partnership with Devils Lake Tourism to raise awareness about the many ways you and your family can enjoy Devils Lake, ND.

Go Fishing at Devils Lake

Plan a fishing trip to remember at one of the top 5 fishing lakes in the United States. Officially known as the “Perch Capital of the World,” it’s not uncommon to reel in a Perch upwards of 2 lbs at Devils Lake. In addition to hearty Perch, it is also home to an abundance of Walleye, Northern Pike, and White Bass.

Fun Fact: Devils Lake was originally known as Miniwaukin – the Native American word for ‘spirit water’. Early visitors to the area confused the translation to mean ‘bad spirit’. This misunderstanding led to urban legends and tales of lake monsters and drowned warriors. Eventually, the name evolved into Devils Lake.

Devils Lake is suitable for fisherman and fisherwomen and of all ages and skill levels. Cast your line from the shore or visit one of 4 piers set out around the lake. Three of the four piers are ADA compliant. These three piers include Channel A, Henegar, and Pike Playground and Fishing Piers. Boat rentals and a range of fishing guide services are available to help you find some of the best spots in the lake.

Fishing is one of the most popular things to do in Devils Lake ND. Fishing on a boat at dusk.
Last few casts of the day. Credit North Dakota Tourism.

Spend the Morning Birdwatching

Devils Lake is a basin area and part of the Prairie Pothole Region. Once a vast grassland, the region is now dotted with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of depressed wetlands. These wet, sunken areas known as “potholes” are a result of glacial activity dating back 10,000 years. Today, these pockets fill each year with rain and, in the spring, the melting snow.

The variety of lakes, wetlands, grasslands, and woodlands are all valuable habitats for not only wildlife but for the overall environment. The area consists of several public lands that shelter and protect these habitats. These include North Dakota State Parks, County Recreation Areas, North Dakota Game & Fish Lands, and the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The diversity of landscape in the Devils Lake Basin and Prairie Pothole Region contributes to the great diversity of wildlife, particularly birds. Head out to Grahams Island State Park, Sullys Hill or Lake Alice Wildlife Refuge for a gratifying morning of birdwatching. Sullys Hill National Wildlife Refuge estimates over 250 resident and migratory bird species. Learn more about birdwatching in Devils Lake on the official tourism website.

sitting pileated woodpecker, a resident in North Dakota. If you're looking for things to do in Devils Lake, birdwatching is a great choice.
The pileated woodpecker is a year-round resident in Devils Lake. Source

Spend the weekend under the stars: Devils Lake ND Camping at Grahams Island State Park

Pitch a tent or hook up your RV and spend the weekend camping at Grahams Island State Park in Devils Lake, ND. It’s one of the only non-seasonal campgrounds in the area and offers both primitive and modern campsites. Following these camping tips will help you plan a memorable summer vacation by the lake. If you aren’t quite that outdoorsy but you’d still like to spend the weekend in the woods, you can rent one of the four seasonal cabins that overlook Devils Lake. Each cabin is air-conditioned and sleeps up to five people.

A Devils Lake, ND camping experience means you’ll be hard pressed to run out of things to do. At Graham’s Island, your campsite will be somewhere along several miles of lakeshore and surrounded by woodlands with an array of flora and fauna to discover. Take the kids for a swim, grab your poles and fish lakeside, or spend a day on the boat. Alternatively, if you’d rather play on dry land, hike the Sivert Thompson or North Campground Loop and admire the areas many bird and plant species. Photographers can enjoy an unforgettable session with wildlife and surrounding nature.

Additional amenities at Graham’s Island State Park

A playground, horseshoe, and volleyball courts on the grounds and available for use. Grahams Island State Park also offers 3 miles of trails for cross country skiing if you’re in the area during winter. Other winter activities at Grahams Island include snowshoeing and ice fishing.

Devils Lake ND camping
Credit North Dakota Tourism

Take a Wildlife Tour just outside Devils Lake at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve

This beautiful Game Preserve is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with the family and is located just outside the main area of Devils Lake. Load up in your vehicle and meander along the 4-mile drive where you may encounter majestic animals such as Rocky Mountain Elk and Plains Bison. Prairie Dogs, deer, and, of course, a variety of birds are also common in throughout Sullys Hill Game Preserve. Observation decks are available throughout and provide an opportunity for visitors to step out for a closer look.

Visitor Tip: Visit Devils Lake in November and throughout the winter and you may catch a glimpse of our national bird, the Bald Eagle, during your wildlife tour!

In case you haven’t already figured it out, you’ll want to have your camera charged up and ready. You will have numerous opportunities to capture epic wildlife shots from one of the dedicated viewing areas or observation decks. Alternatively, you can explore the hiking trails located alongside the elk and bison enclosures. Later, relax on the patio outside the visitor center and observe a variety of species in the birding garden.

Viewing bison on a wildlife tour at Sullys Hill in Devils Lake ND
Credit Devils Lake Tourism

Devils Lake Hiking and the trail to Fort Totten

If your family loves to spend time outdoors, hiking will definitely on your list of things to do in Devils Lake, ND. Opportunities for hiking abound in and around Devils Lake with trails at both Sullys Hill National Game Preserve and Grahams Island State Park. Additionally, Ruger Park and Roosevelt Park are near downtown and are a great way to mix a day of downtown shopping with the great outdoors. However, for a more lengthy adventure, consider the Historic Fort Totten Trail at Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge.

This historic 9-mile trail begins outside of Jamestown, ND in the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). This portion of the trail once connected two military posts – Fort Seward and Fort Totten. The trailhead in Arrowwood NWR is equipped with hitch posts, a grill, an area for picnicking, and restrooms. The trail itself offers an enriching experience of historic passage and wildlife observation. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are all ways one may pass the Historic Fort Totten Trail.

Love Hiking? Check out these easy hikes in Phoenix perfect for families and beginners.

Devils Lake Hiking trail in ND
Credit North Dakota Tourism

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