Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Lake Oahe and Pierre, South Dakota

 Location: Farm Island Recreation Area; Pierre, South Dakota

This campground may be an old Corps of Engineers campground that was turned over to the State of South Dakota about 20 years ago. I know the ones up by the dam were transferred because I asked about it from someone in charge. I didn't specifically ask about this campground but it seems to be laid out the same way as many other Corps of Engineer campgrounds. They are being maintained really good. The bad news is the state charges about 4 times what the Corps would be charging, with the senior pass. It also charges a "daily entrance fee" like so many other states do in their state parks. Oh well, there weren't any other decent campgrounds near Pierre so I'll pay the premium price.

My campsite at Farm Island Recreation Area. That is a little cove off the Missouri River in the background. The campground was full on the weekend but around noon Sunday, it emptied quickly. It is less than 10% full now.

A travel picture in the Dakotas. I'm not sure if it is North or South Dakota. It is on a lonely stretch of US 83 somewhere between Linton, North Dakota and Pierre, South Dakota. After not seeing another vehicle for miles and miles, I began to wonder about how far away was a person that I knew. The answer was something greater than 1,000 miles. At that point, I laughed a little and thought, Heck, if it's greater than 1,000 miles, the exact answer isn't important. I guess I was just feeling "small" due to the emptiness. There are only a few places in the country where I can get that feeling. 

A part of the past. They need to leave the house as a memorial to homesteaders, but clean up the other junk.

My campsite is about 30 yards from the Missouri River. The campground was full until Sunday morning when it emptied pretty quick. It seems the locals come here a lot. After the campground emptied, several people showed up to enjoy the river without camping. A group of four ladies, spent Sunday afternoon rotating between sitting in lounge chairs on the bank and floating on inflatables in the river. Since this part of the river is in a little cove, there isn't a strong current. They seemed to have enjoyed their afternoon very much and it wouldn't be surprising if it is a regular activity for them. Pierre and the surrounding area is lucky to have such a clean river and recreation area.

This is the area where the ladies spent their Sunday afternoon after the campground started emptying out. They were there when I left to go exploring and there when I came back several hours later. Even from a distance, I got a good vibe about their time together.


Oahe Dam is the main reason I wanted to come to this area. I had heard about this massive hydro-electric dam over the years. The lake created by the dam is the fourth largest man-made reservoir in America. In comparison, it is about 6 times bigger than Toledo Bend Reservoir which sits on the border of Texas and Louisiana. Since the 1960's, this dam has prevented flooding, produced electricity to light up a lot of the mid-west, provided recreation to both North and South Dakota and irrigation waters for farming/ranching. Now this is what I think of as an example of a "publicly funded infrastructure project", not some of the stuff Congress is trying to call "infrastructure". Some of that stuff may be good and worthwhile, but don't get it confused with infrastructure. I won't bore the readers with more information about the dam/lake. Maybe some picture though wouldn't be too boring. :)

The structure in the water is in the intake structure that feeds water to the hydroelectric plant on the other side of the dam. The important part about this picture is the five benches. They are "memorial benches" that were placed there by family members of a person who passed away but had ties to the dam/lake. They are very personalized. I've never seen anything like this before at a Corps of Engineers project. I was told by the nice lady in the Visitor's Center that there were plans for only one additional one in the future. (by the way, good luck on your future travel plans).

This is the electric power plant that is being feed water from that structure in the previous picture. Those seven tall structures are surge tanks to control the pressure of the water. Due to the drought in the area, the only water passing through the dam is coming through the power plant. This water downstream of the plant is a popular place for fishermen in boats. They would motor up as close to the power plant as they could get and then kill their motors and float downstream while fishing. After floating about a mile away, they would repeat the process. There was also a guy with a speargun and snorkel gear working near the banks.

This is the stilling basin on the downstream side of the dam. When they are releasing excess water (not emergency spillway), this is where it comes out. Since the drought, the gates that control the release here are closed. It gave a different meaning to the term "stilling basin". 

This is the emergency spillway for the dam. It is located about one mile upstream of the dam and those emergency gates have never been opened in an emergency. Notice the special sign on the right. You don't see that very often, if ever. 

Pierre, is the state capitol of South Dakota. It is the second smallest capitol city in the America with a population of about 14,000 people. It is also a "good vibe" city for me. As a solo traveler, I always get a good or bad vibe about places. I learned years ago to trust that vibe. There have been gas stations, restaurants and campgrounds that I've passed up due to catching a bad vibe. I'll be adding Pierre to my list of "good vibe" cities. Also, I think the Governor had it correct, from the beginning, about the balance between public health and personal liberty. Paraphrasing her, she said, she would continually give the citizens all the information she had about Covid and also the recommendations as to what to do and not do. She would then trust each individual as to how they protected themselves and their families. "Personal responsibility" balanced with personal liberty at its finest.

The veterans memorial near the capitol.

Looking back at the same memorial

Same memorial with the Capitol Building in the background. The U.S. flag is flying at half mast due to the recent service members who died in Afghanistan. 

Words to remember and hold true, written on a bench

Near the Veterans Memorial is this nice memorial to Police, Firefighters and Emergency Response Teams. 

I'm writing this post on the morning of moving day. I'll be heading to a State Fairground Campground is Sioux Falls, South Dakota in a couple of hours. Strong storms passed through this area last night. There were warnings popping up all around me talking about wind, rain and hail. Luckily, for me, it was just strong winds with very little rain and no hail. 

Liberty rocked me to sleep last night.  

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.


  1. 'Rocked you to sleep', a nice line!

    1. :),,,,, just like when the ship was rocking and rolling in the Navy.

  2. I hate states that charge the daily entrance fee along with camping. It seems to be happening more and more. Beautiful pictures. I really love the memorial!

    1. I agree K&S. State parks are pricing themselves out of the market.

  3. It was a good memorial. Good vibes everywhere in South Dakota.