On a cool foggy day, it’s not to hard to imagine why Devil’s Lake got its name. In fact, imagination probably had a lot to do with it. At the time when white trappers, then settlers were moving into the area, they learned from the local Ho-Chunk that their name for the lake, roughly translated, meant “Spirit or Holy” Lake. So you can see how with a little misunderstanding, the name “Devil’s Lake” came to be. The Ho-Chunk meant it in a good way, the translation took a more sinister turn…
Later, when the area was becoming popular with tourists in the mid-1800’s, the local business owners, railroad companies, hotel owners, etc., took another look at the name of the lake with an eye toward marking and bringing in the tourists. They played with a variety of names such as “Lake of the Two Hills”, “Wild Beauty Lake”, “Mystery Lake” and “Lake of the Red Mountain Shadows”. In the end though, “Devil’s Lake” still came out on top.
You hate to say, that in the end it all came down to marketing, but there it is. As far as those swimming serpents, spooky spirits and ghostly echoes occasionally reported in and around the lake? Well, that’s another story!
* Further Reading: Lange, Kenneth L. 1989. Ancient Rocks And Vanished Glaciers: Worzalla Publishing Company, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.