Best Boating in South Dakota

Bass fisherman boating on a lake in the state of South Dakota.
Shaman Mountain is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission on certain links, at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

Indulge in the charm of South Dakota’s pristine waterways, embarking on an aquatic adventure like no other. With picturesque lakes and winding rivers adorning the landscape, South Dakota beckons boating enthusiasts to explore its serene waters. Whether you’re in search of a leisurely cruise or an exhilarating water sports experience, the state’s diverse options cater to every boater’s preference. Glide across tranquil lakes, meander through winding rivers, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds you. Join us in uncovering the best boating experiences that South Dakota has to offer, where each journey promises a perfect blend of relaxation, excitement, and the sheer joy of being on the water.



Lake Oahe

Gracing the course of the mighty Missouri River, Lake Oahe emerges as one of the premier boating destinations, stretching its expansive waters across the border of both North and South Dakota. With its picturesque setting framed by rolling hills and bluffs, Lake Oahe captivates boaters with a symphony of scenic beauty. Whether you’re drawn to the thrill of water sports, the pursuit of trophy fish, or simply seeking solace in nature’s grandeur, Lake Oahe offers a diverse and enchanting experience for all who navigate its pristine waters.

Reasons to Boat in Lake Oahe:

  • Scenic Beauty: Lake Oahe boasts breathtaking scenery, with its expansive waters surrounded by rolling hills and bluffs.
  • Fishing Paradise: The lake is renowned for its excellent fishing opportunities, attracting anglers in search of walleye, salmon, and other species.
  • Water Sports Hub: Boaters can enjoy a variety of water sports, including water skiing and tubing, making it a hub for recreational activities.
  • Camping and Recreation: Numerous campgrounds and recreation areas along the shore provide opportunities for a complete outdoor experience.
  • Wildlife Watching: The lake is home to diverse wildlife, and boaters often have the chance to spot bald eagles, deer, and other animals.

Recommended Gear: Life Jackets, Compass, Anchor, Tarps, Marine Radio, Cooler, Sunscreen


Lewis and Clark Lake

Moving downstream along the Missouri River, Lewis and Clark Lake unveils a unique blend of natural splendor and historical significance. Formed by the formidable Gavins Point Dam, this reservoir creates an aquatic haven where boaters can navigate the gentle waves while immersing themselves in the scenic charm of the Missouri River. Sandy beaches, family-friendly vibes, and the echoes of the past make Lewis and Clark Lake a captivating destination, inviting boaters to explore its shores and indulge in the timeless allure of the river.

Reasons to Boat in Lewis and Clark Lake:

  • Missouri River Charm: Being a reservoir on the Missouri River, Lewis and Clark Lake offers a unique boating experience with scenic views along the river.
  • Gavins Point Dam: Boaters can marvel at the engineering of Gavins Point Dam, which forms the lake and provides a distinctive backdrop.
  • Family Friendly Atmosphere: With its sandy beaches and calm waters, the lake is a family-friendly destination for boating and water recreation.
  • Bird Watching: The area is rich in birdlife, and birdwatchers can spot a variety of species along the shores and surrounding areas.
  • Historical Significance: Named after the famous explorers Lewis and Clark, the lake and its surroundings have historical significance, adding an educational aspect to the boating experience.

Recommended Gear: Compass, Anchor, Cooler, Rope, Tarp, Snacks, Sunscreen


Lake Sharpe

Continuing our journey down the Missouri River, Lake Sharpe emerges as a clear-water gem, offering boaters a tranquil respite against the backdrop of South Dakota’s rugged beauty. Anglers are drawn to its depths in pursuit of walleye and catfish, while all boaters revel in the accessibility and serenity that define Lake Sharpe. Whether it’s a peaceful day on the water or an angler’s quest for the catch of the day, this lake presents itself as a welcoming retreat, harmonizing with the natural charm of its surroundings.

Reasons to Boat in Lake Sharpe:

  • Clear Waters: Lake Sharpe is known for its clear waters, providing boaters with crystal-clear views of the underwater landscape.
  • Abundant Fishing Opportunities: Anglers can find a variety of fish species, including walleye and catfish, making it a prime spot for fishing enthusiasts.
  • Relaxing Environment: Boaters can enjoy a peaceful and relaxing environment, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
  • Accessibility: With multiple access points, Lake Sharpe is easily accessible, making it convenient for boaters to explore its waters.
  • Boating Events: The lake hosts various boating events and tournaments, attracting boating communities and adding a social aspect to the experience.

Recommended Gear: Life Jackets, Compass, Anchor, Tarps, Marine Radio, Cooler, Swim Bag


Lake Thompson

Venturing away from the river, Lake Thompson steals the spotlight as South Dakota’s largest natural lake in the heart of Kingsbury County. Here, boaters find themselves navigating the expansive waters, surrounded by a landscape that seamlessly blends serenity and biodiversity. As the sun paints vibrant hues across the horizon, boating enthusiasts can capture the essence of Lake Thompson. Whether casting a line or simply savoring the tranquility, this lake invites all to partake in an immersive experience within its untouched and serene setting.

Reasons to Boat in Lake Thompson:

  • Largest Natural Lake: As South Dakota’s largest natural lake, Lake Thompson offers boaters the chance to explore a significant body of water in a tranquil setting.
  • Diverse Wildlife: The lake is home to a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl and migratory birds, providing opportunities for birdwatching.
  • Photography Opportunities: Boaters can capture stunning photographs of the lake’s changing scenery, from sunrise to sunset.
  • Camping and Picnicking: Surrounding campgrounds and picnic areas make it easy for boaters to extend their visit and enjoy the natural surroundings.
  • Year Round Appeal: Whether in the summer or winter, Lake Thompson’s charm attracts boaters year-round, offering different experiences depending on the season.

Recommended Gear: Sunscreen, Cooler, Paddle, Sunglasses, Marine Radio, Waterproof Phone Case, Dry Box


Angostura Reservoir

Heading southwest, Angostura Reservoir unfolds as a hidden treasure nestled in the southern Black Hills. Boaters are greeted by a picturesque panorama, framed by pine-covered hills and reflecting the natural allure of the region. Angostura is not merely a body of water; it is an invitation to water enthusiasts and anglers alike. The reservoir’s clear depths harbor bass, walleye, and crappie, making it a fishing haven. Surrounded by campgrounds, this destination extends an open invitation to boaters seeking a perfect blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure.

Reasons to Boat in Angostura Reservoir:

  • Black Hills Backdrop: Nestled in the southern Black Hills, Angostura Reservoir offers boaters a picturesque backdrop of pine-covered hills.
  • Water based Recreation: Boaters can engage in a range of water activities, including swimming, jet skiing, and paddleboarding.
  • Fishing Hotspot: Angostura is known for its excellent fishing, with opportunities to catch bass, walleye, and crappie.
  • Camping Facilities: Numerous campgrounds along the shore provide facilities for a complete outdoor experience, allowing boaters to stay and explore.
  • Birdwatching: The area is a haven for birdwatchers, with various species of birds to observe in their natural habitat.

Recommended Gear: Anchor, Dry Box, Sunscreen, Marine Radio, Paddle , Compass, Rope


Big Stone Lake

Turning our gaze to the eastern border, Big Stone Lake marks the meeting point between South Dakota and Minnesota. Boaters here are treated to a unique experience as they navigate the waters straddling the two states. Throughout the seasons, Big Stone Lake showcases its versatility, inviting boaters to cast their lines during year-round fishing or relax on its sandy shores. With historic sites dotting the landscape and wildlife adding to the ambiance, Big Stone Lake provides boaters with a harmonious blend of recreation and cultural exploration.

Reasons to Boat in Big Stone Lake:

  • Border Water Beauty: As a border water between South Dakota and Minnesota, Big Stone Lake offers a unique boating experience with landscapes from both states.
  • Year Round Fishing: The lake is known for year-round fishing opportunities, with ice fishing in the winter and traditional fishing in the warmer months.
  • Sandy Shorelines: Boaters can enjoy sandy shorelines, making it a great spot for beach picnics and relaxation.
  • Historic Attractions: Nearby historic sites add an extra dimension to the boating experience, allowing boaters to explore the region’s history.
  • Wildlife Sightings: Big Stone Lake is home to diverse wildlife, providing boaters with opportunities to spot various bird species and other animals.

Recommended Gear: Rope, Compass, Paddle, Cooler, Sunglasses, Snacks, Anchor


Pickerel Lake

Moving towards the Glacial Lakes region, Pickerel Lake emerges as a tranquil haven for boaters seeking a break from the hustle and bustle. The untouched wilderness surrounding Pickerel Lake offers an immersive experience in nature’s embrace. Anglers find solace in the abundance of northern pike and walleye, while boaters can explore the serene waters against a backdrop of unspoiled landscapes. Pickerel Lake is an invitation to tranquility, inviting boaters to drift away from the ordinary and savor the simplicity of its untouched shores.

Reasons to Boat in Pickerel Lake:

  • Tranquil Wilderness: Pickerel Lake, situated in the Glacial Lakes region, offers boaters a serene and unspoiled wilderness experience, surrounded by natural beauty.
  • Angler’s Paradise: The lake is a haven for anglers, providing opportunities to catch a variety of fish species, including northern pike, walleye, and perch.
  • Nature Trails: Boaters can extend their adventure by exploring surrounding nature trails, allowing for a deeper connection with the natural surroundings.
  • Rich Biodiversity: The lake and its surroundings host a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers.
  • Peaceful Retreat: Pickerel Lake’s remote location and quiet atmosphere make it a perfect retreat for those seeking solitude and a break from the hustle of city life.

Recommended Gear: Life Jackets, Compass, Anchor, Tarps, Marine Radio, Cooler, Sunscreen


Lake Vermillion

Located near Canistota, Lake Vermillion exudes a warm and welcoming ambiance. Boaters navigating its waters discover a blend of small-town charm and recreational opportunities. Whether it’s a leisurely day on the lake or engaging in various water activities, Lake Vermillion offers a relaxed environment. Anglers can cast their lines in pursuit of various fish species, while the lake’s proximity to the community allows boaters to partake in local events, adding a touch of community spirit to their boating experience.

Reasons to Boat in Lake Vermillion:

  • Small Town Charm: Lake Vermillion, near the city of Canistota, offers boaters a taste of small-town charm with its friendly community and welcoming atmosphere.
  • Recreational Opportunities: Boaters can indulge in various recreational activities, from boating and fishing to hiking along the lake’s shores.
  • Relaxed Environment: The lake’s calm waters and scenic surroundings create a relaxed environment, making it an ideal spot for leisurely boating.
  • Fishing Variety: Anglers can try their luck at catching a variety of fish species, contributing to Lake Vermillion’s appeal as a fishing destination.
  • Community Events: The lake hosts community events and gatherings, providing boaters with opportunities to engage with the local culture and community.

Recommended Gear: Sunscreen, Cooler, Paddle, Sunglasses, Marine Radio, Waterproof Phone Case, Dry Box


Missouri River

Our journey along South Dakota’s waterways brings us back to the grandeur of the Missouri River. Serving as a majestic lifeline through the state, the Missouri River unfolds a vast expanse for boaters to explore. Historic sites, ranging from Lewis and Clark landmarks to quaint river islands, punctuate the journey. Boaters can navigate the ever-flowing currents, engaging in island hopping or simply savoring the diverse wildlife along the shores. The Missouri River is more than a watercourse; it’s a dynamic passage through time, offering boaters endless opportunities for exploration, historical reflection, and natural marvels.

Reasons to Boat in the Missouri River:

  • Majestic Scenery: Boating on the Missouri River offers boaters the chance to witness the majestic scenery along one of the longest rivers in North America.
  • Historical Exploration: The river played a crucial role in American history, and boaters can explore various historical sites and landmarks along its course.
  • Endless Exploration: With its vast expanse, the Missouri River provides endless opportunities for exploration, from short day trips to extended boating adventures.
  • Island Hopping: The river features numerous islands, allowing boaters to engage in island hopping and discover secluded spots for picnics and relaxation.
  • Diverse Wildlife: The Missouri River supports diverse wildlife, and boaters may encounter bald eagles, waterfowl, and other species during their journey.

Recommended Gear: Compass, Anchor, Cooler, Rope, Tarp, Snacks, Sunscreen


Deerfield Reservoir

Nestled in the embrace of the Black Hills, Deerfield Reservoir marks the culmination of our South Dakota boating odyssey. Boaters here find themselves surrounded by pine-covered hills, creating a tranquil retreat away from urban hustle. The reservoir’s clear waters offer fishing and water sports enthusiasts a playground, while campgrounds provide a home base for extended stays. Deerfield Reservoir is not merely a destination; it is a secluded haven, inviting boaters to unwind amidst the soothing sights and sounds of nature, providing the perfect conclusion to a South Dakota boating adventure.

Reasons to Boat in Deerfield Reservoir:

  • Black Hills Wilderness: Tucked in the Black Hills, Deerfield Reservoir offers boaters the chance to experience the rugged beauty of this mountainous region.
  • Pine Covered Shores: The reservoir is surrounded by pine-covered shores, creating a picturesque setting for boaters to enjoy.
  • Camping Opportunities: Numerous campgrounds provide boaters with the option to extend their stay, making it an ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
  • Fishing and Water Sports: Boaters can engage in fishing and various water sports, adding excitement to their time on the reservoir.
  • Secluded Retreat: Deerfield Reservoir’s location away from major urban areas provides a secluded retreat, allowing boaters to immerse themselves in nature and find tranquility on the water.

Recommended Gear: Life Jackets, Compass, Anchor, Tarps, Marine Radio, Cooler, Sunscreen

Related Posts:

Kayaker in red kayak, paddling in Maine.

Best Kayaking in Maine

When it comes to the best kayaking in Maine, enthusiasts are spoiled for choice. With its diverse waterways, from serene lakes to challenging rivers and

Boat anchored in a cove, inside a lake located in Iowa.

Best Boating in Iowa

When it comes to the best boating experiences in the heart of the Midwest, Iowa emerges as a hidden gem for water enthusiasts. With a

A jon boat near shore

Best Boating in Wisconsin

Wisconsin, with its myriad lakes, rivers, and scenic waterways, stands as a haven for boating enthusiasts seeking unparalleled adventures. From the tranquil serenity of Castle