Gavins Point Dam - Omaha District US Army Corps of Engineers



Fact Sheets

Water Safety
Jefferson National Parks Association

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

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

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

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.

Play it safe and know the rules this upcoming holiday

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.

Enjoy Your Holiday, Play It Safe and Return Home Alive

Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death, yet the number of deaths by drowning could be reduced drastically if everyone would wear a life jacket. Statistics show that 89 percent of those who drown at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes and rivers may have survived if they had worn a life jacket. Here are some safety tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July holiday.

Interagency Military Pass waives fees at Corps recreation sites nationwide

America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Pass Program’s Interagency Annual Pass for Military continues to be accepted at more than 2,500 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed recreation areas nationwide. The Omaha District does not charge day use fees at any of its recreation areas. Special event, day group facility/picnic shelters and the use of the Oahe Visitor Center do not qualify for the Military Fee Waiver. Separately, the Corps continues to waive camping fees for active duty military members and their dependents on mid- or post-deployment leave from duty in a hostile fire zone to include Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and other deployments to support Overseas Contingency Operations.

Boaters, Anglers, and Hunters: Beware of Cold Water

With the ice now off most local area rivers and lakes boaters, anglers, and hunters need to take extra precautions when around water during this time of year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is the largest federal provider of outdoor recreation opportunities, cautions outdoor recreationists to protect themselves against cold water immersion and hypothermia.