Most residents in Wisconsin have a fond enthusiasm for Devils Lake State Park. Maybe since we didn’t grow up here in the dairy state we don’t have the same dreamy associations. So to start getting to know this area a bit, we decided to paddle the circumference of the lake. The summer of 2018 was a time of flooding and high water that made many of our lovely rivers inadvisable to be upon.
One thing you will love – no gas motor boats are allowed!
The term, devil’s lake is a misinterpretaion of the Ho-Chunk name Tawacunchukdah or Da-wa-kah-char-gra, which better translates to “Sacred Lake” or “Spirit Lake.” Spirit Lake is highly significant in Ho-Chunk oral history, and voices of spirits were often heard during the celebrations. – Wikipedia
There are two boat ramps marked on the state park map. The signage is pretty bad for the south boat landing. If that is where you want to launch, pull in where the sign says “pet swim area” because the pet swim area and the boat launch are one and the same. There is parking across the street.
The north boat landing has great parking and is easier to find. Once there, your choice is to launch from a nice ramp or from a sandy beach. We put in from the beach and took out in the official boat ramp just to try it out. You do have to navigate around some sandbars to disembark. At this location, canoes, kayaks and small sailboats are available for rent.
The paddle is about 3 miles. Watch out for rocks along the shore. Luckily they are easy to to see because the lake is quite clear, and the bottom is clearly visible along the shallow edges. The maximum depth is 47 feet.
The lake is a seepage lake, situated in a deep chasm with no visible inlet or outlet; it has no spring and no feeding river. The sunny side has rocks exposed. There are trails around the lake to walk – some of which are segments of the Ice Age Trail which follows the where the glaciers stopped.
There were a few other paddlers and many dogs, some riding in the kayaks.
We saw a gaggle of geese hunting for fish. It was fun to watch them bloop under, butts up!
There is a little stream and the water was high enough to explore but it ends in a culvert. At this point, we don’t know where that goes. There is some vegetation in the water. Some seemed healthy and some seemed invasive. Very little algae at this point and quite clear compared to other waterways we paddle.
On the Southeast side of the lake there is a row of houses / cottages. These properties were grandfathered in when the WI law prevented new developments at Devils Lake. Mary had a little conversation with a cat in one of the windows.
There were rocks on the “shady” side of the lake that had a definite dividing line of mossed vs not-mossed rocks. Probably the water level was much higher a week or so ago. Also on this side is “Balanced Rock” which looked really small from where we were sitting, but it is a hiking destination for many.
We used the boat ramp to exit. Had a nice chat with this guy and his dog who relentlessly fetches. All in all, it was great exercise on one of the last beautiful sunny days of the summer and a nice pick of waterway to canoe once. Why only once? Because we do like more of the feeling of “going somewhere” and uncovering what is around the next bend. On a lake “it is what it is” – you can see pretty much all of it from the launch.