Lake Oahe, North Dakota & South Dakota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - North Dakota - South Central - Southwest - South Dakota - Great Lakes Region -

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
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing

Fish species found at Lake Oahe

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Chinook Salmon
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Salmon
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Lake Oahe Photo Gallery

Lake Oahe Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

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

Spread the word! Share our Lake Oahe article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.