US Army Corps of Engineers
Omaha District

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The Oahe Dam has a Visitor Center loacted on the eastern crest of thd dam. The visitor center provides an excellent view of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. The center provides information about the history, exploration, early navigation, settlement and natural history of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. Programs highlight construction of the dam, the Lewis & Clark Expedition and the fish of South Dakota.
Located near Pierre, South Dakota, the surge tanks at Oahe Dam are each 70 feet in diameter. There are two tanks per penstock. The surge tanks help regulate water flow to the power house turbines.
Oahe Dam is located near Pierre, S.D. at River Mile 1,072.3. The first of the power house’s seven 89,500-kilovolt generators was put into operation in March 1962. On August 17, 1962, President John F. Kennedy came to the dam and officially dedicated the two generators. The final generator went into operation in June 1963, completing the $340-million Oahe project. By 1966, Oahe Dam was generating over 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

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

Lake Oahe is surrounded by mixed grass prairie with trees growing down to the shore in occasional steep draws.

Oahe Dam takes its name from the Oahe Mission established among the Lakota Sioux people in 1874, about eight miles upstream from the present site of the dam. The word "Oahe," roughly translated, means "a foundation" or "a place to stand on."

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The Lakota Sioux were not the first people in the area now called "the land of the Sioux." The Lakotas displaced people of the Arikara tribe, whose earth lodge villages lined the bluffs along the Missouri River in the 18th century. Traces of the fortresses that guarded their villages still remain.

Present day residents include the Cheyenne River Sioux and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribes, which occupy a majority of land on the west side of Lake Oahe.

Significant historical sites surround Lake Oahe, including the Fort Manuel Trading Post where Sacajawea, the Shoshone Indian woman who served as a guide for Lewis and Clark, is said to be buried.

The grave site of the Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull is also nearby, as is the old military post of Fort Sully.

People travel from all over to participate in recreational activities on the 461,000 acres of land and water that comprise the project.

Guests are encouraged to have fun and are reminded that care should be taken to preserve the lands and waters for future visitors. There are 51 recreation areas around the reservoir including highly developed campgrounds and day use areas, moderately developed areas and primitive areas. Recreation opportunities at the lake include camping, picnicking, fishing, hunting, boating, water skiing, swimming, bird-watching, hiking, biking, and photography.

The story of Oahe focuses on people - from the early Native American tribes, to the fur traders and pioneers, to those who manage, operate and use the facility today. All play an important role in shaping and developing this region.

Lake Oahe's 2,250 mile shoreline offers a myriad of opportunities to outdoor recreationists. Swimmers, sightseers, campers and picnickers alike have their choice of outdoor activities. More than 1.5 million visitors enjoy Lake Oahe's recreation facilities each year.

Campers may choose between fully developed campsites with electrical hookups, trailer dump stations and comfort stations and more primitive sites with little or no amenitites. The day-use areas have picnic shelters, tables, grills, drinking water, comfort stations and playground equipment.

Anglers come to Lake Oahe for the great variety of sport fish, especially walleye and Chinook salmon. Other fish species include channel catfish, northern pike, whitebass, small mouth bass, sauger, trout, perch, blue gill and crappie. Concrete boat launching ramps are available at many locations on the lake.

Many of the public lands around the lakes and rivers, except for developed recreation areas, are open to hunting and offer a great place for sportsmen to hunt pheasants, grouse, partridge, turkey, waterfowl and deer. Wildlife management areas around lake and other areas may allow trapping/snaring please refer to the regulations that are established and enforced by the State of North Dakota.  The Corps of Engineers has certain project restrictions for areas it directly operates (buildings, recreation, and day use areas) for hunting, trapping, and snaring.

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

The Oahe Visitor Center is situated on the eastern crest of Oahe Dam. The visitor center provides an excellent view of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River.

The center provides information about the history, exploration, early navigation, settlement and natural history of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. Programs highlight construction of the dam, the Lewis & Clark Expedition and the fish of South Dakota.

Visitor Center Hours: The Visitor Center is staffed weekdays year-round by South Dakota Missouri River Tourism. 

Memorial Day  to Labor Day: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, including holidays.

Off-season Hours: Weekdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed holidays and weekends)

Memorial Day to Labor Day: 10 a.m., 1 & 4 p.m., seven days a week.

Due to increased security, powerhouse tours begin at the Oahe 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.

Off-season or for groups of 10 or more: Call (605) 224-5862. Tours are by special appointment only

Oahe News Releases

  • Vegetation control to begin on Missouri River sandbars between Garrison Dam and Lake Oahe headwaters, N.D.

    During September, the Omaha District will conduct vegetation management activities on sandbars in the Missouri River. Contractors will use a helicopter to spray sandbars with aquatic-approved herbicides to keep them clear of vegetation. This work is being done so that the sandbars can continue to be used by the endangered interior least tern and threatened piping plover for nesting. The sandbars being treated are on the Missouri River between the Garrison Dam and the Hazelton Boat Ramp on Lake Oahe (river miles 1381 to 1278). The Bismarck-Mandan river reach, river miles 1325 to 1310, and river miles 1364 and 1363 north of Washburn, N.D. will not be sprayed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Oahe Project partners to offer special turkey hunt

    Hunter Greg Brandner of Pierre, S.D., harvested the first turkey of a special spring turkey hunt being held at the Oahe Dam and Lake recreation area. The hunt was hosted in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. In recent years, the Oahe Project has made use of its specially enclosed blinds, which allows hunters with disabilities requiring the use a wheelchair, the opportunity to hunt deer.
  • Oahe Downstream Recreation Area closed for annual hunt event

    Oahe Downstream Recreation Area near Pierre, S.D., will be closed Saturday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 24 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the annual Oahe Hunt. The Oahe Hunt is an annual event sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks for hunters whose mobility in by means of a wheelchair.