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South Dakota Parks and Recreation

South Dakota is filled with many parks and outdoor adventures. From the 1,500-acre Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve southeastern South Dakota to Custer State Park in western South Dakota, as you make your way through the state, you will find there is plenty of outdoor recreation available.

Head to Bear Butte State Park in Sturgis and you can enjoy horseback riding and fishing with pristine views of the South Dakota Black Hills. Visit the Black Hills Caverns and you will a natural wonder land of cave formations. Driving through southwestern South Dakota, you can catch a glimpse of the Needles of the Black Hills. This was the original site for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

While in southeast South Dakota, make a stop at the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area. This 25-mile stretch of land acts as one of four reservoirs on the Missouri River. Visitors will find tons of adventure, like boating, fishing, jet skiing, horseback riding, and hiking. Head just a little north, just west of Watertown, and visit Pelican Lake Recreation Area. This getaway is ideal when fishing for walleye, bullhead, and northern pike.

Adams Homestead & Nature Preserve

Spanning nearly 1,500 acres, the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve is set just southeast of Vermillion. The preserve seeks to educate visitors of southeastern South Dakota's natural history and unique landscapes. As you explore the homestead, you'll find guided tours – available when you reserve ahead of time – and a wealth of native plant life and wildlife to view. Bird watchers, in particular, enjoy trips to the preserve because of the many trees. Other amenities include picnic shelters, a visitor center, and many restored buildings and interpretive exhibits.

Bear Butte State Park

Located in Sturgis, Bear Butte State Park is easily accessed from Interstate 90, and yields a wide range of vacation activity throughout the year. As a popular destination in the western region of South Dakota, Bear Butte State Park sees thousands of visitors throughout the year. Great for horse back riding and fishing, you'll enjoy the pristine views of the South Dakota Black Hills. Bear Butte State Park is named after Bear Mountain, a natural formation held sacred by the local Lakota Native Americans.

Black Hills Caverns

Discovered by gold seekers in 1882, the Black Hills Caverns is home to a natural wonderland of exquisite cave formations, just outside of Rapid City in the Black Hills region. Visit the caverns to see the stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, boxwork, draperies, popcorn crystal, and other geology formations. The cavern walls are formed from coeymans and manlius limestone and contain the largest variety of formations of any cave in America. Join in a half-hour or one hour daily tour to see up to three levels of the caverns and learn more about the "Black Hills Greatest Cave Adventure."

Custer State Park

Totaling more than 71,000 acres, Custer State Park is the largest state park in South Dakota. Set in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, Custer State Park is a popular destination for travelers, yielding tremendous of fun any time of year. Spring and summer are great for hiking and mountain biking, while the fall and winter open up great skiing and cross-country skiing opportunities. Visit from nearby Custer, or Keystone – home to the Mt. Rushmore National Monument.

Lewis & Clark Recreation Area

A popular summer destination, Lewis and Clark Recreation Area is a staple of southeastern South Dakota recreation. Created by the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area is a 25-mile stretch of land that acts as one of four reservoirs on the Missouri River. Summer travelers will find an array of aquatic adventures – boating, fishing, and jet skiing are all popular activities. Other activities like horse back riding and hiking trails are available throughout the year. Many visitors travel south from Sioux Falls and Canistota.

Needles of the Black Hills

Set on the Needles Highway, the Needles of the Black Hills is a scenic staple and natural wonder of southwestern South Dakota. Found along what is also known at the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, the Needles are located just east of Custer. The original site for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, these granite needles attract rock climbers – and other varieties of outdoor enthusiasts.

Running through Custer State Park in the Black Hills National Forest, the 14-mile Needles Highway is also referred to as South Dakota Highway 87 The drive yields views of the Needle’s Eye, and wildlife like mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, and even bison.

Oahe Downstream Recreation Area

Set just north of downtown Pierre, the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area is a wonderful travel destination in central South Dakota. Perfect during summer, there's a world of fun awaiting – from the fishing and boating, to the hiking and biking trails. Make the short drive north from Pierre and explore. You won't want to miss the winter season, when the Bald Eagle is in full flight and easily viewed from Oahe Downstream Recreation Area. Keep an eye open on the cottonwood trees where the Bald Eagles tend to nest.

Pelican Lake Recreation Area

Set just west of Watertown, Pelican Lake Recreation Area is a charming and pristine destination sure to impress on your visit through South Dakota. Perfect for a summer vacation or a winter get away, make the drive in from Watertown and explore this gem of eastern South Dakota. During the summer, plan for an aquatic adventure on Pelican Lake, where you'll fish for walleye, bullhead, and northern pike. Then, tool around on your boat while you pull the kids behind you for some water skiing excitement. In the winter, check out the cross-country skiing, little ice fishing, or try your hand at some snowshoeing.

Spearfish Canyon

Home to Spearfish Creek, Spearfish Canyon is located near the town of Spearfish in western South Dakota. Set in the Black Hills National Forest, Spearfish Canyon was developed approximately 30 to 60 million years ago. Spearfish Canyon features outdoor recreation like fishing, bird watching, nature viewing, and photo ops of Bridal Veil Falls. The spot is found along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway.