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Black Hills lakes are scenic spots to swim, boat

Black Hills lakes are scenic spots to swim, boat


Besides a variety of water activities, the lakes of the Black Hills offer an original environment.

“The scenery with all the ponderosa pine forest and the beautiful cliffs and the mountains around the lakes offer a whole different view and atmosphere than you would get at other lakes,” said Amy Ballard, recreational forester for the Black Hills National Forest. “You can pull a boat up to the shore, and you can go on the beaches because it’s absolutely public land. There’s no stores, no billboards, no private docks and no houses that have private land. It’s great.” 

Whether families are looking to enjoy a busy lake with speed boats or a quieter lake that’s perfect for picnics and canoeing, the Black Hills has it.

“Deerfield Lake is a more quiet recreation experience because it’s a no-wake lake,” Ballard said. “It’s the perfect place to kayak or canoe.”

Motor boats and pontoons can launch at Deerfield Lake, but it is a no-swim beach, according to Ballard.

“The water is very cold and you wouldn’t want to swim there, but it has two nice picnic areas and camping,” she said. “It is a nice quiet place to go and visit.”

If visitors are looking to catch some fish, they may have better luck at a smaller lake such as Deerfield or Roubaix Lake, near Silver City.

“Certainly when it comes to Black Hills fisheries, we stock (Deerfield and Roubaix) often and with a lot of fish,” said Gene Galinat, regional fisheries manager for South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks. “We stock with high numbers and nice-size fish. It keeps catch rates high and the size of the fish high.”

Galinat said larger fishing areas such as Angostura and Belle Fourche reservoirs repopulate more naturally than the stocked lakes. Deerfield Lake is heavily populated with rainbow trout and some perch that should offer “outstanding fishing,” he said.

Roubaix Lake is stocked with 11-inch fish and some 15-inch fish.

Custer State Park is home to four lakes, all of which can be enjoyed for different reasons.

For fans of jet-skiing, water-skiing and wake-boarding, Stockade Lake may be the place to visit.

“Stockade is the largest lake in the park, and can be used by all types of watercraft; there is no limit on motor size,” said Craig Pugsley, park visitor services coordinator. “There is a swimming beach and boat ramp and a nice diversity of fishing.”

Legion Lake and Sylvan Lake offer canoe, row boat and paddleboat rentals, as well as swimming beaches and trout fishing. Legion and Sylvan lakes allow electric motors, but not power motorboats. 

Center Lake is a no-wake lake and a common place for canoes and paddleboats to roam without being disturbed by large motorboats, Pugsley said.

For larger lakes, Pactola Reservoir and Sheridan Lake, both about 15 miles west of Rapid City, offer fishing, boating, camping, swimming and water-skiing. Sheridan is close to trailheads for the Flume Trail and the Centennial Trail.

Pactola, the largest and deepest reservoir in the Black Hills, has a visitor center and offers fly fishing below the dam’s spillway.

The temperature of the water at some locations, including Angostura Reservoir, has reached the perfect swimming temperature of nearly 80 degrees. Angostura has 47 miles of shoreline, with both developed and undeveloped beaches that have natural sand.

“Angostura has great waters to spend time whether it’s swimming or fishing,” said Willy Collingnon, district supervisor for Angostura recreation area. “It’s a great place to spend a hot day.”

Contact Ruth Brown at 394-8329 or

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