Lake & River Trips in the Black Hills

With lush green forests, creek-carved canyons, incredible national parks, and a plethora of outdoor attractions dotted in between, the Black Hills have much more to offer than just Mount Rushmore!

“The emerald isle in a sea of prairie”, beckons visitors of all ages to put on their hiking shoes, pack their fishing and swimming gear, and head out for an exciting vacation.

The young and young-at-heart can enjoy various recreational activities at the many nearby lakes and rivers such as fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, and hiking, amidst some magnificent forested backdrops.

Here are some of our top recommendations for lake and river day trips to help you make the most of your vacation to the Black Hills.

men kayaking at Sheridan Lake in South Dakota

Sheridan Lake

The Sheridan Lake complex spans across 400 acres, covering two campgrounds, a marina, and two swimming beaches. Fishing one of the primary activities you can enjoy here, along with hiking, boating, and wildlife viewing.

In the past, the lake had a huge population of Northern Pike, but today you can catch an assortment of different fish species such as trout, bass, perch, and panfish. In winter, the lake turns into a popular spot for ice fishing.

Travelers can enjoy camping in one of two campgrounds within the premises. It’s a great place to relax and soak in the stunning views of the lake or hike. If you love swimming, head to the beaches within the complex. They have restrooms and vault toilets located close to the beach and campgrounds.

Those with a desire to explore on foot can try one of the popular hiking trails – the Centennial Trail or the Flume Trail at the lake. Hiking here offers an excellent opportunity for spotting the local wildlife including bighorn sheep, deer, while elk, and pronghorn.

Deerfield Lake

If you are traveling with family and are looking for a fun kids’ day out, head to the Deerfield Lake. It offers a multitude of options for kayaking, canoeing, picnicking and paddle boarding. The lake is designated as a no-wake lake and the shore is easily accessible, making it perfect for kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing.

Try out the popular and ever-growing sport of kayak fishing here. Here you can catch splake, brook, or rainbow trout for dinner! The shallow waters make a good spot for ice fishing in winter.

There are several easy to moderate hiking trails here such as the Deerfield Trail and Deerfield Lake Loop Trail. Summon the explorer in you, tie up your hiking shoes and set on an adventure. There are no services available, so remember to pack enough food and water, compass, map and other gear.

Pactola Reservoir

With an area of approximately 800 acres, Pactola Lake, also known as Pactola Reservoir, is the largest lake in the Black Hills area. In the past, it was an old mining camp, but today the lake is one of the most sought-after outdoor recreation spots in South Dakota. It is mainly famous for fishing, boating, hiking and wildlife viewing.

There are pontoons, kayaks, and paddle boards available to rent at the Pactola Pines Marina at the lake. Spend the day kayaking with your family on the tranquil lake or rent a bicycle and embark on the road less taken.

Head out kayak or pontoon fishing for the various gamefish that the lake is stocked with including yellow perch, rock and largemouth bass, brown, lake and rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon. There have been several record catches at this lake – it’s sure to test your angling skills.

Or if you prefer something a bit more laid back, there are some incredibly scenic picnic spots here – Pactola Point swim beach, Veterans Point trail, and Jenney Gulch.

Creek and River Fishing

Fishing in Rapid Creek is one of the must-try outdoor activities in Pactola and if it’s your lucky day, you may end up catching a large brown trout! You will find the Rapid Creek Trailhead at the basin of Pactola Reservoir. There are restrooms available in the summer months.

Spearfish Creek, which can be accessed in the scenic Spearfish Canyon and town of Spearfish, is the other top stream to fish throughout the year, as both Rapid and Spearfish Creek have the most reliable water flows.

It can be fished throughout the year, with brown and wild rainbow trout being found in Spearfish Canyon near the confluence with Squaw Creek, while a large wild brown trout population can be caught near the town of Spearfish.

Explore More Of The Black Hills

In addition, most of the rivers and creeks in the Black Hills can be canoed or kayaked, with several exciting designated whitewater paddling spots. Whitewater kayaking is recommended for experienced kayakers.

All of this and more awaits you in South Dakota’s incredible Black Hills. Contact us today for more about lake and river day trips in this area, or feel free to book one of our lodge or cabin accommodations near it all!