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gs logo Chris' Camp & RV Park
Spearfish, South Dakota
gs logo Oasis Campground
Chamberlain, South Dakota
gs logo Beaver Lake Campground
Custer, South Dakota


A pair of riverside gems beckons recreation seekers

In 1804, Lewis and Clark made the journey along the Missouri River through this region during their exploration of North America. Little did they know that more than 200 years later, this charming slice of the Great Plains would become a recreation destination for travelers along I-90. The area is now dominated by two small towns: Chamberlain and Oacoma.

Awesome Oacoma

Located on the west bank of the Missouri River, Oacoma’s growth was sparked by the arrival of railroads in the early 1900s. The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad began service to Oacoma beginning in 1905, bringing with them a flood of explorers, fur traders and steamboat workers. In fact, rail travel to Oacoma became so frequent that the town became what was then known as a banking post for trade.

Oacoma shares two important natural resources with its neighbor on the opposite bank of the river, Chamberlain: Both towns boast beautiful surroundings and wildlife. Like Oacoma, Chamberlain offers plenty of opportunities to see — and during the in-season, hunt — deer, turkeys and pheasants. There are also spectacular views of the river and surrounding hills, and patient photographers might just get a shot of an eagle or a hawk.

Chamberlain was named after a Milwaukee Railroad official (Selah Chamberlain) and officially became a city in 1882. Because of its location, Chamberlain has often been called “The Gateway to the Old West.” The area is indeed a gateway to a host of outdoor adventures. Chamberlain also is home to the South Dakota Hall of Fame, which enshrines famous Mount Rushmore State natives like broadcaster Tom Brokaw and USA Today founder Al Neuharth. Another attraction is the Avenue of Flags, with the banners of every U.S. state.

Chamberlain CVB

Native American Monuments

Chamberlain is well-known for its preservation of Native American history. Overlooking the landscape is a 45-foot-tall stainless-steel sculpture of a Native American woman receiving a star quilt as she stands on a bluff overlooking the river. Officially called Dignity, the statue has earned the nickname, Colossus of Chamberlain. The quilt is built with more than 100 blue diamond shapes that move with the wind.

The Native American Scenic Byway not only passes through breathtaking areas, but also takes in several memorial markers, monuments and sacred sites commemorating the heritage of the Sioux Nation. Lakota history is celebrated through exhibits and other preservation efforts housed at the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center in Chamberlain. There are several Native American Pow Wows held each year throughout the Chamberlain area, and visitors are welcome.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center on I-90, (at the Chamberlain rest area between exits 263 and 265) includes a replica of the 55-foot keelboat piloted by the explorers as they navigated the waterways across the continent. Visitors also will find interpretive panels that provide convenient history lessons. Travelers can stretch their legs by following one of the trails overlooking the Missouri River where Lewis and Clark traveled.

Chamberlain has something else to pique visitor interest, something so interesting that paleontologists now flock to the area each year during the summer for an annual dig. Town officials record the discovery of the fossil remains of a 78-million-year-old sea lizard known as a “mosasaur” that was unearthed just east of downtown Chamberlain in 1992. This 16-foot long prehistoric find gave credence to the theory that this area of South Dakota was once a virtual “Jurassic Park.”

Wind, Water and Walleye!

There’s a reason you can buy bait on almost every corner in Chamberlain along with fishing gear, easy access to boat ramps and even fish-cleaning stations for your catch. That reason can be summed up in one word: walleye.

Chamberlain’s prime spot for walleye on is the Lake Francis Case, a reservoir with one of the best walleye spawning habitats in the entire Missouri River system. Take advantage of South Dakota’s free weekend of fishing in May, allowing anyone to fish without a license.

Looking for a pick-me-up? Whet your whistle at Al’s Oasis in Oacoma. This local institution has been luring road-weary travelers for decades with a five-cent cup of joe — one that’s now served alongside at least 50,000 slices of pie a year. Once you’ve had your fill, get your picture taken with the Big Buffalo statue out front.

For More Information

Chamberlain Convention and Visitors Bureau



South Dakota Department of Tourism