Best Lakes in South Dakota | United States

Lakes in South Dakota

Are you planning your vacation and not sure where to go? Then Mount Rushmore State in South Dakota might be the right place for you to go. The state has 15 of the best lakes found in South Dakota. South Dakota has three regions the Eastern South Dakota, Western South Dakota and the Black Hills. Then you have the Missouri River that separates the state into two geographical regions the east side and west side. The most inhabited province in Eastern South Dakota and has a flat area while the western partial is hilly with mountain terrains.

Now to enjoy a great holiday, you need to visit the eastern partial that has numerous lakes mostly shaped by the ice age. Here you can find from small to large lakes in different forms and sizes. Each one varies in-deepness with others at the mountain and some at ocean level. Irrespective of the shape, all of these lakes are all magnificent to view. Make sure to plan your trip to any of the following mentioned here.

15 Best Lakes in South Dakota to Visit

15. Lewis & Clark Lake

Pactola Lake in Pennington County
Source: visitrapidcity

The reservoir is enormous and impounded by Gavin’s Point Dam found on the Missouri River. The shoreline of the lake stretches for 140kms. The Lewis & Clark Lake is between Nebraska and South Dakota with five leisure areas. The site is popular as it offers numerous activities from hiking, fishing, biking, water sports, and camping. Here you can stay for a week, as there are several camping grounds, rooms to rent, and cabins along the shoreline.

14. Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe
Source: theoutdoorforum

One of the biggest lakes found in South Dakota is Lake Oahe. The surface area is 150,000 hectares and is 63m deep. The lake is the 4th largest one in the state with a shoreline stretching 3,620km. You can visit nine recreation sites comprising:

  • Hughes
  • Dewey
  • Corson & Campbell Counties
  • Stanley
  • Potter
  • Sully
  • Walworth

You can enjoy a wide selection of recreational activities from camping, hiking boating, to fishing. Furthermore, you can swim at Oahe Downstream, Revheim Bay, and Cow Creek recreational area. Moreover, the lake extends to Northern Dakota with Route 12 and 212 passing over it.

13. Lake Thomson

Lake Thomson
Source: urbanpaddler

A vast natural lake to visit is Lake Thomson with a superficial area covering 16k hectares. The shoreline spreads for 70kms and is a popular recreational spot. Do you love fishing? Then you will find the lagoon to be one of the best lakes in South Dakota for angling. You can fish for yellow perch, sunfish, walleye, and northern pike. Furthermore, it is an excellent place for outdoor loves to hike and camp. On the northeast shore of the lake, you find Lake Thompson Recreation Area that is the foremost attraction for tourists. You can visit it throughout the year and has 5 cabins, 103 campsites, a beach for water skiing, and a playground.

12. Lake Sylvan in Custer County

Lake Sylvan in Custer County
Source: blackhillsbadlands

A stunning lake to visit is Sylvan Lake that is situated in the Black Hills. The recreational areas surrounded by rock and an excellent place for mountaineering and enjoying a picnic. At the lagoon, you get two hiking trails, the Black Elk Peak and Sunday Gulch Trailhead. With the Sunday Gulch Trailhead, you can reach the Needles that are magnificent to see. If you plan to take the Black Elk Peak Hiking Trail, you can view the splendors of Black Elk Peak that is the highest point in South Dakota.

You can find Sylvan Lake located at Custer State Park accessible via the State Route 87. During the winter months, the highway is closed and only available with snowshoeing and skiing.

11. Lake Sharpe

Lake Sharpe
Source: wikipedia

The lake stretches across five countries; Buffalo, Hyde, Lyman, Hughes, and Stanley. The surface of the lagoon is 23,020 hectares and named after Governor Merrill Q that grew up on the south side of the lake. Here you can find 17 recreational areas that stretch along the 320km shoreline. You can enjoy angling and boat rides along the lake. For fishing, you can find different species raging from walleye, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, to white bass. However, this is not all you can do, as there are dedicated swimming areas as well. Here you can find picnic shelters, waterfront trails, and camp out grounds.

Here you can also find the Lower Brule Indian Reservation located on the western side with Crow Greek Indian Reservation on the east side.

10. Pactola Lake in Pennington County

Pactola Lake in Pennington County
Source: visitrapidcity

One of the largest lakes in the Black Hills is Pactola Lake that stretches over 500 hectares. Here you find some great place to boat and fish in the Black Hills Nation Forest. Here you can enjoy a picnic or go swimming at the beach or stay over at the camping sites.

Mountains and forests surround the lagoon and accessible via US Highway 385. The main attraction is the surrounding cliffs. Therefore, if you are an adrenaline junky, this is the place to be. Here you can climb the cliff and jump from up high into the lagoon, as there are ten diving sites available.

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9. Roberts & Grant Counties Big Stone Lake

Roberts & Grant Counties Big Stone Lake
Source: wikipedia

For a freshwater lake, you can visit Big Stone Lake alongside the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. The lagoon is 1.6km wide and stretches for 42kms. Along the South Dakota shoreline, there are three strands, with one making up a part of Hartford Beach State Park.

You can visit the park throughout the year if you want to unwind. A big attraction is fishing, as there are 12 public entrance areas available. You can find over 30 fish species, and every 2 years you can find more many walleye here.

8. Enemy Swim Lake

Enemy Swim Lake
Source: bulldogbreeze

Here we have another one of the best lakes in South Dakota that stretches over Roberts, Waubay Township, and Day Counties. The lagoon you find on the northeast section of South Dakota in the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. The name Enemy Swim Lake comes from a native name Sioux. Here an incident took place where citizens had to cross the lagoon to escape their enemies through swimming. The most prevalent thing to do at the lake is fishing. You can angle for smallmouth bass, yellow perch, largemouth bass, black crappie, and walleye. You can find 2 boat ramps situated on the southwest shore.

Furthermore, you can enjoy swimming in the southwest crook of the lake or enjoy relaxing at the camping ground.

7. Lake Alvin

Lake Alvin
Source: flickr

In Lincoln County, you find Lake Alvin near to the city Harrisburg. The lagoons enclosed by a leisure area that is widespread for outdoor fanatics. Here you can enjoy fishing for crappie, walleye, sunfish, and northern pike. You can take your canoe out on the lake or even row a boat. Furthermore, you can swim on the north coastline, but there is no lifeguard available. Moreover, you can head over to some of the best hiking trails at Lake Alvin as well.

6. Lake Vermillion in Mc County

Lake Vermillion in Mc County
Source: startribune

Lake Vermillion is an artificial lake found in 1958. The recreation area is famous for birding, biking, hiking, and camping. You can enjoy different watersport activities as well from fishing, boating, to swimming. Here you can find a fishing station with a designated beach for swimming and skiing.

5. Angostura Reservoir

Angostura Reservoir
Source: visitrapidcity

For another one of the best lakes in South Dakota, you will find the Angostura Reservoir a fantastic place to be. Behind the lagoon towers, the majestic Black Hills and the lake stretch for 68kms. Here you can find the best seashores along the east coastline with Bailey Recreation Area situated along the south. On the west side of the lake is the Sheps Canyon Recreation area that offers an overabundance of goings-on from fishing, camping, boating, swimming, hiking, to canoeing.

4. Sheridan Lake

Sheridan Lake
Source: visitrapidcity

Here we have another Black Hill Nation Forest lagoon the Sheridan Lake, in Pennington County. You can enjoy magnificent views at the pool surrounded by forests and hills. If you are an outdoor adventure lover, you can find fantastic activities to do here. Enjoy boating, fishing, birding, swimming, to picnicking. Furthermore, it has the Dakota Point Trailhead hiking trail leading to Centennial Trail situated on the northeast lagoon side. If you enjoy camping, you can find a camping site on both sides of the lagoon.

Here you can find swimming beaches on the south seashore with a harbor on the north shoreline.

3. Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake
Source: tripadvisor

In Day County, you find the Pickerel Lake that is spring-fed in the northeast crook of South Dakota. Here you can find plenty of activities for the whole family to do. You can do boating, swimming, fishing, and paddle boarding. The best place for camping is in the Pickerel Lake Recreation Area as there are two isolated campsites. The lake is named after an American Indian, which means long spearfish.

2. Horse Thief Lake

Horse Thief Lake
Source: wikipedia

The closest lagoon to Mount Rushmore is the Horse Thief Lake in Pennington County. The lagoon got its name from horse thieves that operated in the area. Mountains surround the bay and are an excellent place to camp, fish, hike, and go horseback riding. The closest trail is the George S. Mickelson Trail. Wrinkled Rock offers rock climbers an adventurous trail and you can even climb Mount Rushmore.

1. Lake Poinsett

Lake Poinsett
Source: greatriverroad

Another famous South Dakota lake that is massive is the one found at Lake Poinsett. Here you can find loads of recreational areas that sit on the southeast side and home to Arlington Beach. The creek got its name from Joel Poinsett. He served as a United States Secretary of War.

During 1838, different explorers were camping alongside the shoreline and you can still enjoy camping here. There are two camping zones with 112 campsites. For a comfortable stay, you can book yourself in at Arlington Beach Resort that has cabins available at the lakefront.


Plan your trip to these 15 best lakes in South Dakota today. You will not be left disappointed.

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