Lake Poinsett Recreation Area

Quick Facts

Lake Poinsett Recreation Area

South Dakota

(605) 627-5441

Map Directions

Things To Do


One of the largest lakes in the state, Lake Poinsett provides opportunities for camping, hiking, water recreation, and learning about the history of the area. The lake was named after Joel Poinsett, who once served as U.S. Secretary of War. He was instrumental in promoting the expedition of Joseph Nicollet and John Fremont, who first explored the region in 1838. The party camped on the north side of Lake Poinsett. Today, the lakeshore still provides excellent camping opportunities, as well as many other recreational activities. The Lake Poinsett Visitor Center and Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the area, with artifacts and exhibits exploring the area from prehistoric times through the present. The Poinsett Potpourri Trail leads visitors through a wooded area, a grassy and wetland area, and finally along the lakeshore. It also passes a food plot, which is planted with corn and sorghum and is beneficial to the wildlife during South Dakota winters.

Map of Lake Poinsett Rec. Area (SD)

Latitude, Longitude: 44.437212, -96.970482



  • Boating

    A boat ramp provides access to the lake.

  • Bicycling

    Bicyclers are welcome on the one mile Poinsett Potpourri Trail, which passes through woodland, wetland, and lakeshore environments.

  • Camping

    The two campgrounds have a total of 114 campsites, some of which have waterfront views. There are also two cabins. Each can accommodate four people and Cabin 2 has a waterfront view.

  • Fishing

    With a license, fishers can catch walleye, perch, northern pike, bass, and bullheads.

  • Hiking

    The one mile Poinsett Potpourri Trail is a moderate, somewhat hilly hike. It has three sections: the wooded area, the grass and wetland area, and the lakeshore and rearing pond area. The wooded trail leads visitors through a variety of trees such as oak, cottonwood, willow, Scotch pine, ponderosa pine, eastern red cedar, honey locust, boxelder, hackberry, Russian olive, bur oak, American elm, and blue spruce. Lilac, chokecherry, apricot and plum may also be found. These trees provide shelter from harsh winter winds and shade in the summer. The grass and wetland section of the trail encircles an area with a food plot. Many food plots in the country are planted with corn and sorghum and are beneficial to the wildlife during South Dakota winters. Proper placement of plots near woody cover and wetlands enhances use by pheasants and other wildlife species. The wetland north of the food plot provides areas for breeding, feeding, and shelter for waterfowl and other wildlife. Wetlands help control flooding and erosion and also absorb large amounts of sediments and nutrients from surface water. Wetlands are not only valuable resources for wildlife but are also of interest to hikers, birdwatchers, photographers, and hunters. The grass area is burned every several years to slow the growth of cool seasonal grasses, such as brome, and to promote growth of warm season grasses. Burning also removes build up of dead vegetation and releases nutrients back into the soil. Invader plants will be reduced and beneficial native grass growth species will grow to provide suitable nesting cover for wildlife. The final section of the trail follows a human-made pond that is used periodically for a rearing pond for perch. The perch are allowed to spawn and grow over the summer months and then are released to the main lake. The pond has also been used for kids' fishing tournaments. Ducks and Canada geese frequent this area for nesting.

  • Historic Sites

    Joseph Nicollet and John Fremont first explored this region in 1838 during an expedition to explore the Upper Mississippi River Basin. They camped on the north side of Lake Poinsett.

    The Lake Poinsett Visitor Center and Museum is a fascinating place to learn about the history of the area. During the summer, neighbor Harlan Olson's artifacts are on display. The exhibits explore the area from prehistoric days to the late 1990s.

  • Picnicking

    There are picnic tables and a picnic shelter.

  • RVing

    RVs are welcome in the campgrounds.

  • Water Sports

    There is a swimming beach without a lifeguard, and there is also a skiing beach for water skiers.


The park is open year-round. There are harsh winds in the winter and summers can be very hot. Most of the park's facilities are geared towards summer use.



Located 14 miles NE of Arlington off US Hwy. 81.

Phone Numbers


(605) 627-5441


(800) 710-2267