Frequent flooding along South Dakota’s Missouri River was an issue until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the Oahe Dam, north of Fort Pierre, in 1962.
With the construction of Oahe, one of the largest constructed reservoirs in the United States, measuring 231 miles, connecting the capital cities of South and North Dakota, came the establishment of Oahe Downstream — one of South Dakota’s 63 state parks and recreation areas.
Oahe is known as a place for visitors to often view bald eagles that use the recreation area for winter habitat. Eagles enjoy the thermal protection and seclusion of the area, which is also near a productive food source — the Missouri River.
Wintering bald eagles roost in treetops below the dam or perch within 50 feet of the riverbank in tall cottonwood trees.
In February each year, the eagle pairs return to their nesting grounds in locations elsewhere in South Dakota or other states. Throughout the year the Oahe Downstream area offers sanctuary for a few juvenile bald eagles that are too immature to nest.
Other attractions in this area include an interactive butterfly garden, bike trails, bird watching, fishing and boating. Visitors will find 205 campsites, five modern lodging facilities, eight camping cabins, reservable picnic shelters, playgrounds, an 18-basket championship disc golf course, an off-highway vehicle area, a firearms range that is part of the Oahe Downstream Shooting Complex and more.
“Locals appreciate having this resource so close to home,” Erik E. Richter, District Park Supervisor, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, said. “Visitors to Oahe Downstream appreciate the opportunity to enjoy diverse activities and the nearby camping and lodging options.”
Among the Oahe Downstream amenities is an archery range that meets National Field Archery Association standards for a field archery 0.5-field range. The range features two practice archery ranges and a 14-target archery trail located west of the park, just off South Dakota Highway 1806. The 14-target field course offers various creek bottom, wooded terrain with shooting distances of 10-80 yards.
The practice range includes four targets varying from 20-50 yards. On this range, field tip and target-pointed arrows are acceptable. No broadheads are allowed on the field course and practice range.
The area also offers a broadhead practice range with shooting yardages of 5-60 yards. Broadhead tipped arrows are permitted on the broadhead sand pit range for archers to sight in their hunting arrows.
The archery range is comprised of a one-mile loop trail, surfaced with wood chips. The trail is signed so trail users are able to follow signs as indicated, proceeding along the trail in a counterclockwise manner. Range signage indicates specific shooting hours of operation and range etiquette.
No vehicles of any type are permitted on the range unless authorized by a Game, Fish and Parks agent. All archers are expected to practice proper safety at all times and respect the outdoor range, placing any trash or refuse in proper containers. The archery range is also used by others for exercise and birdwatching, so please adhere to posted signage.
“South Dakota’s hunting traditions are strong,” Richter said. “In addition, archery is a healthy activity that improves patience and focus. Archery is a lifetime hobby that can be enjoyed by all generations. Beyond striving to improve for hunting or competition, just shooting a few arrows is fun and a great family activity.”
Archery’s roots date back to the late 16th century when it was first a hobby, primarily in Britain. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has rated archery as “one of the safest sports in the country” for youth “featuring less injuries than soccer, golf, and baseball.”
Visitors to the archery range may or may not realize that the United States is the leading nation in archery. According to the World Archery Federation, the U.S. has held this distinction since 2008.
Oahe’s Downstream Area archery range has local support as well as the local Pierre How-Kota Archers, an organization that holds a 4-H Spring 3-D shoot at the area. Members of How-Kota also use the range to practice for upcoming tournaments and to maintain mental focus and keep their equipment in condition.
How-Kota has a presence on Facebook and utilizes the local Isaak Walton League in addition to the Oahe Downstream facility to introduce and promote archer.
“Oahe Downstream offers excellent fishing on the Missouri River,” Richter said. “Individuals staying at Lake Oahe are able to fish on Lake Sharpe or Lake Oahe within a minute’s drive to each fishery. Walleye reign supreme on the river, with anglers able to find stringers full of fish and have the opportunity for a fish-of-a-lifetime every time they wet a line.”
Besides walleye, anglers find smallmouth bass, channel catfish, white bass, and even salmon that can be targeted on Lake Oahe. Whether fishing from shore or from a boat, there are opportunities for everyone looking to hit the water.
The Oahe Downstream Recreation Area offers ADA-accessible features and is open to the public year-round. For a full description of activities, go to gfp.sd.gov/parks/detail/oahe-downstream-recreation-area/.
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