Missouri National Recreational River

Mount Rushmore Facts

  • Location: Near Yankton, SD.
  • Established: National recognition was established on No 10, 1978.
  • Fees: There are no entrance fees to visit this National Park nor is a fee to visit the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center adjacent to Gavins Point Dam.

The only portion of the Missouri River left unaltered by channels or dams can be found on the border between South Dakota and Nebraska at the Missouri National Recreational River. The Missouri National Recreational River contains 100 miles of free-flowing waters. This unaltered expanse features islands, sandbars, chutes, and snags, and in the sandy silt below lay the remains of at least ten steamboats.

History of the Missouri River

The Missouri River, the second longest river in the U.S., originates in Montana and flows to the Mississippi River, just north of St. Louis. For more than 10,000 years, humans have been drawn to the majestic waterway. The Missouri served as a watercourse for American Indians, explorers Lewis and Clark, trappers, traders, and settlers, and played an integral role in the settling of the Far West.

Steamboats traveled the Missouri River until the late 1800’s. During this time, the Missouri was notorious for swift channels, chutes, sandbars, and backwater areas. From 1819-1897, more than 200 steamboats met their demise, sinking to the river’s silty bottom.

In the 1900’s, extensive flooding of the Missouri led to the construction of numerous dams. The power of the Missouri was channeled for use in hydroelectric power and irrigation, and most of the mighty Missouri was tamed.

Things To Do

Visitors to the Missouri National Recreational River can experience power boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Experienced paddlers able to navigate snags, riffles, and currents up to seven miles an hour can also retrace the route of Lewis and Clark’s travels of the Missouri River. Swimming and sailing can be enjoyed in the calmer waters of nearby Lewis and Clark Lake.

Anglers of the Missouri National Recreational River are delighted by the plentiful species of fish, including walleye, sauger, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, and white bass. During the fall months, hunters also prowl the area in search of Whitetail deer, turkey, duck and geese.

The Missouri River ecosystem is a vital pathway for many species of migratory birds, and is home to many avian species. American Bald Eagles can often be spotted soaring overhead, along with Piping Plovers and Least Terns.

Although camping is not permitted in the Missouri National Recreational River, visitors can find lodging and camping facilities in the surrounding communities.

Nearby Campgrounds/State Parks

Visitors to the Yankton area are certain to enjoy many local attractions. If you are looking for a place to stay, check out many of the nearby State Parks.

Most offer camping options and since you are along the river, can enjoy everything that the Missouri River has to offer.

Great Faces. Great Places.

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. 

Eastern Region

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