We’ve Gone to the Devil

Tuesday and Wednesday, August 17 & 18, 2021

We pulled up stakes this morning, Tuesday August 17, and headed out of the Garden. First stop is the US Port of Entry. A border agent in the small POE building opens his window and asks how many people are in the RV. I repy “2”. “ID’s please”. We supply our driver’s licenses. He start typing on his computer, I assume entering our DL info in the system, and stares at it for a time. It appears it’s not working to his satisfaction. He returns to the little window and asks “Where you from?” I almost said “You have our DL’s, where the heck do you think we’re from?”, but I didn’t. “Reno, Nevada I reply”.

International Peace Garden, aka the Dunseith-Boissevain Border Crossing

He says I’ll be back, closes the window and walks to the main building with our DL’s in hand. He’s back in maybe 5 minutes, writes something and holds up a piece of paper in the window farthest away- we can’t read it. He takes the paper down, and opens that window. I pull up so we can converse. He says “What are you doing here?” We went to the Garden. “It’s a long way outa the way!” Yup. “Where ya headin’ from here?” Grand Fork, Fargo, Sioux City. “Have a good trip!” Thanks!. “You betcha” ! I felt like asking “What the hell are YOU doing way out here?”

The wait, maybe 10 minutes kinda makes one nervous. What if they find out something about Jil or I that we don’t even know about. Like we’re wanted for something or one or both of us are victims of mistaken identity making us escaped felons or something weird like that? Glad to be on our way……

Nice couple volunteered to take our photo

We follow ND 3 to Rugby. This place touts itself as the geographical center of North America. The town of 2600 souls was founded in 1886 at a junction of the Great Northern Railway. Several sites along the Great Northern’s transcontinental route between Devil’s Lake and Minot were named for places in England.

Excerpt from Wikipedia- North Dakota’s first permanent settlers arrived in 1812 from the Earl of Selkirk’s colony in neighboring Rupert’s Land.[9]:277 As farmers, they were more advanced than many of their contemporaries in the rest of the United States, having adopted sophisticated farming methods and machinery. Many of these implements, including an early McCormick Deering threshing machine, have found their way to the restored Pioneer Village in Rugby.

Activities on and around Devil’s Lake

We arrive at Graham’s Island State Park around noon. Check in is one o’clock. Check out is 3 o’clock. Do you see a problem with that? The young lady at the registration desk won’t let us check in until 1 o’clock so we disconnect the car from the RV and tour the park. We drive by site 28 which will be ours for two nights. No one is there. We tour the other campsites and like what we see. Two are newer and have full hookups. All but the designated tent camping areas have at least electricity. Nice.

I go back in the office at 12:55 and check in. The gal behind the Plexiglass barrier says check out is 3pm so if the site is occupied we have to wait. Soooo, what was the problem with checking in an hour earlier if we would have to wait until the site is vacated anyway? 

Outer campsites have a huge side yard

The state park is nice. It has a really nice very busy boat ramp and the campgrounds are well kept. It’s located on Devil’s Lake about 15 miles from the town of the same name (6000 souls).

Downtown Devil’s Lake

The town’s first post office came in 1882, named Creelsburg after Lieutenant Heber Creel, a topographical engineer stationed at nearby Fort Totten. The name was changed to Creel City, then in 1884 to the City of Devil’s Lake.

Devil’s Lake Flooding in the 1990’s

Devil’s Lake has been a kind of pain to the locals and the State, also the Feds. The lake has no natural outlet and the water began to rise in the 1990’s. The surface area quadrupled causing a lot of flooded farmland and the destruction of over 400 houses. One solution was to pump excess water into the Sheyenne River (into which the lake overflowed about 1000 years ago). The Sheyenne flows in to the north flowing Red River of which 158 miles are in Canada. The Canadians didn’t want Devil’s Lake water with its possible contaminants mixed with Red River water. The State didn’t like the Fed’s solution.  A $450,000,000 fix includes extensive constructions of dikes and a less costly outlet to divert water from Devil’s Lake into the Sheyenne River when needed.

Fort Totten, a town of 1200 souls, is on the south bank of Devil’s Lake and located within the Spirit Lake Reservation (4238 souls). It’s make up is of three bands of the Dakota tribe. The Dakota words for “Spirit or Sacred” were misconstrued to mean “Bad Spirit or Devil”, thus Devil’s Lake. The Christian concept of the devil is not present in Dakota Philosophy.

Fort Totton has worn many hats. First as a military post. Several of the men assigned there were part of Custer’s Little Big Horn contingent including Marcus Reno, Miles Keogh, and Frank Baldwin.

Widows and orphans were cared for at the fort by military members of the Independet Order of Odd Fellows. The fort was decommissioned in 1890. The complex then became the Indian Industrial School, a boarding school, from 1891-1935 which concentrated on domestic skills for girls and farming/industrial skills for boys. The site was used as a Tuberculosis Preventorium from 1935-1939. This successful program was aimed at small groups of Dakota children who had or were susceptible to Tuberculosis. They were taught basic studies as well as being treated for Tuberculosis.

The Fort Totten Community School then occupied the grounds from 1940-1959. Today the fort is a State Historic Site and considered one of the best preserved frontier military posts in the Trans-Mississippi West.

While on the Rez we visit White Horse Hill National Game Preserve, formerly Sully’s Hill, a 1674 acre national wildlife refuge sitting on the southern shore of Devil’s Lake. Under Teddy Roosevelt’s guidance it became a national park in 1904, then in 1914 congress designated it as a big game preserve. We didn’t expect to see much in the way of “big game” but Lo and Behold on the roadway near the visitors center is a small herd of American Bison complete with several young calves, some enjoying their mother’s milk. Well, that made our day for sure!

After a very long climb up the stairs, the view from Sully’s Hill

Tomorrow we head to the border town of Grand Forks for three days. See you there!

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