Gavins Point Dam - Omaha District US Army Corps of Engineers


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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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Fort Randall area hosts 6th Annual South Dakota Birding Festival

The Karl Mundt National Wildlife Refuge, located near the Fort Randall Dam, will play host to the 6th Annual South Dakota Birding Festival from May 20-22. [Read More]
Published: Apr-06-16

Zebra Mussels discovered at Lewis and Clark Lake

Boat inspections increase around Lewis and Clark Lake and the Missouri River as Lewis and Clark Lake was declared "Infested" for zebra mussels. [Read More]
Published: Sep-17-15

Vegetation control to begin on Missouri River sandbars between Pickstown, S.D. and Ponca, Neb.

During September, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct vegetation management activities on sandbars in the Missouri River between Pickstown, SD and Ponca, Neb. Approximately 700 acres have been identified for treatment in 2015 by a team of federal and state representatives. This work is being done to keep the sandbars free of vegetation and usable by the endangered interior least tern and threatened piping plover for nesting. [Read More]
Published: Aug-24-15

Be safe, know and follow the rules this upcoming holiday

With the upcoming holiday, rangers at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas across the Missouri Basin want to remind the public about a few rules and policies to help prevent fires, drowning, protect public safety and make for overall enjoyable recreation experiences during the holiday weekend and in the future. [Read More]
Published: Jun-30-15

"Play it safe" at USACE Lakes

The warmer temperatures are bringing more visitors to recreation areas across the Omaha District. Park Rangers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are reminding visitors to have life jackets for everyone and please wear them. On average, 9 out of 10 people who drowned at a USACE lake or river project didn’t wear a life jacket. Life jackets save lives by keeping you afloat and providing time for rescue. [Read More]
Published: May-06-15
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