Lake Oahe, North Dakota & South Dakota, USA
Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Oahe — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!
Topics we cover in this article:
- All About Lake Oahe
- Things to Do
- Fish Species
- Where to Stay
- Vacation Planning Tools
- Lake Oahe Map
- Statistics / Weather / Helpful Links
- Shop Lake Oahe Gifts
Looking for Lake Oahe cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.
All About Lake Oahe
Lake Oahe, named after an Oahe Indian Mission, roughly translates “a foundation” or “a place to stand on.” Spanning 231 miles from Pierre, South Dakota to Bismarck, North Dakota, and with a shoreline of 2,250 miles, it is no wonder Lake Oahe is the nation’s largest constructed reservoir in surface acreage and fourth in volume. Located north of Pierre on South Dakota Highway 1804, Lake Oahe is rooted in Native American history. Originally designed for production of hydroelectric power, management of flood water, downstream navigation, irrigation, public water supply, and fish and wildlife preservation, Lake Oahe is now an outdoor lover’s delight with 50 recreational areas.
As a project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Oahe was created by impounding the Missouri River. Authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944, construction began in 1948. On August 17, 1962 President John F. Kennedy officially dedicated the dam and lake. With a storage capacity of 23.5 million acre-feet, Lake Oahe is the 14th largest man-made reservoir by volume in the world. Oahe Dam measures 9,300 feet in length with a maximum height of 245 feet.
Other than recreational areas, Lake Oahe’s 2,250 miles of shoreline is mostly undeveloped. Mixed grass prairie and trees growing down to the shore await visitors. Two large Native American Reservations reside on the western side of the lake, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota and the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in both North and South Dakota. If you are interested in big game hunting, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation has 11,000 acres set aside as three wildlife reserves for elk and buffalo. The Game, Fish and Parks of the Cheyenne River Sioux offer hunts each year.
The 50 recreation areas located around the lake offer plenty of enjoyment for campers, anglers, hunters, boaters, swimmers, and photographers. The recreational areas include highly developed campgrounds and day use areas, moderately developed areas, and primitive areas. Special fishing and hunting activities are held each year for the disabled.
When you are not in the water, there are several significant historical sites nearby that you can visit. These sites include the Fort Manuel Trading Post where Sacajawea is said to be buried. Sacajawea was the Shoshone Indian woman who served as a guide for Lewis and Clark. Fort Manuel was rebuilt in 2004 in preparation for the Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The original site of Fort Manuel and burial place of Sacajawea can be seen from a hilltop overlooking the Missouri River. Another famous burial site nearby is that of Lakota Sioux Chief, Sitting Bull. Other places of interest are the Native American missions and Fort Sully, an old military outpost.
The Lake Oahe Visitor Center provides excellent views of the expansive waters. The center provides information concerning the history, exploration, early navigation, settlement, and natural history of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. Exhibits include the construction of the dam, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Powerhouse, and the fish of South Dakota. Tours of the dam and powerhouse begin at the Visitor Center (Memorial Day to Labor Day).
Popular fish in Lake Oahe include walleye, northern pike, catfish, Chinook salmon, white bass, and smallmouth bass. In 2002 though 2004 South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks extended old boat ramps and built new ones due to drought conditions.
Whether you feel like taking a dip in the lake or hunting some big game, there is something for everyone along the shorelines of Lake Oahe. Due to the size of the lake, you may want to make a couple of trips to see all that Lake Oahe has to offer.
Things to Do at Lake Oahe
- Vacation Rentals
- Wildlife Viewing
Fish Species Found at Lake Oahe
- Black Bass
- Chinook Salmon
- Northern Pike
- Smallmouth Bass
- White Bass
Find Places to Stay at Lake Oahe
If you’re considering a Lake Oahe lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.
Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Oahe Vacation
If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Oahe lodging partners.
- VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
- Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
- Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
- Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
- TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
- Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
- KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
- RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
- CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.
Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.
Lake Oahe Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed
Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers
Surface Area: 206,100 acres
Shoreline Length: 2,250 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,608 feet
Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,572 feet
Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,620 feet
Maximum Depth: 205 feet
Water Volume: 23,137,000 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1962
Drainage Area: 62,090 sq. miles
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