If you’re craving a scenic getaway, look no further than the forested slopes of the Black Hills, shimmering Great Plains, numerous lakes, and verdant valleys of South Dakota. The lakes near most South Dakota vacation rentals offer seemingly endless opportunities for boating, fishing, water sports, swimming, and other recreational activities. Without further ado, here are the top lakes in the state of South Dakota.

1. Sheridan Lake

Sheridan Lake lies southwest of Rapid City in the midst of the Black Hills National Forest in western South Dakota. Beautiful beaches with picnic areas on the north and south shores surround this lovely lake. The Sheridan Lake Marina rents power boats for sightseeing, waterskiing, and other activities on the lake. The marina’s fishing boats and gear allow you to angle for rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, and yellow perch. The marina also rents out canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, stand-up paddle boards, and hydro-bikes. Around the lakeside are spectacular hiking trails.

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2. Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe, one of the largest reservoirs in the United States, begins at the Oahe Dam north of Pierre, the state capital, and continues northward beyond the border of North Dakota. Numerous recreational areas along the shore provide boat ramps, picnic areas, and hiking trails. Oahe Downstream Recreational Area offers a beautiful prairie butterfly garden and observation of bald eagle nesting areas, while Indian Creek Recreational Area has extensive hiking and cycling trails where you can spot deer, raccoons, beavers, and other animals. Head for Bridge City Marina in Mobridge to rent pontoon boats and fishing boats. Outrageous Adventures out of Mobridge gives you expert guide service to top fishing locations.

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3. Pactola Lake

Pactola Lake is a reservoir in the Black Hills west of Rapid City in western South Dakota. The Pactola Visitors Center offers a scenic view of the lake as well as tourist information and exhibits. The sandy beach at Pactola Point is ideal for swimming and sunbathing. Numerous boat launches and picnic areas surround the lake. Pactola Pines Marina provides rentals of pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. If you’re feeling adventurous, try cliff diving off the cliffs on the west side of the reservoir or scuba diving in the crystal clear lake waters.

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4. Sand Lake

Located not far from vacation rentals in the city of Aberdeen in northeastern South Dakota, Sand Lake is surrounded by the wetlands of the internationally renowned Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge. A headquarters and visitors center offers you information about the park. The refuge is an excellent place to observe bald eagles, blue herons, snowy egrets, white pelicans, and many other species of wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows fishing at several locations around Sand Lake. For expert help in finding the best places for fishing on the refuge, contact Fish Hunter Guide Service in nearby Lake City.

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5. Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake is a lovely, idyllic body of water in the midst of Custer State Park in the Black Hills in western South Dakota. The park has a beautiful swimming beach, picnic areas, and extensive trails for hiking. Trailheads lead to Black Elk Peak and the Needles, which offer spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. At Sylvan Lake Lodge near the waterfront, rent canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards for fun on the lake.

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6. Lake Francis Case

Lake Francis Case is a reservoir over 100 miles long in south-central South Dakota. At the southern end of the lake, the Visitors Center at Fort Randall Dam provides exhibits on local natural history and paleontology, a freshwater aquarium, and panoramic views of the dam, the lake, and the Missouri River. The nearby Karl E. Mundt National Wildlife Refuge has a large population of bald eagles that you can view from the dam. Just north of the dam, Fort Randall Marina rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Fishing is great for northern pike, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, walleye, and other species.

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7. Stockade Lake

Stockade Lake is the largest of the sapphire-blue lakes in Custer State Park in western South Dakota. Recreational areas on the north and south sides of the lake offer amenities such as swimming beaches, picnic areas, showers, and a playground. To rent kayaks and paddleboards for use on the lake and bicycles for the surrounding trails, head for High Mountain Outfitters in the nearby town of Custer. The lake offers fly fishing in summer and ice fishing in winter for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, bullhead, and perch.

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8. Lake Sharpe

Lake Sharpe is a long reservoir created by the Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River in central South Dakota. West Bend Recreation Area and Farm Island Recreation Area offer picnicking, swimming, boating, hiking, and wildlife observation. The lake is renowned for its excellent walleye fishing, and also provides great fishing for smallmouth bass, white bass, and channel catfish. Dave Spaid Guiding out of the city of Pierre has expert guides that take you to the best angling locations along the lake.

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9. Lake Kampeska

Located near the city of Watertown in northeastern South Dakota, Lake Kampeska is a beautiful and pristine glacial lake. Sandy Shore State Recreational Area, Codington County Memorial Park, and Stokes-Thomas City Park all have picnic areas and beautiful beaches for swimming and sunbathing. Angie’s Paddle and Peddle at Stokes-Thomas City Campground in Watertown rents kayaks, canoes, and pedal boats for the lake as well as bicycles for exploring the miles of trails around the lakeshore. For expert fishing guide service, contact Joe Guides You in nearby Waubay.

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10. Lewis and Clark Lake

Lewis and Clark Lake lies along the border with Nebraska in southeastern South Dakota. The marina at the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area rents pontoon boats and power boats for water sports and fishing on the lake. Head for Lakeside Fun Rentals in Yankton to rent jet skis, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. Lakeside Fun Rentals also has bicycles for exploring the shoreline trails and a guide service to help you locate the best places to fish.

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