North Dakota : Safety by City
- Devils Lake
- Fort Ransom
- Grand Forks
- Valley City
- West Fargo
Devils Lake, North Dakota, might not sound like an inviting place when you just see the name.
However, it’s a unique outdoor recreation area without any evil, as the name suggests.
The lake has no outlet, which means the minerals stay inside, much like the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
The water isn’t fit for drinking, but it hosts plenty of fish.
The true name of the lake translates to Spirit Lake, named by the natives.
It’s believed that settlers misinterpreted the name and, based on the high mineral content making the water unusable, it must have been filled with “bad spirits.”
While this region is another wonderful outdoor recreation area in North Dakota, it’s one of the top ice-fishing locations nationwide.
That means each winter, more than 15,000 anglers head to the ice over Devil’s Lake.
With outdoor recreation comes a lot of tour guides here.
You definitely won’t have to “go it alone” and figure out how to take part in new activities if you don’t want to, and even the “less than outdoorsy” can still appreciate the resorts that offer great views with minimal effort.
Devils Lake is an authentic four-season outdoor recreation region in the best North Dakota has to offer.
Now, let’s make sure it’s safe for your next trip.
Warnings & Dangers in Devils Lake
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, but there's a higher crime rate than I might expect for a small North Dakota town of 7,000 people.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Devils Lake Transit offers limited routes throughout the week, but it's not what a tourist would expect. It's more for locals to visit the next town or do grocery shopping. Taxis and rideshares can be found sparingly. A rental car is your best, most reliable, and safest option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
No pickpockets or purse snatchings have been reported in the past five years, so that's another low risk. Keep it low by using all those smart safety steps you know when visiting a new town.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
This one's a medium risk due to the weather that can cause problems year-round. Winter can bring dangerously cold temperatures, blizzards, snow storms, and ice storms. Spring brings the risk of flooding, thunderstorms, and tornadoes. Wildlife can impact the lake directly, or far away fires can ruin air quality.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The city hasn't seen more than three robberies in a year going back a decade, so that's another low risk for you.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There are no hard targets or reasons for concern of international terrorism here. As this is a hunting community, you will see weapons, but there's no overwhelming risk in Devils Lake.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Scams mostly target residents, but always be sure to book rental homes through legitimate, vetted sources. Don't go to websites like Craigslist to book a place, and never wire money ahead of time to reserve a rental.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk for women here, too. It's a place that has enough indoor/outdoor options to make everyone in the family happy. Plus, you'll quickly learn that ice fishing is a group activity.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. A new report is posted each year, usually by July 1. You'll still want to follow the city's social media pages for updates on more pressing risks, like water pressure loss or flooding issues, which can happen occasionally.
Safest Places to Visit in Devils Lake
DevilsLakeND.com is the tourism website for this region.
You can download a tourism guide for free online.
Be sure to sign up for the tourism newsletter while you’re on the website if you don’t mind sharing your email address.
Devils Lake is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota; this lake provides opportunities for fishing, boating, and water sports.
Cast your line for walleye, northern pike, and white bass, or simply relax along the scenic shoreline.
Nature enthusiasts will find a true gem in the Sullys Hill National Game Preserve.
This unique sanctuary is home to diverse wildlife, including bison, elk, and various bird species.
Hike along the picturesque trails, keeping an eye out for the chance to observe these creatures in their natural habitat.
Explore the White Horse Hill National Game Preserve from May through October as a scenic drive or explore three miles of trails.
You’ll see bison and elk, plus plenty of birds.
Fall visitors will hear the hallmark elk bugling during the rut (mating season).
For those interested in history and culture, the Fort Totten State Historic Site is a must-visit.
This former military outpost turned Indian boarding school offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s past.
Explore the well-preserved buildings, including barracks and officers’ quarters, while learning about the history of the Dakota Sioux people who once inhabited the area.
For a touch of local flavor, don’t miss the Devils Lake Farmers Market.
Held during the summer months, this bustling market is a great place to sample fresh produce, artisanal products, and homemade treats.
You’ll be able to explore downtown year-round, with almost 60 places on the National Historic Register still embracing the turn-of-the-century vibe.
The Lake Region Heritage Center is where you go to learn about history and visit the art gallery showcasing works from the Devils Lake area.
The Sheriff’s House Museum is another great place to learn about the early settler’s day of this historic town.
Spirit Lake Casino & Resort offers Las Vegas-style gaming in North Dakota.
More than 700 slot machines, table games, and poker machines are waiting.
For a nice dinner, visit “The View” with scenic viewpoints from every seat.
Places to Avoid in Devils Lake
Devils Lake doesn’t have bad neighborhoods or dangerous parts of town, but the crime rate is elevated enough that it’s worth sticking to the main roads and highways.
You want to avoid being underdressed for the weather here, especially if it’s your first North Dakota winter.
Keep in mind that the entire lake–again, the largest natural body in the state–freezes over.
It takes really cold weather for that to happen.
Talk to an outfitter when you book the trip about how to dress and get their advice on staying warm while you’re outdoors.
It’s also important to check for storm forecasts in the summer, as you don’t want to be stuck on the lake as a thunderstorm approaches.
Winds can be intense in North Dakota, too, with a risk that inexperienced paddlers could be stuck on the water or become exhausted trying to row against the wind.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Devils Lake
- Devils Lake does have its own police department. You can follow them on Facebook @DevilsLakePD or call (701)662-0700 to ask specific safety questions.
- If you have any information about a crime that isn’t urgent, you can always report that information to Crime Stoppers by calling (701)662-0739. Even if it’s just suspicious activity, every little bit helps.
- Sign up for emergency alerts by registering with Nixle. Ramsey County will send out public safety and severe weather information as information is available.
- Even if you’re taking a guided tour with an outfitter, you’ll still need a license to fish or hunt. There might be different seasons for certain game or fish, and you can review the rules (plus purchase a license) on the North Dakota Department of Fish & Game website.
- Always lock your door when you park, and that’s especially important when you park at a lake or trailhead. Thieves will know you’ll be gone for a while and could be lured to break a window by valuables left inside.
- Mosquitoes and ticks are thick in spring, summer, and early fall. You’ll want bug spray, but also consider bringing mosquito netting or a long-sleeved shirt and pants that can tuck into your socks to keep the buggers at bay.
- Every trip back to the hotel should include a full-body check for ticks, paying attention to the armpits, back, groin, and neck. Remove a tick with tweezers, and be sure you pull the entire head out.
- Do not drink the water from the lake, and even if a little gets in your mouth, spit it out. The brackish water isn’t healthy to drink and can cause digestive issues. That goes double for your four-legged friends.
- Police can now pull drivers over for not wearing seatbelts, and that goes for everyone in the vehicle. Be sure your family buckles up every time you get in the car. If you are traveling with a child, review the safety seat requirements on the “Vision Zero” website.
- There is also a Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin, so be careful when you’re booking hotels or tour guides. I’ve noticed a lot of my search results have gotten those two mixed up.
So... How Safe Is Devils Lake Really?
I can’t even make this up–Devils Lake’s violent crime rate went up 66.6% in 2022.
(Devil=666 if the joke fell flat.)
Let’s start with the not-so-good news.
Devils Lake has a crime rate that is almost 50% higher than the state average and 23% higher than the national average.
The theft rate is about 115% higher than the national and state averages.
Now, some context.
Crime rates are determined by taking the number of crimes divided by the population and then multiplying by 100,000 to get “Crimes per 100,000.”
In reality, 35 violent crimes were reported in 2022, a 66.6% increase from 2021’s numbers of around 20 violent crimes.
Then you have to figure in the annual visitors, which is at least 15,000 in the winter.
But the crime data won’t reflect that.
So the real risk is lower than the crime data risk.
Still, I’ve researched a lot of small outdoor-focused towns in North Dakota, and this is one of the “more dangerous” ones, but I don’t think you’ll feel that sense of danger.
Using common sense and situational awareness will go a long way here.
You also have to factor in the weather risks and decide if you’re going to follow the guidance of officials or risk it when disruptive weather is approaching.
You certainly control that aspect of safety.
How Does Devils Lake Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
International visitors are required to have a passport and a visa or visa waiver. Start that process by reviewing the guidance on the U.S. State Department website. Ideally, you want to qualify for a visa waiver to move the process along.
The U.S. Dollar is the currency of the land, and no other form will be accepted. You can use ATMs to get cash, but relying on a credit card is better for fraud protection. For the lowest fees, exchange currency at your home bank.
It's really important to check the forecast before you pack, and don't just rely on the season. For example, spring can still bring cold temperatures and snow. Summer can have excessive heat or cold days and nights, too. You'll want comfortable, casual, outdoor-focused clothing with bug spray and sunscreen.
Devils Lake does have an airport with direct routes to Denver, which is a major travel hub in the U.S. The airport is right next to town, making it an easy option.
We recommend travel insurance and possibly adventure insurance if you'll be taking part in risky outdoor activities. Most vendors will have you waive any liability rights for a guided adventure. Supplemental health insurance goes a long way if you don't have health coverage in the U.S.
Devils Lake Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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North Dakota - Safety by City