Lewis & Clark Lake and Gavins Point Dam are nestled in the golden, chalkstone-lined valley of the Missouri River growing into one of the most popular recreation spots in the Great Plains.
Currently, the archeological record in the Lewis and Clark Lake area dates back to the Archaic Period, sometime around 3,000 to 5,000 B.C. The Archaic Period people lived along small tributary streams that flow into the Missouri Valley. Later, Woodland Period people (500 B.C. – 1,000 A.D.) lived in the area. More recent inhabitants include the Ponca, Yankton Sioux and Omaha tribes in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The Minnesota Santee Sioux arrived on the river shore in the mid-1800's and remain in the area.
In 1804, while traveling up the Missouri River on their epic journey to the Pacific Ocean, Lewis and Clark participated in a Grand council with the Yankton Sioux at a site below Calumet Bluff. This significant meeting was the first meeting with a Sioux tribe on their journey upstream. The Lewis and Clark Visitor Center now stands on historic Calumet Bluff.
In 1874, the Bon Homme Colony of Hutterites, a branch of the Mennonite movement exiled from Austria, settled on what is now the shore of Lewis and Clark Lake. They are the first Hutterite Colony in South Dakota and the United States. The colony maintains a traditional communal way of life.
Nearby Yankton was the first territorial capital of the Dakota Territory from 1861 to 1883 and was a major steamboat landing until 1881. Since then, Yankton has grown into a regional business and health care community, and with the creation of Lewis and Clark Lake, has become a major recreation destination.
Gavins Point Dam was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944, commonly called the Pick-Sloan Plan. Ground was broken at the damsite on May 18, 1952, in a ceremony attended by Lieutenant General Lewis Pick, then Chief of Engineers, and the Governors of South Dakota and Nebraska. Construction began immediately and in September 1956 the Powerplant began producing electricity for customers. The total cost of the dam totaled just under $50 million. Yearly benefits from the dam are estimated at $35 million dollars.