Best Places To Kayak In South Dakota

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South Dakota, the midwestern state with a rich history, is home to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore – one of the most famous historical monuments and some of the most beautiful topography. Could there be a better place to consider when planning for your next kayaking adventure?

South Dakota is a wonderful location for kayaking, especially since outdoor recreation is one of the significant contributions to the state’s economic activity. South Dakota has a wide range of beautiful spots for kayaking, including Pactola Lake, Big Sioux River, and Split Rock Creek to name a few.

Regardless of whether you are a seasoned kayaker or looking to try it out for the first time, South Dakota is undoubtedly a superb location for you and some friends or family. With several hundred lakes and rivers on offer, South Dakota has something for every kayaker and adventure seeker. Find out why this state is the best kayaking location for you.

Kayaking In South Dakota

Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills are undoubtedly the most well-known features of South Dakota. However, there are some fantastic kayaking waters to be found, including one of the most renowned rivers in the country, Might Mo, commonly known as the Missouri River.

South Dakota is interestingly one of the least populated states in the entire country. At first, that may not sound all that great; however, this is an advantage for exploring the outdoors and scenic waters since you are far less likely to encounter too much “traffic” during your escape from city life.

Whether you are looking for multi-day kayaking tours with the family or just a one-day outing, South Dakota has got you covered with multiple huge rivers and exquisite lakes on offer. There are also several options for kayak rentals across the state, which is always great news for adventure seekers who do not own their own kayaking equipment. 

Here we will get you started with planning your next kayaking adventure by showing you some of the best spots for kayaking in South Dakota.

The Best Kayaking Spots In South Dakota

Here we have a list of some of the best kayaking spots in South Dakota:

Pactola Lake

Starting with the deepest and largest lake that the state has to offer, Pactola Lake is an immaculate kayaking spot found in the Black Hills National Forrest. Pactola Lake offers miles of scenic waters and landscapes to kayak along, with the bonus of the possibility of wildlife sightings. 

The lake is known for its flat, calm water, and with a rapid classification of only Class I, this is an excellent spot for those who are a bit new to kayaking. It is, of course, always worth noting that kayak rentals are available here too.

Big Sioux River

A multi-day excursion along the Big Sioux River is possible. The Big Sioux River, which originates in eastern South Dakota and flows southeast toward Sioux Falls, is a staggering 419 miles long. That is certainly more than enough water to keep you thoroughly entertained for quite some time!

The Big Sioux River has a rapids classification of between Class I and Class II, depending on which section of the river you find yourself. The river is, however, more than suitable for both beginners and those with a little more experience. 

If you happen to be looking for more of a challenge for your kayaking experience, the part of the Big Sioux River from Sioux Falls up to Newton Hills State Park is a popular area for kayakers with a little more experience. Big Sioux River is absolutely stunning, and it offers something for kayakers of all skill levels, including kayak rentals at Sioux Falls. 

Split Rock Creek

Split Rock Creek is another fantastic site for kayaking in South Dakota that offers exquisite panoramas, scenic landscapes, and even a tour boat that is regularly available for those who would prefer that as an option.

The kayaking route begins in northeastern Minnehaha County and ends east of Sioux Falls at the previously mentioned Big Sioux River. Split Rock Creek has rapid classifications of anywhere between Class I to Class III, with an average flow rate of 4660-cubit feet per second. It is a suitable spot for beginners and those with more kayaking experience.

Split Rock Creek’s water flow is increased during the spring and summer months due to heavy rain, which undoubtedly makes this spot in South Dakota a must-see for more experienced white-water kayakers.

Sylvan Lake

What better spot to go kayaking than at a famous Hollywood filming location? Back in 2007, Sylvan Lake was one of the chosen filming locations for the famous National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets movie. Kayaking at this spot will surely give you some bragging rights to impress everyone at your next family get-together. 

Sylvan Lake can be found in the massive 71 000-acre Custer State Park and is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite locations with the added bonus of being surrounded by the famous Black Hills. The tranquil Class I-rated waters surrounded by stunning rock formations make Sylvan Lake an incredible spot to enjoy a day of kayaking.

Roy Lake Resort

Roy Lake Resort offers kayakers a stretch of water that is roughly 7 miles long and has a beginner-friendly rapids classification rating of only Class I, making the waters easily navigable. The immaculate 2,000-acre body of water in Marshall County has an average depth of 10 feet and approximately 4 miles of shoreline.

The Roy Lake Resort is another beautiful spot for kayakers. The resort has excellent facilities and offers several activities for families, including camping, picnic facilities, beautiful beaches, and even fishing. 

Angostura Reservoir

To the south of the famous Black Hills, Angostura Reservoir offers the clearest tranquil waters, with a rapid’s classification of only Class I. The Angostura Reservoir is undoubtedly the perfect spot for kayakers of any skill level. 

With beautiful beaches and stunning surroundings on offer, as well as several creeks and coves to discover, it simply wouldn’t be fair not to include the Angostura Reservoir on the list of the best kayaking spots in South Dakota for you to choose from. 


With rivers, lakes, canyons, and overall exquisite scenery, it is no question that South Dakota has some of the most exciting scenery to explore in the country, making it a top priority to explore for anyone with a passion for adventure. Grab your paddle and your kayak, and get ready for an adventure in the beautiful state of South Dakota!