Waves crashing at Lake Kampeska

If You Like the Missouri River, You’ll Love…

these other amazing (and lesser-known) parts of South Dakota
Lake Kampeska, Watertown

The longest river in North America, the Missouri River is home to history and adventure. But sometimes you’re not the only one with the idea of visiting, and that can lead to crowds and a less-than-full experience.

Good news: So much similar magic can be found across the state – and without the crowds. Check out some of these unique alternatives to the Mighty Mo’!

If you like fishing, you’ll love…

Shadehill Rec Area
Shadehill Reservoir

One of the few large lakes on the state’s west side, this body of water in northern South Dakota offers more than 5,000 acres of surface area and gives anglers the opportunity to catch walleye, crappie, perch, white bass and channel catfish. There’s also a recreation area where you can bike, hike, swim and observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

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Belle Fourche Reservoir
Rocky Point State Recreation Area
Belle Fourche

When Orman Dam was completed in 1911, it was the largest earthen dam in the world. Today, it provides 8,000 acres of water that anglers love to fish. The Rocky Point Recreation Area features 62 campsites, 2 cabins, a beach, and everything you need to start and end your catch.

If you like boating, you’ll love…

Lewis & Clark Lake, Yankton
Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area

Located near Yankton in southeast South Dakota, this is one of the most popular resort parks in the state for a reason. Three separate campgrounds comprise this modern recreation area, attracting visitors from throughout the Midwest. Modern resort facilities — from marinas to camping cabins to sandy beaches — attract water lovers to Lewis and Clark. Since it’s part of the state park system, you can even make your reservation online by clicking here.

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Lake Kampeska Water skiing
Northeastern South Dakota

Also known as the Glacial Lakes & Prairies region, this area is home to more than 120 glacial lakes that range from several to more than 17,000 acres. Popular spots include Lake Madison near Madison, Roy Lake State Park near Lake City, and Lake Kampeska near Watertown.

Boats on Lake Mitchell
Waters across the state

People might not know it, but there’s plenty of water to enjoy across the state. To find your perfect spot, check out our Lakes & Rivers Guide.

If you like open-air swimming, you’ll love…

Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake
Black Hills

Once you see the shimmering waters set against the rocky backdrop of Custer State Park, you’re not likely to want to leave. Follow your instincts and take the plunge in this picturesque water. If you do so after hiking Black Elk Peak, the results will feel even better.

Lake Vermillion (GF&P)
Lake Vermillion
27 miles west of Sioux Falls

Splish-splash your way to happiness in this 512-acre reservoir whose waters were first noted by a French trapper in 1801. Known for clear waters, this state recreation area is a wonderful place for all sorts of swimming fun.

If you like big views, you’ll love…

Falls Park
Falls Park
Sioux Falls

An average of 7,400 gallons of water drops 100 feet over the course of these falls ever second. Wander the 123 acres near downtown Sioux Falls to take in the rushing water and eye-pleasing rock formations, but don’t forget to take a free trip up the observation tower to look out over South Dakota’s biggest city.

Nicollet Tower
Nicollet Tower
rural Sisseton

Named for Joseph N. Nicollet, a French mapmaker who explored northeast South Dakota in the 1830s, this 80-foot tower offers a three-state view that’s as captivating as it is expansive.

If you like seeing fish, you’ll love…

People look at the fish swimming behind glass at a fish hatchery
D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives

The west edge of the state provides a neat chance to get a closeup view of four species of trout: rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook. Purchase fish food at the gift shop for an opportunity to feed the residents, but don’t forget to check out the on-site Von Bayer Museum of Fish Culture. It’s the largest collection of fisheries artifacts in the country!

Butterfly House
Butterfly House and Aquarium
Sioux Falls

With more than 10,000 gallons in their aquariums, this unique stop allows you to see hundreds of different species of fish. Saltwater exhibits show coral reefs, anemones, seahorses, tangs, and more. You can get hands-on at both the Stingray Habitat and the Pacific Tide Pool. Let the fishy fun begin!

If you like camping off the beaten path, you’ll love…

Couple camping at Badlands
Unique Camping Spots

These aren’t just any old spots. Take in stunning views on the third-highest mountain in the Black Hills from Bear Mountain Hill Top. Spend a night under the stars along the shores of Missouri River at Dude Ranch Lakeside Use Area, and enjoy truly unique experiences at other one-of-a-kind spots across the state.

Women with guitars at Badlands (night)
Dispersed & Backcountry Camping

You’ve probably seen or heard of the Badlands, but did you know you could camp there? Like, almost anywhere? As long as you’re 100 feet from water, road or trails, the options are yours. And that’s only one of the amazing spots that are definitely off the beaten path.

Planning Tools
Illustrated image of three bison grazing in Custer State Park. The Needles rock formation is visible in the background.
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Badlands landscape at golden hour
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