Deerfield Lake: Beautiful mountain views and even more beautiful silence

On any given summer afternoon, it’s tough to beat the call of a lake. In the northern Black Hills, Pactola Reservoir and Sheridan Lake have a lot to offer boaters and jet skiers looking to tear around in the sun. But if you’re looking a lake with a bit of a lazier pace, consider Deerfield.

My husband and I first kayaked on Deerfield Lake a couple of years ago, right after I’d just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” The novel follows a father and his young song as they pick their way through a barren, post-apocalyptic landscape, fighting hunger, cold and a handful of other human beings who travel in roving cannibal packs.

Deerfield Lake

Deerfield Lake on a lazy summer Sunday afternoon.

The book’s sense of utter desolation can stick with a reader for quite awhile.

So, it was with that mindset that I put my kayak on the water at Deerfield late one summer Sunday afternoon … only to realize there was absolutely no one else on the lake. For a moment or two, I felt a little panicked, like maybe the book’s cannibals were somehow lurking long the shoreline. After the reality set back in, I was able to shake off the bleakness I felt and marvel at the silence and beauty of the lake.

Deerfield, in the northern portion of the Black Hills, is a no-wake lake, so even at its busiest, it is still pretty darn quiet. My husband and I have now kayaked on the lake about a half dozen times, and the first thing we always notice is the silence. Fishing boats putter around as those captaining the small vessels fish for rainbow trout, brown trout and rock bass. There are usually a handful of kayakers or canoers paddling the lake as well. With 400 surface acres and 16 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty of paddling to do on a summer day.

And then there are the views. The Black Hills mostly surround the lake. A few coves also give way to some rolling hills covered by prairie grass, complete with grazing cattle. A rock-covered earthen dam keeps the water in place, and it’s impressive to see a wall of rock rising out of the water.

In addition to the lack of noise, there also tends to be a lack of swimmers. Deerfield has no beaches, and that’s mostly due to the temperature of the water. It’s cold. Really, really cold. Even on the hottest day of the summer, the area around the lake tends to be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than anywhere else in the Hills. And as you might expect, it’s usually the first place frost appears in the fall.

Pactola Reservoir and Sheridan Lake are probably the northern Black Hills most popular lakes, but if you’re looking for the epitome of peace and quiet, you can’t beat Deerfield.

If you go

Deerfield Lake is about 20 miles northwest of Hill City. From Hill City’s Main Street, turn onto Deerfield Lake Road, and follow the signs. Public use areas of the lake include camping, picnic areas, no-wake boating, hiking and fishing.

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South Dakota is an incredibly unique state in that each region offers a completely different experience then the others. Check out each of the regions to see what each has to offer!


Western South Dakota

Featuring the Black Hills, Badlands, the Sturgis Rally. This region tends to be the most popular.


This region of South Dakota offers some of the best hunting and fishing in the entire central US. 

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The eastern region is home to the largest city in the state and provides visitors with a true "prairie" experience.