Water Quality

The Sheyenne River – A Class 1A Stream and a National Scenic Byway with the its core being the Sheyenne River riparian area.


The counties and communities along the Sheyenne River highlight the beauty and recreational opportunities accompanying this attractive valley.

Increased flushing of Devils Lake waters down the Sheyenne River will drastically affect the aspects of the river that make it this river:

  • the oak savannah riparian forest
  • the extraordinary mussel populations found nowhere else in the state
  • the lush plant varieties found in the riparian zone
  • the many recreational areas for fishing, parks, hiking and camping adjacent to the river
  • the Sheyenne National Grasslands and North Country Trail areas enjoyed by tourists and visitors
  • the Fort Ransom community where thousands of visitors come during their fall craft sale and to view the fall colors of the forests along the river

Water quality includes factors such as pH, dissolved oxygen, sediments carried and dropped, light penetration, chemicals from drainage and runoff such as sulfates, phosphates, mercury, various fertilizer components, silica, as well as being rated by what organisms can live in it such as fish, mussels, snails, mayflies, riffle beetles, dragonfly larvae. See the map on Current Status page where dissolved solids and dissolved sulfates are shown.

  • Sheyenne River sulfates = 97 mg/liter [See USGS  “Climatology, Hydrology, and Simulation of an Emergency Outlet, Devils Lake Basin, north Dakota, August 2000]
  • Devils Lake sulfates- West Bay = 489 mg/liter – 5 X higher than the river water.
  • Inflow sulfates from Big Coulee and Channel A are both higher than the Sheyenne River.
  • East Devils Lake = 2790 mg/liter sulfates (source of a new proposed outlet to the Sheyenne) 30 X higher than river water.

The Problem with Sulfates in Your Drinking Water: Click on this link by the MN Department of Health

Regulations are in place to monitor and regulate the movement of waters as the differences in water quality have big effects on those receiving the different waters. The link to the pdf document that follows includes a thorough examination of current laws relating to water quality issues and how the State of North Dakota and the State Water Commission are handling the issues in this case of water transfer from Devils Lake to the Sheyenne River and Red River. See the North Dakota Administrative Code section 33-16-02.1-09
The Table of Contents to the document is below, and click on the link to view the pdf document attached by Dr. Gary Pearson.