Top 14 Best Lakes to Visit in South Dakota

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Because it is the flattest part of the state and has the greatest population, eastern South Dakota is more mountainous and hilly than the western ... read more...

  1. Lake Oahe, the largest lake in the state and the fourth-largest lake in the country, has roughly 2250 miles of shoreline. Millions of people visit each year because of its enormous expanse and a wide range of leisure options.

    You may have fun here because there are 50 state parks scattered around the lake. Visitors to the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area can view the numerous vibrant butterflies and pollinators in the Prairie Butterfly Garden area, which is perfect for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers. In the winter, you can see many bald eagles breeding on the treetops nearby. In Indian Creek Recreational Area, there are numerous trails and wildlife species like deer, wild turkeys, beavers, and raccoons that you can observe if you enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing.

    This lake has a great selection of different fish species, including walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, and chinook salmon. The Bridge City Marina in Mobridge rents out fishing boats and pontoon boats.

    Swimming, boating, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, hiking, camping, picnics, wildlife watching, biking, bird-watching, and animal viewing are some other activities.

    Location: begin in central South Dakota and continues north into North Dakota

    Photo:  Galleries | Ron Lowery
    Photo: Galleries | Ron Lowery

  2. One of the best lakes to visit in South Dakota, Lake Poinsett, is a haven for outdoor pursuits. You can travel to Arlington Beach to enjoy the water's fun splashing and swimming or to unwind by soaking up the sun. Golfing and having a picnic with your loved ones by the lake are some popular activities in this area. In addition to numerous recreational opportunities, the Lake Poinsett State Park offers 112 campsites spread across two campgrounds. Additionally, Arlington Beach Resort offers cabins. To learn more about the history of the region, visit the Lake Poinsett Visitor Center and Museum.

    The former US Secretary of War Joel Poinsett, who was instrumental in advancing the area's exploration, gave the lake its name. The lake's shoreline was a favorite camping location in 1838 when explorers tented there. You can participate in exciting activities to make your trip to this stunning lake memorable. Consider taking a boating trip and going swimming in the calm seas if you enjoy water sports. If you enjoy golf, try a round along the lovely lake.

    Walleye, crappie, northern pike, white bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, perch, and crap are just a few of the various fish species that anglers can catch.

    Location: Hamlin / Brookings counties

    Photo:  Dakotas Conference
    Photo: Dakotas Conference
    Photo:  Jonesboro Sun
    Photo: Jonesboro Sun
  3. One of South Dakota's largest natural lakes, Lake Thompson was formerly known by the moniker Dry Woods Lake by American Indians. On its northeastern side is the Lake Thompson Recreation Area, which is accessible to the public all year round. It has a beach, lots of campsites, a playground, and other amenities. You can take in the lake vistas and have a picnic in one of the 45 miles of shoreline's picnic sites.

    Its surface area is 16,236 acres, and its depth is 26 feet. Because the lake is home to numerous fish species, including sunfish, northern pike, walleye, black bullheads, and others, anglers frequent it. The primary draw for most visitors is the Lake Thompson Recreation Area, which is located on the lake's northeast shore. It contains five cottages, a playground, a water skiing beach, and 103 campsites. If you like hiking, you can embark on an adventure and explore a number of beautiful natural trails. The survival of migratory birds depends on Lake Thompson. The presence of open water, shallow mudflats, cattail marshes, and wet meadows gives a diverse environment for shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds, and gulls. While ducks, terns, gulls, and pelicans thrive on open water.

    Location: Kingsbury and Miner counties

    Photo:  Wikipedia
    Photo: Wikipedia
    Photo:  South Dakota Birds and Birding
    Photo: South Dakota Birds and Birding
  4. Sylvan Lake, which flows in the Black Hills and is considered to be the state's cleanest lake, is the main draw of Custer State Park. Here, visitors adore taking a seat and taking in the beautiful scenery. A boat cruise is another option for discovering the charming waters and admiring the gorgeous surroundings. Near the water, at Sylvan Lake Lodge, you can rent boats. However, it is a calm area because only non-motorized boats are allowed there. The surrounding granite walls not only enhance the beauty of the lake but also offer opportunities for rock climbing. There are two trailheads for the Sunday Gulch Trail and Black Elk Peak Hiking Trail close to the lake if you enjoy hiking. The Sunday Gulch Trail is for expert hikers only; everyone else can choose the latter. Both of them are challenging yet provide stunning panoramic vistas.

    Northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white perch, and muskellunge can all be caught in this lake if you have a valid South Dakota fishing license.

    Location: Custer County

    Photo:  Black Hills South Dakota
    Photo: Black Hills South Dakota
  5. Big Stone Lake is a long, narrow freshwater lake and reservoir in northeastern South Dakota, close to the border between western Minnesota. The beach's surroundings, which include magnificent rocky bluffs and a shoreline fringed with trees, are visually appealing. Additionally, there are several of short hiking routes that lead to beautiful lake views and magnificent vistas from the hills. Here, the campgrounds are tidy and well-kept.

    The Big Stone Lake Dam, constructed in 1937 near the lake's southern end, controls the flow of water from the lake to the Minnesota River. Although small, the dam has a 205,000 acre-foot maximum storage capacity. The state of Minnesota is the owner and operator. The lake is home to two state parks: Hartford Beach State Park in South Dakota and Minnesota's Big Stone Lake State Park. They offer amenities for camping, hiking, boat launching, and picnics. A section of the Minnesota park is an educational facility. There are also a number of resorts along Big Stone Lake's shoreline.

    The abundance of fish in this lake, which includes walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, bluegill, white crappie, green sunfish, white bass, channel catfish, and yellow perch, makes it a paradise for anglers.

    Location: Big Stone County

    Photo:  Flickr
    Photo: Flickr
    Video: timelapsetalk
  6. Pierre Creek enters Lake Hanson in Hanson County from the east and leaves at a spillway at the western end. Lake Hanson is a small reservoir. Being less popular with tourists makes it the perfect place to unwind. On its northern side is Lake Hanson Recreation Area, where you can engage in aquatic activities. Here is a beach where you can unwind in the sunlight. You may have a calm kayak journey thanks to two launching ramps on the north and western edges. Binoculars are a must-have item if you want to see the many birds soaring over the area's undeveloped shorelines.

    Because glaciers during the last ice age built the lake, it has an uneven shape and is filled with numerous bays, islands, and canals. It receives water from numerous rivers and tributaries that originate in the nearby hills, smaller lakes, and muskeg. The Sturgeon-Weir River, a tributary of the Saskatchewan River, is where Hanson Lake empties into a short river at the lake's eastern end.

    There are no settlements on the lake; Flin Flon, to the east, is the closest city. A provincial recreation area is located on the western coast, and a mine is located on the southern shore. Access to the lake is through Hanson Lake Road.

    Numerous fish species, such as bluegill, northern pike, largemouth bass, white crappie, and yellow perch, can be found in the lake.

    Location: Hanson County

    Photo:  Touring Tasmania
    Photo: Touring Tasmania
    Photo:  Pixels
    Photo: Pixels
  7. The largest and deepest lake in the Blue Hills National Forest is this pristine lake-Pactola Lake. A visitor center is run by the US Forest Service on the south side of the 1952-built dam, which is controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation, along with the surrounding area, which is part of the Black Hills National Forest. There are campgrounds, hiking paths, picnic spaces, and a beach among the amenities.

    With its picturesque surroundings of lush vegetation and imposing mountains, it is awe-inspiring to visitors. In addition to taking in the views, boating and picnics are popular pastimes. Additionally, you can discover the beauties of the aquatic world here via scuba diving. The lake's western cliffs provide those who are courageous the chance to cliff dive into the crystal-clear waters. Additionally, you can visit the visitor center to observe the numerous displays and take in the lovely lake views.

    Lake trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, crappie, bluegill, and kokanee salmon are among the fish you can catch here while fishing.

    Location: Pennington County

    Photo:  Travel South Dakota
    Photo: Travel South Dakota
    Photo:  Outdoor Photographer
    Photo: Outdoor Photographer
  8. Iron Creek Lake is a natural wonder that may be found in the Blue Hills on the western side of Spearfish Canyon. It's one of the best lakes to visit in South Dakota. You may have a nice day here because there aren't many people around and there aren't any motorboats on the water. There are other cottages close by where you may stay overnight and take in the beautiful scenery. On its southern and northern sides, respectively, hikers can explore the Old Baldy Trail and the Big Hills Trail.

    This artificial lake draws kayakers, hikers, campers, four-wheelers, cyclists, and just about any other kind of outdoor enthusiast you can think of. The beach and campsite areas are typically crowded with tourists during the summer. Even if some people are fortunate enough to have a cabin on the lake, they choose to live there all year round as the days get shorter and colder. The convenience store, which is situated near the parking area's entrance, sells small necessities. Also recently constructed and in excellent condition for public use is an outhouse. To help inflate lake floaties, an electric air pump is frequently accessible at the store.

    Location: west of scenic Spearfish Canyon

    Photo:  Pixels
    Photo: Pixels
  9. Southwest South Dakota, close to the Nebraska border, is home to the Angostura Reservoir, which is situated on the Cheyenne River at the southeast edge of the Black Hills. The reservoir contains 42 miles of shoreline, 4,407 acres of water surface, and 4,546 acres of land. Although Angostura Reservoir was initially constructed for irrigation, it is now a highly well-liked recreation area.

    The SD Department of Game, Fish, and Parks oversees recreation on this reservoir for the Bureau of Reclamation and manages campgrounds, boat ramps, a fishing pier, and marinas. Walleye, bass, northern pike, perch, bluegill, and crappie are some of the fish species. The reservoir attracts migrating waterbirds that follow the eastern edge of the Black Hills because it is situated on the southeast side of the Black Hills and is the only significant body of water in a remote region of arid southwestern South Dakota. On their twice-yearly migrations to and from the north and west, migrant passerine species that move along the Cheyenne River can also find habitat in the lake. The undeveloped western side is the finest spot for bird watching. There is always an admission fee and the area is always open. Part of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program is the Angostura Unit.

    The lake's 66-kilometer shoreline features some of the state's top beaches. The Bailey Recreation Area runs along the lake's southern end, while the Angostura Recreation Area occupies the whole eastern shoreline.

    Location: Fall River County

    Photo:  NewsCenter1
    Photo: NewsCenter1
    Photo:  RootsRated
    Photo: RootsRated
  10. Blue Hills' Sheridan Lake offers a tranquil setting in addition to breath-taking mountain and forested views. It was constructed on the site of Sheridan, the first county seat, and is one of the Black Hills National Forest's recreational areas. It is owned and administered by the United States Forest Service. On its northern side, you'll discover a marina where you may launch your boat and a swimming beach where you can unwind for the day. Many people also enjoy cliff-jumping from the nearby cliffs into the lake. You can trek the Dakota Point Trail from the northern shore of the lake if you choose to stay on land and take in some additional beautiful vistas.

    The Sheridan Water South Shore Campground provides about 129 campsites where you can spend the night with easy access to the lake. Walleye, crappie, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass are among the popular fish in this lake.

    Sheridan Lake can be reached from Hill City, South Dakota, Three Forks, Lead, and Deadwood through U.S. Route 385 in either the north or south, or from Rapid City via Sheridan Lake Drive, a picturesque county road.

    Location: Pennington County

    Photo:  Wikipedia
    Photo: Wikipedia
  11. On Highway 244, 2 miles west of Mount Rushmore, close to the communities of Keystone and Hill City, is Horsethief Lake. This little lake in Big Hills, which is surrounded by mountains and dotted with Ponderosa pines, is perfect for a tranquil getaway. Many people stop by here en route to the adjacent famous monument, Mount Rushmore, to take in the scenery of the lake. Adventurers can hike the George S. Mickelson Trail or scale Wrinkled Rock's challenging trail. Horsethief Lake Campground has campsites with woodland surroundings if you want to spend the night in a place where nature is your home.

    The lake was used as a base of operations by a group of horse thieves, hence its name. The lake is a well-liked location for hiking, camping, and fishing, and it occasionally gets busy. A stunning trail around the majority of the lake, and another leads from the lake to Mount Rushmore. There are a few pulp-out spots where you can park, and I highly suggest getting out of your car and taking a quick stroll along the lake. There is a gorgeous campground with 36 campsites close to the lake.

    Location: near Mount Rushmore National Memorial

    Photo:  State Parks
    Photo: State Parks
    Photo:  TripAdvisor
    Photo: TripAdvisor
  12. A spring-fed lake called Pickerel Lake is located in South Dakota's northeast. Pickerel Lake is one of the deepest natural lakes in the state. The area where the lake is located was produced by glacial activity thousands of years ago. It now forms a component of the Pickerel Lake Recreation Area, where a variety of water sports are available. Two campgrounds, the East Unit and the West Unit, each with 77 campsites and six cottages, are also available. They are all closer to the lake and give breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

    There are many water sports available at the lake, including swimming, paddle boarding, boating, and fishing. Two distinct campgrounds and 69 campsites make up the Pickerel Lake Recreation Area, a beautiful location for lakeside camping. The American Indian phrase that meaning "where you spear long fish" inspired the name of the 386-hectare lake. This is perhaps one of the factors contributing to its popularity as a fishing location. The lake is home to a variety of fish species, including walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, bluegill, northern pike, rock bass, and white bass.

    Location: Forest, Langlade Counties

    Photo:  Grand Rapids Kids
    Photo: Grand Rapids Kids
    Photo:  TrekEarth
    Photo: TrekEarth
  13. A reservoir measuring 31,400 acres (130 km2), Lewis and Clark Lake is situated on the Missouri River, straddling the states of South Dakota and Nebraska in the United States. The lake has a shoreline of more than 90 miles (140 km), is around 25 miles (40 km) long, and has a maximum depth of 45 feet (14 m). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, is in charge of managing the lake, which is contained by the Gavins Point Dam.

    Millions of people come to this large lake every year, clogging the streets. You will undoubtedly lose track of time with five recreational areas on the South Dakota side. If you forgot your boat at home, you can borrow one at the marina or Lakeside Fun Rentals in Yankton, which also offers bicycle rentals. Additionally, you have a selection of campers and cabins along the lake's shores for an overnight stay. There are numerous boat ramps, marinas, campers, and day-use facilities at these recreation locations surrounding the lake. Along the Missouri River flyway, the upper parts of the lake are well known for their excellent waterfowl viewing and hunting chances.

    Excellent chances to catch a variety of fish species, including flathead and channel catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, white bass, crappie, bluegill, and northern pike, are offered by this lake. Even a pontoon boat can be rented at the marina.

    Location: on the Missouri River

    Photo:  Wikipedia
    Photo: Wikipedia
    Photo:  Norfolk Daily News
    Photo: Norfolk Daily News
  14. In south-central South Dakota, the Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River creates the sizable reservoir known as Lake Francis Case. The lake, which is situated in the counties of Charles Mix, Gregory, Lyman, Brule, and Buffalo, is the country's eleventh-largest reservoir. From Pickstown, South Dakota, upstream to Big Bend Dam, the lake stretches.

    In the winter, you can see migratory birds flying over the dam area, such as bald eagles and golden eagles. For stunning panoramic views of the lake and the dam, go to the visitor center at the southern end of the lake. You can also enjoy the waterways by renting a boat of your choice from Fort Randall Marina. Around the lake, 19 recreational sites provide a variety of camps, from basic to upscale.

    Smallmouth bass, walleye, channel catfish, northern pike, and many other types of fish can be found in Lake Francis Case. Around the lake, there are coyotes, wild turkeys, whitetail and mule deer, among other large game animals. Ducks, geese, pheasants, prairie chickens, and grouse are examples of waterfowl and upland game birds. Just downstream from the lake, the Karl E. Mundt National Wildlife Refuge serves as a haven for bald eagles that are migrating there for the winter. During the winter, bald eagle sightings around the dam are frequent.

    Location: on the Missouri River

    Photo:  Wikipedia
    Photo: Wikipedia
    Photo:  Pinterest
    Photo: Pinterest

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