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The Fort Randall Dam power house went into operation on  March 15, 1954. President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke over the radio from the White House to 600 people gathered in the Fort Randall power house tapping a Western Union key to signal to Governor Sigurd Anderson to start the generators. Anderson spun the giant turbine, and the dam’s first generator began producing electricity. By the early 1970s, the dam was producing over 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electric power annually.
Fort Randall Dam
The Fort Randall Dam power house went into operation on March 15, 1954. President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke over the radio from the White House to 600 people gathered in the Fort Randall power house tapping a Western Union key to signal to Governor Sigurd Anderson to start the generators. Anderson spun the giant turbine, and the dam’s first generator began producing electricity. By the early 1970s, the dam was producing over 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electric power annually.
Lake Francis Case and Fort Randall Dam are located within the rolling plain of the Missouri Plateau in southern central South Dakota, and bordered by rugged bluffs, broken by a complex of eroded canyons and ravines and has become one of the most popular recreation spots in the Great Plains.
Fort Randall Dam
Lake Francis Case and Fort Randall Dam are located within the rolling plain of the Missouri Plateau in southern central South Dakota, and bordered by rugged bluffs, broken by a complex of eroded canyons and ravines and has become one of the most popular recreation spots in the Great Plains.

Location: Near Pickstown, S.D., River Mile 880.0

Lake Francis Case and Fort Randall Dam are located within the rolling plain of the Missouri Plateau, and bordered by rugged bluffs, broken by a complex of eroded canyons and ravines and has become one of the most popular recreation spots in the Great Plains.

Fort Randall Dam lies within view of the military post from which it takes its name. The name of the original fort honored Colonel Daniel W. Randall, one-time deputy paymaster of the Army. The reservoir behind Fort Randall Dam is named after the former South Dakota Representative and Senator, Francis Higbee Case.

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The earliest inhabitants to migrate to the Fort Randall area were probably Archaic Period hunters who arrived in the region about 6,000 B.C.

About 1,500 years later, other groups of Native Americans, moving out of the central plains of Nebraska and western Iowa, settled in permanent villages along the Missouri River. These early farmers were probably ancestors of the historic Mandan and Arikara tribes. Sometime after 1750 A.D., the Mandan and Arikara were pushed upriver into North Dakota by Dakota and Lakota Sioux groups moving into the area from the east.

Using buffalo and horses as their mainstays for survival, the Sioux adapted well to northern plains living. Exploration, fur trading and establishment of military outposts were soon followed by homesteading pioneers.

From the explorations of Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s until the railroads steamed across the plains in the 1880s, trading posts, explorer camps, Indian agencies, military posts and steamboat landings dotted the basin.

The Fort Randall Military Post, built in 1856 on the south side of the river just below the present site of the dam, was established to keep peace on the frontier and served as a major navigation link on the Missouri River.

The Fort Randall Military Post, located on the south side of the river just below the present site of the dam, was named for Colonel Daniel Randall, a career Army officer who also served as Deputy Paymaster General of the Army. The site was selected in 1856 by General William S. Harney, Commander of the Sioux Expedition.

In 1875, soldiers of the Fort conceived the idea of building a combination church and Odd Fellows meeting hall in an effort to stem rampant alcoholism and provide some social, spiritual and intellectual stimulation at the isolated post.

The Fort Randall Post Cemetery is located on the south side of the river just below the present site of the dam. When the fort was officially abandoned in 1892, the 158-grave cemetery was left to the elements.

Lake Francis Case attracts more than 1 million visitors each year to its shores. Recreation opportunities around the lake include camping, fishing, hunting, boating, sailing, swimming, skiing, bird-watching and photography.

Campgrounds managed by the State of South Dakota are located above and below Fort Randall Dam. Amenities include electricity, potable water, modern bathrooms, playground equipment, trailer dump stations and boat ramps. A select few campgrounds also have camping cabins available.

Great year-round fishing opportunities attract thousands of anglers to the lake.

Fishing is a very popular activity on Lake Francis Case. Walleye is the primary sport fish although bass, crappie, pike and catfish are also fished on the lake.

From Yankton: North on Hwy 81, west on Hwy 46

12 miles west of Wagner, S.D., on Highway 46 or 25 miles northeast of Spencer, Neb. on U.S. Highway 281.

The Fort Randall Visitor Center is located on the western edge of Pickstown, S.D. along U.S. Highway 281 and 18. The visitor center provides a spectacular view of Lake Francis Case, Fort Randall Dam and the Missouri River.

Exhibits in the center include information and displays about the authorized project purposes, construction of the dam, local cultural history, paleontological history, early exploration and natural history of the area. The center also houses a freshwater aquarium that displays fish species of the Missouri River.

Stop by the Lewis and Clark wayside exhibits adjacent to the parking area and at Target Hill Overlook (located above the Fort Randall Cemetery on the west end of the dam along U.S. Highway 281 and 18) to learn about the travels of the Lewis and Clark Expedition through this area.

Visitor Center Hours:

Memorial Day to Labor Day:

Weekdays: 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Weekends: 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Off-season Hours: (Closed following Labor Day until Memorial Day)

Due to increased security, powerhouse tours begin at the Fort Randall Visitor Center. Visitors should arrive 15 minutes prior to the tour and visitors over 18 years old must show a government issued photo ID. Tours last up to one hour.

Tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day:

Weekdays: Three times daily at 10:00 a.m.; 1:00 p.m.; and 3:00 p.m.

Weekends & Holidays: Three times daily at 10:00 a.m.; 1:00 p.m.; and 3:00 p.m.

Off-season or groups of 10 or more: Call (605) 487-7845. Tours are by special appointment only

Fort Randall News Releases


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Comment period extended for Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir Surplus Water Reports

In response to requests from the public during meetings held throughout the Missouri River basin from Aug. 20 to Aug. 29, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, is extending the public comment period for the five Draft Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir Surplus Water Reports and Environmental Assessments to Oct. 10, 2012. [Read More]
Published: Sep-06-12

Corps seeks public comment on Draft Surplus Water Reports, Environmental Assessments

A report has been developed and released for public comment for each of the following mainstem reservoirs: Fort Peck Dam/Fort Peck Lake, Mont.; Oahe Dam/ Lake Oahe, S.D., Big Bend Dam/Lake Sharpe, S.D.; Fort Randall Dam/Lake Francis Case, S.D.; and Gavins Point Dam/Lewis and Clark Lake, S.D. The draft reports identify and quantify surplus water availability at each of the locations. [Read More]
Published: Aug-07-12
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