Discover the 5 Coldest Places in South Dakota

A sunrise early on a Cold Winter Morning in Rural South Dakota near Valley Springs
© Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Geer

Published: December 27, 2023

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South Dakota is no stranger to extreme weather. Severe thunderstorms and tornados can occur in the spring and summer. Winter months can bring lots of snow and chilly temperatures. But what are the coldest places in South Dakota? Although it can be tricky to choose the coldest places overall, we chose cities with populations of over 1,000 and used annual average minimum temperatures for this list of five.

5. Flandreau

1883 bird's eye illustration of Flandreau, South Dakota, Moody County.

In the late 1800s, Flandreau was a bustling city with a courthouse, churches, schools, banks, mills, lumber yards, and merchants.

©J.J. Stoner / Public domain - Original / License

  • Annual average minimum temperature: 33 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Population: 2,354
  • The coldest temperature on record: -40 degrees Fahrenheit on January 1, 1974

Flandreau is located along the Big Sioux River in southeastern South Dakota. Although summers can get warm in Flandreau, the winters are decidedly frigid. The average minimum temperature for the year is 33 degrees Fahrenheit, just one degree above freezing. The coldest temperature on record is a dangerously low 40 degrees below zero. Note that it was the real temperature rather than the windchill.

Flandreau is one of the oldest cities in the state. Though established in 1857, Native Americans of the Great Sioux Nation have lived in the area for thousands of years. Today, Flandreau has several museums that share its rich cultural heritage, including Moody County Museum and the Four Winds Cultural Center inside the Flandreau Indian School.

4. Watertown

After an icy storm in early December 2005, Western crews went out to get conductor wire and fiber optics restored between Granite Falls, Minnesota, and Watertown, South Dakota.

Ice storms in Watertown, SD, can cause power outages across the area.

©Western Area Power / CC BY 2.0, Flickr - Original / License

  • Annual average minimum temperature: 32 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Population: 22,722
  • The coldest temperature on record: -40 degrees Fahrenheit on January 13, 1916

Although the summers are warm, Watertown winters are snowy, cold, icy, and windy. Watertown has a freezing 32 degrees Fahrenheit annual average minimum temperature. However, that’s not as cold as the record set on January 13, 1916, when the city recorded a stunning negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Watertown’s claim to fame is the renowned Redlin Art Center. This museum is home to many original artworks created by American wildlife artist Terry Redlin. Watertown also has a bustling historic district, historic landmarks, and plenty of outdoor recreation.

3. Brookings

Aerial View of a University at Dusk in Brookings, South Dakota

Winters in Brookings, SD, are cold and snowy.

©Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.com

  • Annual average minimum temperature: 32 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Population: 23,477
  • The coldest temperature on record: -41 degrees Fahrenheit on February 9, 1899

Located in the eastern part of the state, Brookings is known as the home of South Dakota State University. It’s the fourth most populous city in the state and third on our list of coldest places. Brookings’s annual average minimum temperature is right at freezing, at a frigid 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the coldest temperature on record was much colder at only negative 41 degrees Fahrenheit, which occurred on February 9, 1899.

With its small-town, college-atmosphere charm, Brookings is known for its historic landmarks, boutique shopping, natural beauty, festivals, and nightlife. The area has plenty of winter activities during the cold and snowy months, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

2. Porcupine

The silhouette of the entrance to the Wounded Knee Massacre Monument in South Dakota at sunset

Porcupine, SD, is not far from the Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial which commemorates the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

©Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

  • Annual average minimum temperature: 32 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Population: 1,381
  • The coldest temperature on record: -27 degrees Fahrenheit on December 22, 2022

Second on our list of coldest places in South Dakota is the town of Porcupine. The annual average minimum temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest day in Porcupine happened recently when the temperature plummetted to a frigid 27 below zero on December 22, 2022.

The town, located in southwestern South Dakota, is believed to have received its unusual name from the animal and the nearby Porcupine Butte. Likewise, the butte was not named for the animal either but for the abundance of prickly pine trees that cover the summit. Porcupine is about eight miles north of the Wounded Knee Memorial. This is the location where, on December 29, 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred. On this date, the United States Army slaughtered over 300 men, women, and children who were being relocated to a Sioux reservation.

1. Aberdeen

Aberdeen, South Dakota

Aberdeen is the coldest place in South Dakota.

©H2O2 at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons - Original / License

  • Annual average minimum temperature: 31 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Population: 28,324
  • The coldest temperature on record: -46 degrees Fahrenheit on February 8th, 1895, and January 12, 1912

Coming in first on our list as the coldest place in South Dakota is Aberdeen, located in the northeastern part of the state. With a population of 28,324, Aberdeen is the third most populated city in South Dakota. Aberdeen is chilly, with an annual average minimum temperature of just 31 degrees Fahrenheit.

Established in 1881, the town was named after Aberdeen, Scotland. Aberdeen’s claim to fame is that it was once the home of Frank L. Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum’s description of the dreary and vast plains of Kansas in his book was inspired by his experiences living in South Dakota during a drought.

Summary of the Coldest Places in South Dakota

RankCityCountyAnnual Average Minimum Temperature
1AberdeenBrown County31 degrees Fahrenheit
2PorcupineOglala Lakota County32 degrees Fahrenheit
3BrookingsBrookings County32 degrees Fahrenheit
4WatertownCodington County32 degrees Fahrenheit
5FlandreauMoody County33 degrees Fahrenheit


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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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