Canoeing and kayaking in the Black Hills lakes is an amazing way to experience the area at its finest. Canoeing is allowed on most lakes and rivers in South Dakota.
Don't be mistaken, it's not just the Black Hills lakes that provide plenty of water fun. Trekking down the Belle Fourche, Cheyenne, or Little White Rivers provide a shallow environment with slow currents and no rapids. The 290-mile-long Belle Fourche River is popular for canoeing. With its diverse scenery and numerous access points, you'll find yourself entranced with the beauty of the journey.
Southwest of Belle Fourche, you'll White River and Little White River. These rivers flow through the Badlands, grasslands, and crop lands. The Little White River provides scenery that is densely forested with steep cliffs that feel like you've been transported to another world.
We want our guests to be aware that most property along the rivers is privately owned, so please be sure to check ahead and get permission before entering. Watch out for barbed wire fences strung across rivers to confine livestock on privately owned land. Gates on either end of the fences allow access.
For those seeking a little more adventure and are looking for some white water rapids, the Black Hills has that too. Throughout the Black Hills there are a handful of spots that are perfect for white water kayaking. In fact, there are a few spots that rank as Class V (violent rapids), according to the American Whitewater Web site. The site lists the Black Hills as having a total of nine whitewater paddling spots in the Black Hills. While most of these spots are considered Class 1 (fast-moving water with riffles and small waves) there are a few Class IV (intense, powerful but predictable rapids) runs.
Out of the nine runs listed on their website, four are along Rapid Creek, which makes it the place in the Black Hills and Badlands for kayaking. There is an area between Hisega that runs through Dark Canyon and is rated a Class 3 because it includes a 10-foot drop called "Hummer."
The best times to canoe are in the spring or early summer, when water flow is at its best. Some rivers, especially during drought years, can become shallow and impassable. Always be sure to check the river status before heading out.
There are plenty of lakes to spend some time in your canoe. These lakes include
- Any of the lakes in Custer State Park
- Angostura Recreation Area near Hot Springs
- Bear Butte Lake near Sturgis
- Cook Lake near Sundance, Wyoming
- Horsethief Lake near Hill City.