The Other Great lakes
The Missouri River dominates the landscape of central South Dakota, cutting across endless prairies. It's a land of untouched nature, sparsely inhabited but passionately loved by anyone who has ever had the good fortune to experience it.
Beginning in the late 1940s, the Missouri River was dammed to create four massive reservoirs - Oahe, Sharpe, Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark. These shimmering waters make up South Dakota's Great Lakes. Together, they provide 440-plus miles of waterway for boating, fishing, sailing, swimming and windsurfing. Lined with 3,000 miles of shore, the reservoirs lap inviting sandy beaches, gentle prairie bluffs and impressive chalk cliffs.
Adventures in the Outdoor
With lakes like these, it's no wonder that South Dakota's Great Lakes have become a fishing mecca. Walleye reign supreme in these waters, but anglers catch everything from catfish to white bass. Homey resorts and lodges located all along the lakes cater to fishermen and hunters.
Anglers aren't the only ones who enjoy the lakes. Lake Oahe might be dotted with pleasure boaters. At Lewis and Clark Lake, the horizon might be filled with colorful sailboats.
That enjoyment extends onto the prairies surrounding the river. Hunters frequently refer to this region as "God's country." They relish the solitude of nature as they pursue pheasants, waterfowl, predators and big-game animals.
Hikers and mountain bikers take to the many trails located in communities, parks and public lands along the river. Bird watchers flock to several national grassland and wildlife refuge areas. Campers have their pick of exceptional campsites. And golfers can experience a range of courses.
Inside the Region's Colorful Past
While the Great Lakes Region is known for its outdoor recreation, it also should be appreciated for its rich history. You'll discover regional history at museums in several communities. Hundreds of years ago, American Indian tribes had established a way of life and trade in this area. Lewis and Clark's arrival in 1804 paved the way for increased trade along the Missouri River. Reminders of these days are found in museums with outstanding American Indian displays.
Today, five tribes have headquarters along the Missouri River: the Yankton Sioux Tribe at Yankton; the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe at Fort Thompson; the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe at Lower Brule; the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe at Eagle Butte; and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at Fort Yates, N.D.
Engineering Feats and Family Fun
Four rolled-earth dams are responsible for creating the Great Lakes of South Dakota. Built between the 1940s and 1960s, these enormous dams have eased flooding along the Missouri River and created many new recreational opportunities. Hydroelectric power is another major benefit of the project.
For a behind-the-scenes look at these amazing structures, tour one of the dams and its powerhouse. (Tours generally are offered during the summer months.)
Another stop you must make is the State Capitol in Pierre. Completed in 1910, the building has been fully restored recently.
Finally, nothing says fun like a hometown festival, and the Great Lakes Region has plenty of them. From thrilling Western rodeos to colorful powwows, these events celebrate the traditions and heritage of the region.