Location: Near Pierre, S.D., River Mile 1,072.3

Surrounded by the rolling prairies of the Dakotas, Lake Oahe stretches for 230 miles from Pierre, South Dakota to Bismarck, North Dakota.

The Oahe name comes from the Oahe Mission established among the Lakota Sioux people in 1874, historically located about eight miles upstream from the dam. The word "Oahe" comes from the Lakota language meaning "a firm place to stand on."

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 For more information call 605-224-5862

The banks of the Upper Missouri River around Lake Oahe have a rich history. People have been hunting, fishing, and gathering along these banks for more than 9,000 years. During the 17th and 18th centuries the Arikara and Mandan peoples lived along the bluffs of the Missouri River. They were a sedentary people who grew corn, beans, and squash and lived in large earthlodge villages. The Lakota, of the Great Sioux Nation, also lived and hunted along the banks of the Missouri River, they were semi-nomadic people who hunted buffalo and lived in teepees.

The turn of the 19th century brought much change to the plains and the tribal way of life. The Arikrara and Mandan were displaced and decimated by smallpox epidemics. By the 1830’s Plains Tribes were engaged in the fur trade which was a predominant economic activity on the upper Missouri River. During the second half of the 19th century, the United States military expanded onto the plains, bison herds were destroyed, the American Indian Wars had begun and the reservation system was established.

Historical sites surround Lake Oahe including several military and fur trade forts. Significant forts include Fort Pierre Chouteau which was the largest established on the Upper Missouri, Fort Lincoln where General Custer was stationed, and Fort Manuel Trading Post where Sacajawea, the Shoshone Indian woman who served as a guide for Lewis and Clark, is believed to be buried. The grave site of the revered Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, is also nearby.

Oahe is the fourth largest reservoir in the country and provides ample room for the 2 million annual visitors who access the lake from over 50 recreational areas. These campgrounds, boat ramps, and day use areas are spread though out all sections of the lake and range from primitive to modern. Recreational areas managed by the Corps of Engineers include Beaver Creek, Cattail Bay, and Hazelton Campgrounds and Boat Ramps, Kimball Bottoms Off Road Vehicle Area, and parts of the Oahe Downstream. The remainder of the areas are managed by tribal, state, and other local agencies.

The lake provides plenty of room for power sports like pleasure boating, skiing, and tubing; while the isolated bays and shorelines provide quiet, protected areas for paddleboards and kayaks. This oasis in the prairie with locally diverse habitats attracts a lot of wildlife for sightseers and bird watchers to enjoy. Bald Eagles frequent all areas of the lake and congregate below the dam overwinter, and this large water body provides many rare bird sightings for the Dakotas.

The lake shore, sandbars and islands provide nesting and chick rearing habitat for the endangered least tern and threatened piping plover.  These little birds have a precarious life trying to survive through water level changes, storms, predators, and human disturbance.  Visitors are requested to avoid recreating in areas with nesting birds

Lake Oahe and the surrounding public land is home to world class hunting and fishing.

The lake’s varied habitat supports large populations of walleye, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, and northern pike; and its deep, cold water supports a unique opportunity to catch stocked salmon.

Lake Oahe is a major wintering and stopover area for migrating waterfowl, providing excellent late season hunting. The lake is surrounded by nearly 100,000 acres of public land open to hunting. This land provides plenty of room to chase pheasants, prairie grouse, pronghorn, whitetail and mule deer.

Highways 1804 and 1806 pass by most of Oahe’s recreation areas from Bismarck, N.D. to Pierre, S.D.

The Oahe Dam Visitor Center is located on the eastern crest of the dam along Highway 1804, displays provide information about the natural and cultural history of the area and highlight construction of the dam, the Lewis & Clark Expedition and the fish and wildlife of Lake Oahe. The visitor center provides an excellent view of Lake Oahe, the power intake structure, and the Missouri River. Eagles and geese are commonly observed from the visitor center during the winter, and the overlook provides a great view of people fishing and boating near the dam during the summer. The historic Oahe Chapel is also located here, and there is plenty of room to walk around and enjoy the view.

Visitor Center Hours: The Visitor Center is staffed weekdays year-round by South Dakota Missouri River Tourism. Hours vary so please call ahead if you are planning to stop.

Memorial Day to Labor Day:
Monday through Saturday,
9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Powerhouse tours will be available for the public following Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 1:00.
Off-season tours are available by special appointment for schools and civic groups. Please call (605) 945-3423 for more information.
Tours can be cancelled without notice - Please call ahead to verify the schedule.

Powerhouse tours begin at the Oahe Visitor Center. Visitors should arrive 10 minutes prior to the tour and visitors over 18 years old must show a government issued photo ID. Tours last up to an hour and a half and include a walk-through of the power plant, which includes several flights of stairs. The following items are prohibited in the power plant and must be left in your vehicle:

  • Purses, backpacks, or bags of any kind
  • Strollers and child carriers
  • Cameras, photography, or filming of any kind
  • Cell phone, fitness watches, smart phones, smart watches or any electronic devices (medical devices are allowed)
  • Food and drink
  • Weapons, including pocket knives and multi-tools
The River Basin Balancer Game offers insight into an inland waterway and a system of reservoirs, which are operated with a goal for serving each of the benefits, flood control, navigation, hydropower, irrigation, water supply, recreation, fish and wildlife, and water quality, for which many USACE reservoirs are authorized and constructed. Users can take charge of river operations and experience the unique challenges presented when managing reservoir operations in a variety of weather conditions across a geographically diverse basin.

Oahe News Releases

  • Oahe Project Resumes Powerhouse Tours; Visitor Center Summer Hours Set

    The Oahe Project is once again offering tours of the Oahe Powerhouse. Public walk-in tours will be available Wednesday through Saturday beginning June 2 and ending on September 5. Tours will start at the Oahe Visitor Center on top of the east end of the dam along Highway 1804.
  • Corps closes visitor centers, suspends tours

    Due to health and safety precautions regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus), all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Omaha District Visitor Centers will be closed and all public group tours and events and have been cancelled until further notice.
  • Public input sought on Lake Oahe Shoreline Management Plan

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, is in the process of revising the Lake Oahe (South Dakota) Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), which was last updated in 1977. An open house style meeting will be held to answer questions and seek public input.
  • Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment for land use reclassification at the Oahe Project available for public review

    A draft environmental assessment to evaluate the impacts of reclassifying the land use of approximately 125 acres at the Oahe Project in South Dakota is currently available for public review. Management Unit 60, also known as Sibley Nature Park, would be reclassified from Environmentally Sensitive to Multiple Resource Management – Low Density Recreation. If determined that there are no significant impacts, this change would be documented in the Oahe Dam/Lake Oahe Master Plan. Comments must be postmarked or received no later than August 23, 2017.
  • Several changes are coming to campsites operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

    BISMARCK, ND – Several changes are coming to campsites operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Oahe in North Dakota. Changes include how visitors will reserve and pay for campsites. β€œTo keep up with available technology and to follow the lead of other USACE and State Campgrounds in the region, Hazelton and Beaver Creek Campgrounds are going to be 100% reservable with a 120 day booking window. This change in the collection process, will result in an easier process for visitors and staff.”