Gavins Point Dam - Omaha District US Army Corps of Engineers

OMAHA DISTRICT

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Location: Near Chamberlain, S.D., River Mile 987.4

Big Bend Dam takes its name from the unique bend in the Missouri River seven miles upstream from the dam. At this point in its course, the Missouri makes almost a complete loop, traveling 25 miles before returning to the "neck" where the land is only about one mile wide. Lake Sharpe is named for former South Dakota Governor, Merrill Q. Sharpe, who was instrumental in implementing the construction of the Corps' dams on the Missouri River.

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People have inhabited the shores of the Missouri River for thousands of years.  As the environment changed over the millennia, so did the methods early people utilized to survive. Early groups inhabited isolated locations such as wooded draws and terraces which offered protection from the elements and access to food sources. By the time European explorers arrived in this area in the 18th century , earth lodge villages of the Arikara tribes lined the bluffs along the river. Eventually, the Arikara were gradually displaced by Dakota and Lakota people moving into the area from the east.

 It is this mix of Arikara villages and Dakota and Lakota encampments that the Lewis and Clark expedition encountered upon reaching the Big Bend region on September 19, 1804. Their journals are filled with vivid descriptions of the area and its inhabitants.

During the first part of the 19th century, the history of Big Bend was one of exploration and trading. Trading posts and military forts were soon established as people arrived by boat up the Missouri. Scattered early white settlements began at this time.

The northeast end of the dam is located near the site of Fort Thompson, a reservation headquarters established in 1863 for Santee Sioux and Winnebago agencies.

The Santee and Winnebago Tribes were soon relocated further downstream, and in 1865 the Lower Yanktonai, a subdivision of the Dakota tribe, were gathered on the reservation.

The towns of Fort Thompson and Lower Brule were relocated to their present sites in the early 1950's before the old town sites were flooded due to the construction of the Fort Randall Dam.

Big Bend Dam was constructed under the Pick- Sloan Plan for development of the Missouri River Basin. During the peak construction period, a work force of 1,300 people was involved in the construction of the dam.

Today, approximately 80,000 acres of public lands and water provide a variety of benefits to the public including flood control, recreation, conservation of our natural resources, fish and wildlife habitat, irrigation, and hydropower production.

It is possible to view many types of wildlife on the Missouri River at Lake Sharpe. Tribal bison herds can be seen grazing the lake area's grasslands north of the towns of Fort Thompson and Lower Brule. The shoreline areas of the lake also offer excellent waterfowl, upland game birds and big game hunting opportunities. Big game animals include whitetail and mule deer, elk, bison, coyotes and wild turkeys. Waterfowl and upland game birds include ducks, geese, pheasants, prairie chickens, and grouse. Hunting regulations are established and enforced by the State of South Dakota, and the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Tribes.

Lake Sharpe provides many opportunities for outdoor recreation. Recreation areas vary from primitive to highly developed areas like the Left Tailrace area located below the dam. Facilities at the Left Tailrace include campsites with electrical hookups, comfort stations with showers, a dump station, boat ramp, fish cleaning station, courtesy dock, picnic shelters, tables, grills, drinking water and playground.
Fishing is a very popular activity on Lake Sharpe and in the tailwater area. Walleye is the primary sport fish although sauger, small mouth bass, white bass, channel catfish, and northern pike are also fished from the lake.

From Pierre: East on Hwy 34, South at Hwy 47, west on North Shore Road

From Chamberlain: North on Hwy 50, West on Hwy 34 and west on North Shore Road

1.5 miles southwest of Fort Thompson, South Dakota on Highway 47

Call (605) 245-2255. There is no visitor center on site. Project tours are by special appointment only.

Due to increased security, visitors for powerhouse tours must arrive 15 minutes prior to the tour and visitors over 18 years old must show a government issued photo ID.

Tours are available:

Weekdays: Call (605) 245-2255. Tours are by special appointment only.

Weekends & Holidays: Call (605) 245-2255. Tours are by special appointment only.

Off-season or groups of 10 or more: Call (605) 245-2255. Tours are by special appointment only.

Big Bend News Releases

Boaters and swimmers reminded to wear life jackets

5/23/2014
Before you head out for a day on or near the water, you're encourage to make sure you have life jackets for everyone and that they please wear them. On average, 9 out of 10 people who drowned at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake or river project didn’t wear a life jacket. Life jackets save lives by keeping you afloat and providing time for rescue.

National Safe Boating Week, May 17-23, 2014

5/15/2014
National Safe Boating Week, May 17-23, 2014, is the official launch of the 2014 Safe Boating Campaign. This yearlong campaign promotes safe and responsible boating and the value of life jacket wear by recreational boaters.

Shutdown prompts closures at Corps-operated campgrounds and day-use parks

10/1/2013
Within the Omaha District, which encompasses Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, Corps-operated campgrounds and day-use parks will be closed. Corps parks leased to partner agencies and concessionaires will remain open, but cannot be supported by the Corps while the shutdown is in place. The public is encouraged to ensure their campground is not impacted before arriving. Information regarding closures and affected areas will be posted at Corps-operated campgrounds and day use areas. Maintenance and operations services, such as cleaning restrooms and vault toilets as well as trash removal, may be curtailed at several locations.

Possible nationwide closure of Corps-operated campgrounds and day-use parks

9/30/2013
If the potential shutdown of the federal government goes into effect, Corps-operated campgrounds and day-use parks will be impacted nationwide beginning Tuesday, Oct. 1. Corps parks leased to partner agencies and concessionaires will remain open, but cannot be supported by the Corps while the shutdown is in place. Several parks in, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Colorado are leased to partner agencies. The public is encouraged to ensure their campground is not impacted before arriving.

Public scoping meeting for Cold Brook and Cottonwood Springs Project Master Plans scheduled for Sept. 17

9/6/2013
A public scoping meeting to gather input for developing a Master Plan for the Cold Brook and Cottonwood Springs projects, will be held Sept. 17 at the Mueller Civic Center in Hot Springs, S.D. The public is encouraged to attend at any time between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The Mueller Civic Center is located at 801 S. 6th Street, Hot Springs, S.D. 57747.

Play it safe and know the rules this upcoming holiday

6/30/2013
With the upcoming holiday, visitors to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas are reminded that it is unlawful to possess or discharge fireworks of any kind on Corps property. Additionally, some areas are experiencing drought conditions and visitors are reminded that fires are only allowed in designated fire rings, fire places, grills or facilities specifically designated for this purpose. Local project offices will have detailed information regarding local fire bans or restrictions.