Lake Thompson Recreation Area
Lake Thompson, located six miles south of De Smet, South Dakota, is the state’s largest natural lake. Encompassing over 18,000 acres of water, Lake Thompson is one of the best walleye fishing sites in the state.
De Smet, South Dakota was home to author Laura Ingalls Wilder and the setting for her book “The Little Town on the Big Prairie.” Lake Thompson, referred to as Twin Lakes by Wilder, was mentioned in her works “By the Shores of the Silver Lake” and “The Long Winter.”
Lake Thompson’s history and formation is so unique that it led to the site being designated as a Natural National Landmark. Originally called Dry Woods Lake by the American Indians, the site has undergone eighty years of cyclical filling and drying. In the 1930s, the lake was completely dry and used as pasture land, and in the early 1980s, the area was a 9,000-acre marsh. In the mid to late 1980s, heavy rain and melting snow filled the lake to over twenty feet in depth and 18,000 acres in area. The lake, now known as Lake Thompson, was named for Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior under President James Buchanan.
The shallow depth of Lake Thompson provides warm water for spawning carp, an excellent food source for sport fish species. The emerging weeds and tree-lined shore, combined with the richness of spawning carp, make Lake Thompson a haven for walleye, perch, and northern pike. In the shallow water of Lake Thompson, sport fish put up a lateral fight rather than diving deep, which enhances the excitement of the catch.
Lake Thompson is also a major waterway for migratory birds, and is one of the best waterfowl hunting sites in the United States. Canadian geese, snow geese, and northern duck can be found at Lake Thompson.
The campground at Lake Thompson Recreation Area contains a swimming beach, walking trails, and over 100 campsites. Lodging is also available in De Smet and other surrounding communities.
Visitors to Lake Thompson Recreation Area are certain to enjoy nearby points of interest, such as Lake Poinsett Recreation Area, Laura Ingalls Wilder Home, South Dakota Art Museum, and Prairie Village.
Park Schedule & Rates
- Open year-round
- Camping: 103 sites (97 electrical).
- Cabins: 4 cabins. Sleeps four.
- Showers. Water. Dump station.
- Contact park for current rates and availability.
Park Contact Information
- Located 6 miles SW of Lake Preston off US Hwy. 14