With hundreds of beautiful lakes, streams, and water reservoirs, South Dakota is a prime locale for canoeing and kayaking. Aquatic expeditions allow thrill-seeking travelers to experience the region’s natural beauty firsthand. Canoe and kayak trips can be combined with other popular outdoor recreations, including fishing, swimming, and camping or hiking along the shoreline.
Although the opportunities for water exploration in South Dakota are virtually limitless, there are certain reservoirs in the state parks that are particularly renowned for their pristine waters, majestic views, picturesque scenery, and abundant wildlife. Below, we’ve listed some of the most popular sites for canoe and kayak tours:
- Angostura Recreation Area: Located near Hot Springs in the southern Black Hills, this scenic water reservoir was created when a man-built dam was constructed across the Cheyenne River in 1949. With its crystal-clear waters and picturesque beaches, the Angostura Reservoir is ideal for canoeing and kayaking.
- Big Sioux Recreation Area: The Big Sioux River affords nearly two miles of canoeing and kayaking opportunities in this lush recreation area near the cities of Sioux Falls and Brandon.
- Big Stone Island Nature Area: First explored in 1823, this 100-acre outdoor nature center is surrounded by water. The scenic Big Stone Lake is a prime location for canoes and kayaks.
- Chief White Crane Recreation Area: Located near the Missouri River and the city of Yankton, Chief White Crane was the site of a meeting between Lewis and Clark and Chief White Crane in 1804. Serene Lake Yankton is a peaceful site for water activities.
- Farm Island Recreation Area: This scenic area is located along the Missouri River near the city of Pierre. Canoe and kayak rentals are available. Plentiful fishing of walleye, bass, northern pike, and perch make it a prime choice for anglers.
- Fisher Grove State Park: Here, picturesque James River provides prime canoeing and kayaking opportunities.
- Fort Sisseton Historic State Park: Indulge in water activities on Kettle Lake within the grounds of historic Fort Sisseton, instituted in 1864 as a frontier army outpost. Located near Lake City, the entire park has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
- Lake Herman State Park: This scenic park is centered around the 1,350-acre glacial Lake Herman. Canoe and kayak rentals are available.
- Lake Thompson Recreation Area: Designated as a National Natural Landmark, Lake Thompson is one of the largest naturally formed lakes in South Dakota. Experience its majesty aboard a canoe or kayak.
- Lake Vermillion Recreation Area: A haven for fishermen, Lake Vermillion provides 512 acres of crystal-clear waters for canoeing.
- Newton Hills State Park: Nestled along the eastern boundary of South Dakota near Canton, this state park is home to the Big Sioux River.
- Oakwood Lakes State Park: Water recreation abounds in the eight glacial lakes that shimmer within the grounds of this state park, located near the city of Bruce. Bring the whole family to the annual family canoe or kayak tour each July.
- Randall Creek Recreation Area: Canoe or kayak along the banks of the Missouri River near Pickstown.
- Roy Lake State Park near Lake City: Top off your canoe or kayak excursion with plentiful fishing and island camping alongside Roy Lake.
- Walker’s Point Recreation Area: This small park is nestled along the banks of Lake Madison. The lake affords prime canoeing and kayaking.