South Dakota has many beautiful lakes that are popular for fishing and other forms of water recreation. However, many of the most well-known and frequently visited such bodies of water are not really lakes at all. Rather, they are reservoirs that formed due to the creation of manmade dams. Because they were made by human beings, they sometimes also need the intervention of human beings in the form of a hydrostatic test pump or other tools used for maintenance.
1. Belle Fourche Reservoir
If you ask a local how to get to the Belle Fourche Reservoir, they might look at you funny at first because they typically refer to the whole area as Orman Dam. Fortunately, they will probably figure out what you mean pretty quickly because Orman Dam is located close to the Northern Hills town of Belle Fourche (pronounced “bell-foosh”). Whatever you call it, the dam is a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the largest earthen dams in the world. It is also the site of the Rocky Point Recreation Area where you can participate in water skiing, boating, camping, and fishing, including ice fishing.
2. Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake is located inside the Black Hills‘ Custer State Park and is one of its most popular attractions for visitors and locals alike. The lake covers an area of 19 miles. In addition to water sports, hiking is also popular in the vicinity of Sylvan Lake, and it is in close proximity to three different trailheads.
3. Lake Oahe
The Missouri River flows lengthwise through South Dakota, dividing it roughly in half. The Oahe Dam was built on the Missouri in 1948 by authorization of the Flood Control Act four years previously. Lake Oahe is one of the largest reservoirs in the United States, so large that it extends past the South Dakota border into North Dakota. Lake Oahe is home to the endangered pallid sturgeon and many other species of fish, making it a popular location for anglers. Its 2,250 miles of shoreline are lined with 51 recreation areas that collectively draw over a million visitors every year.
4. Lewis and Clark Lake
Lewis and Clark Lake is located in southeastern South Dakota along the Nebraska border. In addition to water recreation opportunities, it also provides a habitat for the American Bald Eagle. Visitors have the opportunity to view the majestic and endangered birds while visiting the reservoir but must take care not to disturb their nesting sites.
While eastern South Dakota has a few naturally occurring lakes, all western South Dakotan lakes, including those in the Black Hills, were the product of human intervention.