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Missouri River Recreation Flourishing

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PIERRE, S.D. - Each year, the Missouri River is a destination spot for people throughout South Dakota and surrounding states, and this year is no exception.

Recreational boaters, campers and fishermen have been flocking to the Mighty Missouri to enjoy its plentiful opportunities. Up and down the Missouri River, businesses, campgrounds and recreation areas are full and seeing excellent visitation numbers. Areas reporting increases include:

  • Spring Creek Recreation Area – traffic up 80%
  • Cow Creek Recreation Area – traffic up 142%, camping permits up 94%
  • Oahe Downstream Recreation Area – traffic up 30% camping permits up 16%
  • Farm Island Recreation Area – traffic up 10%, camping permits up 12%
  • West Whitlock Recreation Area – camping permits up 16%

In recent years Lake Oahe has been devastated by drought. As water levels plummeted, many of the boat ramps were forced to close, limiting access to the large reservoir. This year has been a rebounding year for Oahe, which is coming off a 6 year drought and recovering from record water level lows. This year the levels are at the highest they have been in 10 years and up 21 feet from last year.

“Lake Oahe looks great. The water levels are way up, all of the ramps are open and access to the river is excellent,” said Karen Kern, Executive Director of the Great Lakes of South Dakota Tourism Association.

All four reservoirs have been positively affected by the drought-free year. The lush scenery along the Missouri River has enhanced its appeal on all reservoirs.

“We’ve had a lot of rain this year. The bluffs and surrounding prairies are green and it’s very pretty,” said Kern. “People want to get out and enjoy it. The Missouri River is a great place to be right now. The added bonus is that the visitor impact goes beyond the river and affects other attractions as well. The Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre has seen a year over year increase of more than 24 percent.”

Fast Facts:

  • The Missouri River in South Dakota is made up of four man-made reservoirs: Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case and Lewis and Clark Lake.
  • There are four dams along the Missouri River: Oahe, Big Bend, Fort Randall and Gavins Point Dams.
  • Lake Oahe is the fourth largest man-made reservoir in the United States and has more coastline than the state of California.
  • There are 22 State Recreation Areas along the Missouri River, which provide campgrounds, recreational facilities and water access points.



Wanda Goodman, Media & PR Manager of the SD Office of Tourism, 605-773-3301,


* All photos must be credited to the South Dakota Office of Tourism.

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