Lewis and Clark Lake, Nebraska & South Dakota, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Nebraska - Lewis and Clark - South Dakota - Southeast Region -

Stretching 25 miles long and straddling the Nebraska and South Dakota border, 28,000-acre Lewis and Clark Lake is the smallest of the Missouri River reservoirs. Lewis and Clark Lake has become one of the most popular recreational spots in the Great Plains. It is located along Highway 121, near the town of Crofton, on the Nebraska side, and a few miles west of Yankton on Highway 52 on the South Dakota side. The area is rich in Native American history and made famous by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Originally designed to provide steady outflow of water to assist navigation, the Missouri River was dammed to provide flood control, hydroelectric power, irrigation, improved water supply, fish and wildlife management, and recreation.

Lewis and Clark Lake was created as a project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by impounding the Missouri River. The Gavins Point Dam was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944, also known as the Pick – Sloan Plan to recognize the leaders of the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, Lt. General Lewis Pick and William G. Sloan. Ground breaking for Gavins Point Dam began in 1952; it is 74 feet high and 8,700 feet long. Completed in 1957, Lewis and Clark Lake currently covers 28,000 acres at full pool and 31,400 acres at maximum pool. On September 1956, Gavins Point generators began producing electricity for customers, and currently provide enough electricity to meet the annual needs of 68,000 homes.

Lewis and Clark Lake features lush, rolling hills, sandy beaches, and golden chalkstone bluffs. The Eastern end of the lake is dominated by the Gavins Point Dam and the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center. The Visitor Center, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is located at the historic site of Calumet Bluff, where the famous meeting between the Yankton Sioux Tribe and Lewis and Clark took place. The Center provides information concerning the history and development of the Missouri River, along with hands-on displays of the geology, exploration, early navigation, settlement, and natural history of the river. Some of the exhibits include Native Americans, steamboats, and the history of the Corps of Engineers. The Center also features the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Walk, the Calumet Bluff Theater, and the Dorian Prairie Garden. Traveling to the western end of the lake on the Nebraska side, you will find the Santee Indian Reservation. You are welcome to visit the Indian Reservation; each year they hold an annual tribal pow-wow.

Lewis and Clark Lake is a naturalist’s delight, and is best known for its nature trails. South Dakota’s Lewis and Clark Recreation Area is one of the most popular campgrounds, hosting about 1 million visitors annually. It has over 400 boat slips and three trail systems, the Gavins Point Nature Trail, Chalk Bluffs Multi-Use Trail, and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail. Whether you are a walker, hiker, biker, or equestrian rider, you will find a trail to suit your needs. Another popular recreation area on the South Dakota side is Chief White Crane Recreation Area. It was named after Chief White Crane who was one of the members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe who met with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Chief White Crane Recreation Area also has trails, as well camping and accommodations for overnight guests.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission State Recreation Area (SRA) includes five areas on the south side of the lake: Weigand- Burbach, Miller Creek, Bloomfield, South Shore, and Deep Water. South Shore and Deep Water are access-only areas with parking. A park entry permit is required for all areas. Close by is the Niobrara State Park and the Brazile Creek Wildlife Management Area. There is a checklist of birds that was prepared for the Niobrara State Park, which can be used while visiting the lake. Check with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission SRA to acquire this checklist. Lewis and Clark Lake is a prime area for bird watchers. Depending on the time of the year, geese, great blue herons, and bald eagles can be spotted while visiting the lake.

In addition to bird watching, hunting and fishing are popular recreations at Lewis and Clark Lake. Weigand – Burbach area is closed to hunting, but the other State Recreation Areas are open when in season. Some of the animals that are hunted are white-tailed deer, mourning dove, waterfowl, and wild turkey. Lewis and Clark Lake is great for channel catfish. According to South Dakota Game, Fish, and Park Services, the average size channel catfish are nearly 20 inches long. The largest fish sampled in 2006 was 10 pounds. Other fish of interest are the largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, and sauger. Spawning of walleye and sauger can overlap, causing them to sometimes spawn together forming hybrids. Lewis and Clark Lake has one of the highest percentages of walleye/sauger hybrids. Jetties were installed in the Weigand – Burbach area to improve habitat, therefore making it a great place to catch fish.

The Lewis and Clark Lake is a great spot to learn about our nation’s history, as well as enjoying many types of recreations all year long. Whether you like to fish, hunt, boat, bird watch, ice fish, or cross country ski, there is something there for everyone.

Things to do at Lewis and Clark Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park

Fish species found at Lewis and Clark Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Sauger
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Walleye

Lewis and Clark Lake Photo Gallery

  • PENTAX Image

  • PENTAX Image

Lewis and Clark Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 28,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 90 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,208 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,204 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,210 feet

Average Depth: 16 feet

Maximum Depth: 45 feet

Water Volume: 388,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1957

Drainage Area: 15,872 sq. miles

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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.


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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.


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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."


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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