Fort Pierre is a quaint and historic town located in the middle of South Dakota. It is just across the river from the capitol, Pierre. When visiting, expect low prices compared to other destinations as well as kind locals, beautiful nature, and rich history. A few great places to visit while exploring Fort Pierre are the Oahe Dam, Casey Tibbs Museum, Missouri River, and lots of fun places in between.
Check out the Visit Fort Pierre website here: https://www.visitfortpierre.com
Where to Stay & Eat
To truly enjoy your trip make sure to get the best hotel here! The AmericInn by Wyndham Fort Pierre is the perfect choice. This gorgeous hotel is located right on the river where you’ll see views in either direction on a paved walking path behind the hotel. There are also benches to hang out next to the Missouri River, and it is located close to the best restaurant in the area! The rooms are spacious but homie. Continental breakfast is provided. There is coffee and hot water for free tea all day, and sometimes there are even fresh batches of home baked cookies sitting out for the travelers.
Drifters is just upriver from the cozy AmericInn. The locally owned restaurant is delightful for lunch or dinner. They have delicious and refreshing appetizers as well as a menu with variety. The restaurant is also located right next to the river and has patio seating where you can overlook the Missouri River. A couple fun features include a hanging canoe above the bar, and a swinging bench at the outdoor bar.
Another place you have to stop to get a treat is Cool Spot. They have delicious ice cream! All sorts of flavors, toppings and also yogurt options. The Cool Spot also has fast food that is great to take to go when embarking on your next adventure.
Where to Adventure
A must-do adventure in Fort Pierre is to rent kayaks from Fun Time Rentals and do the Dam Run! They will drop you off and unload the kayaks for you at the put in just under the Oahe Dam. From here, the paddle is amazing. Not only will you float downstream so it isn’t strenuous by any means, but the views are stunning! There are gorgeous bluffs on the River that you can paddle beside. Some are lush and green with vegetation, others deep gray sandy cliffs. Watch for cattle as sometimes they come down the bluffs to drink from the river. It is really neat to coexist with the cows while floating by.
The paddle takes about 3-4 hours to complete. You paddle along the bluffs and under the bridge. It is the perfect way to spend a sunny day outside in Fort Pierre. Fun Time Rentals will then meet you at the designated pick-up site and take the kayaks out for you. The trip is very low effort and such a lovely time.
Where to Learn History
Fort Pierre is full of amazing history, and a lot of it is about cowboys and rodeo queens. If this sounds right up your alley you must visit the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center. They have tons of informational and even interactive exhibits! Casey Tibbs is one of the most impressive and talented men who shaped the world of Rodeo and entertainment. The Museum also features other incredibly talented historic figures from the area. A highlight for the kids (or adults) is riding the bull simulation where it feels as though you’re in the rodeo yourself, just trying to make it to 8 seconds on the bull, just like Casey Tibbs back in the day!
Touring the Oahe Dam is almost a necessity if you visit Fort Pierre. The Dam is integral for the city to function. The Lake Oahe Visitor Center provides loads of information on the Oahe Dam, and it is also the meeting point for a free tour of the dam. A fun fact about the Oahe Dam is that it is one of the largest earth-rolled dams in the world. Touring the dam is very interesting and in one of the rooms you can feel the water rushing underneath your feet! There are no photos allowed here, so you’ll have to go tour yourself to see!
Next to the Lake Oahe Visitor Center is a piece of history. The Oahe Mission School and Chapel is a beautiful little building that you can tour! Inside the small schoolhouse and church you can see the still preserved chalk on the board from the last teacher. It is a very cute building, and perfect for photos.
Bonus Adventures in Fort Pierre
The perfect place for a photoshoot to document your travels to Fort Pierre is to head downtown Fort Pierre! There is a large mural that was beautifully painted on a historic brick building. Also nearby is Fischers Lily Park where you can hangout and have a lovely picnic outdoors. On Thursdays in the summer there is a fun event called First Thursdays where local vendors set up their arts, crafts, baked goods, and even fun kid activities!
Another wonderful area to explore is the shoreline of the Missouri River. Some great places to check out are the Oahe Downriver Recreation Area, West Shore Recreation Area, Lake Oahe, and a fun spooky one; Cedar Hill Cemetery. Usually a cemetery isn’t on a travel bucket list, but something about this is equal parts beautiful and terrifying. It sits up on the bluffs overlooking Fort Pierre and gives off the spookiest vibes when you enter. Always respect the graves and only take a look. The drive up is scenic and fun in itself!
Fort Pierre is an undiscovered area with so much potential to have fun. It’s the perfect place to visit for those who love a historic small town surrounded by nature to explore. Enjoy learning incredible history at the Casey Tibbs Museum and the Oahe Dam, kayaking on the Missouri River, eating good food and exploring the area.
Visiting Badlands National Park from Fort Pierre
The Badlands are conveniently close to Fort Pierre, and truly Fort Pierre is the perfect place to stay to be in close proximity to the national park without having to camp. From the AmericInn in Fort Pierre it is about an hour and a half drive to the Badlands. Grab ice cream to go from Cool Spot in Fort Pierre and make the quick drive over to explore the gorgeous national park.