The Best Swimming Holes In South Dakota

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Written by Kirstin Harrington

Updated: October 18, 2023

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Let’s begin scheduling those weekend getaways we’ve been fantasizing about throughout the winter in hopes of warmer weather. To get you started, here are a handful of swimming spots in South Dakota. You should go to each one of them and soak in the summer sun! 

Check Out These Incredible Swimming Holes in the Video Below

Angostura Reservoir

Water lovers will find Angostura Reservoir to be a refuge with stunning scenery. The region is home to many water activities and summertime leisure pursuits, including camping, boating, fishing, and swimming, and features 36 miles of shoreline and some of the best sandy beaches in the state. 

Walleye, smallmouth bass, and crappie are among the popular species supported by its robust fishery, which also includes northern pike, largemouth bass, perch, and bluegill. The Angostura Reservoir has a surface elevation of 3,127 feet and a maximum depth of 75 feet. The average depth is only 29 feet. 

Although many tourists visit the reservoir’s busiest beaches, such as Breakers Beach, we enjoy venturing off the main route to find the secluded, undeveloped beaches. There isn’t a finer place to spend a nice, sunny South Dakota afternoon than on one of the many beautiful sandy beaches along the coast of Angostura Reservoir.

Sylvan Lake

On a sweltering day, Sylvan Lake’s cool, largely clear water is perfect for swimming. Though it’s not too horrible until you get further out, the water is a tad weedy around the edges. On the east side of the lake, close to the parking area for the trailhead, there is a sandy swimming beach that is also weed-free. 

The swimming beach offers young swimmers a comfortable shallow entry, however, it gets busy on hot days. Luckily, there are several additional locations along the beach where you can access Sylvan Lake. Although you won’t have the spot to yourself once you’re in the water, there is plenty of space for everyone.

At Sylvan Lake or any of the other lakes in Custer State Park, jumping or diving off the rocks is not permitted. Sylvan Lake is a great lake for beginners to learn to paddle because it’s entertaining and laid back. Usually, the water is flat and calm. There aren’t any significant currents or tides since it’s a reservoir. It’s a terrific location for leisurely water play with no particular goals other than enjoyment.

Sylvan Lake

On a sweltering day, Sylvan Lake’s cool, largely clear water is perfect for swimming.

©Jess Kraft/Shutterstock.com

Lewis and Clark Lake

Lewis and Clark Reservoir, the second-largest reservoir in Nebraska, runs along South Dakota’s northeastern border. The Lewis and Clark expedition, which camped there during their illustrious trek to uncover the Louisiana Purchase, gave the lake its name. 

On the Missouri River, along the border of the American states of South Dakota and Nebraska, lies a reservoir with a total area of 31,400 acres known as Lewis and Clark Lake. The lake has nearly 90 miles of shoreline, a length of about 25 miles, and a maximum depth of 45 feet.

Modern cottages, boating, fishing, hunting, bird viewing, and picturesque panoramas are all available at Lewis and Clark. West of the Weigand Marina, there is only one swimming beach. There’s no lifeguard on duty.

Lewis and Clark Lake

The Lewis and Clark expedition, which camped there during their illustrious trek to uncover the Louisiana Purchase, gave the lake its name.

©Daniel Stephen Hakes/Shutterstock.com

Cascade Falls

Nowadays, the majority of swimming areas are blocks of concrete with rows of plastic seats and bright umbrellas. But South Dakota has a few natural areas, and one of the greatest is Cascade Springs, which lies 8 miles south of Hot Springs. 

Here, whispering falls, lush vegetation and warm blue pools create an ambiance reminiscent of a scene out of a movie in the middle of Fall River County. Approximately two miles upstream, at Cascade Springs, a group of six artesian springs flows continuously warm, 67°F water into Cascade Creek. 

This is where the clear, clean water of the falls gets its start. Around the springs, creek, and falls, dense flora grows as a result of the water’s temperature. On Highway 71, 8 miles south of Hot Springs are the Cascade Falls Picnic Grounds. The U.S. Forest Service recently gave the region a facelift. There is a picnic area, a modest parking lot, and bathrooms.

Pactola Lake

15 miles west of Rapid City is where you’ll find Pactola Reservoir.

©RaksyBH/Shutterstock.com

Pactola Lake

15 miles west of Rapid City is where you’ll find Pactola Reservoir. The Black Hills National Forest’s largest and deepest reservoir, with 14 miles of shoreline and 150-foot depths over 800 acres, is distinguished by its size and depth. 

A sandy beach may be found on the Pactola Reservoir’s southern shore at Pactola Point Swim Beach. The Pactola Point Picnic Area and Marina Store are both close to the beach. 

Weekend traffic is significant at this site. In some places, dogs are permitted, whereas they are not in others. Some parts are dangerous and rough, so I wouldn’t suggest taking your dog there. Dogs are not allowed in the beach area.


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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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