North Dakota is a land of wide-open spaces. If that’s something that appeals to you, well look no further than Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota

Spend any time exploring this part of the country, and you’ll soon find that you won’t be able to get enough.

There’s plenty of outdoor sporting activities to do and see in this area, so for any excited outdoors person who wants to add a bit of a hidden gem to the bucket list, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this post, we’ll give you everything you need to know about Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota. 

Let’s dig in!

A Little History

Although Lake Sakakawea sits on the Missouri River, it’s actually a man-made creation. The reservoir where the lake sits was the result of an ambitious project by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1956. They created the Garrison Dam, which helped serve two purposes, to help prevent flooding, and to provide a source of hydroelectric power to the region. 

By area, Lake Sakakawea is the second-largest reservoir in the country. It’s also the second-largest dam on the Missouri River. It actually has more shoreline than the entire state of California!

Things to Do 

Unsurprisingly, this area is very popular for recreation for both visitors and locals alike. The land was originally the ancestral tribal home of what’s known today as the Three Affiliated Tribes. So this region, now the Fort Berthold Reservation, was known as an area for fishing, hunting, and trading. 

Today, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in and around Lake Sakakawea. Fishing and boating are some of the biggest draws here. For many, the fishing in this area is especially good, partially because the lake is so deep. It’s also home to plenty of ice fishing all winter, so don’t let a little bit of snow get in the way of your plans.

You can also find part of the North Country National Scenic Trail near the lake as well. This trail runs through eight states, stretching from Vermont to North Dakota. 

Birding is another option to explore. Both the Lake Sakakawea State Park and the nearby Audubon National Wildlife Refuge Complex a few miles down the shore offer plenty of opportunities to view some natural birds and learn more about the travels of birds in this area. 

If you’ve had enough on the lake for the day, make a stop at nearby Garrison Dam. Here, you’ll be able to tour the National Fish Hatchery. The Garrison Dam is also available for tours during specific days of the week too, so check the schedule before you go.

Getting There

Lake Sakakawea is found in the Fort Berthold Reservation. It’s just over a three-hour drive from Bismark, North Dakota and about two and a half hours from Minot. If you’re making the dam your first stop, head north from Bismark along highway 83. 

Ready to plan your visit now? Take a look at our sister site,, before you go.