Gavins Point Dam - Omaha District US Army Corps of Engineers


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.

Collapse All Expand All

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

1 2 3

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 spray sandbars in the Missouri River between Pickstown, S.D. and Ponca, Neb. with aquatic-approved herbicides to keep the sandbars clear of vegetation. This work is being done so that the sandbars may be used by the endangered interior least tern and threatened piping plover for nesting. [Read More]
Published: Aug-27-14

Draft master plan update for Fort Randall Dam/Lake Francis Case available for public review

The draft master plan update for Fort Randall Dam/Lake Francis Case is currently available for public review. The master plan provides guidance for the management and development of natural and manmade resources at the Fort Randall Dam/Lake Francis Case project including public use, environmentally sensitive areas and cultural resources within the project’s boundaries. [Read More]
Published: Jul-17-14

Boaters and swimmers reminded to wear life jackets

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. [Read More]
Published: May-23-14

National Safe Boating Week, May 17-23, 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. [Read More]
Published: May-15-14

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. [Read More]
Published: Oct-01-13
1 2 3