Street view of downtown Deadwood, South Dakota. Image credit Bo Shen via Shutterstock.

8 Most Charming River Towns in South Dakota to Visit in 2024

South Dakota is a sprawling, midwestern state known for its prominent historical monuments, and these eight towns are filled with them. From the popular Mount Rushmore Sculpture in Keystone to the legendary ghost stories in Deadwood and the stainless steel sculpture in Chamberlain, there is much to explore within these borders. While this landlocked state is not often associated with water, prepare your fishing and swimming equipment, too, because there are a lot of watersports to indulge in in these charming river towns.


The Capitol Building of South Dakota in Pierre, South Dakota.
The Capitol Building of South Dakota in Pierre, South Dakota.

Pierre is the capital city of South Dakota and the eighth-most populous city. It was made the state capital because it is situated in the state's center, and its proximity to the Missouri River makes it an excellent hub for fishing, boating, and other water activities.

LaBarge Park is a family-friendly park with tennis courts and picnic spots. Opposite the Government’s office in the South Dakota State Capitol is the Hyde Baseball Stadium, a must-visit if you enjoy sporting activities. Check out military relics and historical equipment at the National Guard Museum and commemorate the memories of lost veterans at the Flaming Fountain Memorial who died in a plane crash in 1993. Their memories are immortalized at Fighting Stallions Memorial. Watch science exhibits at the South Dakota Discovery Center. Lodge at Major League Adventures to enjoy hunting and fishing while in town. Explore Strubel Brewing or chill at St Charles Lounge and Bob's Lounge bar for something to nosh.


Downtown Deadwood, South Dakota.
Downtown Deadwood, South Dakota.

In 1876, the city of Deadwood became filled with miners, gunslingers, and outlaws overnight due to the gold discovery in the town. Deadwood truly lives for its name, as many were gunned down and assassinated during these times, creating the legends of Deadwood known today, such as Will Bill, Seth Bullock, and “Calamity” Jane.

When you arrive in town, get firsthand information and guide for visitors at Deadwood Welcome Center. Visit Mount Moriah Cemetery, where the town’s legends were buried. It is a historical ground and also a serene place for walks. Dig deeper into Deadwood’s history by visiting Adam’s Museum and Home, where items belonging to the town’s legends are exhibited alongside special programs. Watch carriages and firearms display at the Days of '76 Museum. Take a tour of The Brothel Deadwood and Tatanka Story of Bison, two major tourist attractions in the town. Relax with a drink at Saloon No. 10. Stop by Chubby Chipmunk for hand-made chocolate.


Downtown Custer, South Dakota. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock
Downtown Custer, South Dakota. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock

Custer is the oldest town in Black Hills, established by European Americans in 1875. Gold was also discovered on the land. However, this venture was short-lived, and now, the town’s economy thrives on tourism.

Prepare for adventure in Custer town as there are many tourist attractions, like the Black Hills Balloons on Mt Rushmore Rd and the Flinstones in Bedrock City. Custer State Park is popular for its free-roaming bison, the Needles Eye Tunnel, the pristine Sylvan Lake, swimming, fishing, hiking activities, etc. If you are an adrenaline junkie, don’t miss Adventure Rentals for on and off-road adrenaline ventures. Also, try rock climbing at Sylvan Rocks Climbing School, whether you are a beginner or a pro! Reserve a ticket to the 219.77-mile-long Jewel Cave for jaw-dropping nature wonders. You can also check out the Visitor Center for important information on the cave. Go park-hopping at Big Rock Park and Harbach Centennial Park. Spend some hours reveling in the town’s stories at the 1881 Courthouse Museum.


Keystone boutiques and shops - the gateway to Mount Rushmore. Image credit GagliardiPhotography via Shutterstock.
Keystone: the gateway to Mount Rushmore. Image credit GagliardiPhotography via Shutterstock.

Keystone is a town prominent for tourism and the American Democracy Landmark in Mount Rushmore. This memorial sculpture features four notable American Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. The landmark also has a museum and visitor center that shows exhibits and provides insight into their significance. Visitors can also take the Presidential Trail route to the National Memorial.

Visit the National Presidential Wax Museum to see live figures of US presidents made with wax. Take a mine tour of Big Thunder Gold Mine, one of the top attractions in Black Hills. Other tourist attractions to check out are the 1880 Train—Keystone Depot, where you can take a 20-mile train ride, and the Rush Mountain Adventure Park, which has a cave. Shop Rock Accessories at Rock Shed. If you are curious about what chainsaw carvings look like, you should visit Dahl's Chainsaw Art!


Chamberlain on the shore of the Missouri River in South Dakota.
Chamberlain on the shore of the Missouri River in South Dakota.

Chamberlain is a town named after Chicago Director Selah Chamberlain. The town has over 2500 population and is known for being tranquil and welcoming to tourists.

Chamberlain's most prominent attraction and monument is the stainless steel star quilt adorned with 128 diamonds called the Dignity of Earth and Sky. It is a sculpted woman built in honor of the women of the land. The Chamberlain Lewis & Clark Welcome Center is more than just a Tourist Center. It is also a rest and picnic area. Visit the South Dakota Hall of Fame and Akta Lakota Museum. The parks in the area have restaurants, amphitheater, and open fields. Parks like American Creek Recreation Area, Barger Park, South Dakota Veterans Park, and the Roam Free Park. Watch a movie at State Theatre & Video. If you are feeling low, why not treat yourself to a massage at Rejuvenating Remedies Med Spa or Stella's Day Spa.

Hot Springs

Aerial view of Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Aerial view of Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Hot Springs, formerly called Hot Waters, is known for its healing mineral springs. It has a population of 3,789 and serves as a health resort for tourists and residents. If you are looking for a place to relax and release stress, this is the place for you.

Revive your body and soul at the old natural spring called Evans Plunge. Check out Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Springs/Spa for an all-in-one care featuring restaurants, spas, pools, and other amenities. The Mammoth Site is a museum and ice age facility with fascinating discoveries for visitors. Golf enthusiasts can check out the links at Black Hills Putt 4 Fun or Southern Hills Golf Course. Savor the beautiful history of the Hot Spring people at Battle Mountain Sanitarium, Angostura State Recreation Area, and Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. Patronize the locals by buying a cup of coffee at Mornin' Sunshine Coffee House, shopping for art finds at Chautauqua Artisans Market, and staying the night at Red Rock River Resort!


Aerial View of Downtown Mobridge, South Dakota, on the Missouri River.
Aerial View of Downtown Mobridge, South Dakota, on the Missouri River.

This town's name is not a coincidence; it was named Mobridge because of the ongoing construction of the railroad bridge that was meant to be built over the Missouri River. Around 1960, the bridge was replaced to accommodate the construction of the Oahe Dam.

Walleye Up Statue and Sakakawea Monument are two major landmarks in Mobridge that promise tourists an adventure. The Klein Museum was founded in 1975 to preserve the town’s values, history, and culture. Visit to learn all about the past stories of the town and its indigenes. Go camping and explore the beauty of nature at Indian Creek Recreation Area. Scherr Howe Arena organizes sporting events, plays, and community get-togethers; you might be lucky to attend one when you are in town! Two miles from Mobridge is the Sitting Bull sculpture facing the river, a perfect place to relax.


Yankton, South Dakota: A college town in the Midwest along the Missouri River.
Yankton, South Dakota: A college town in the Midwest along the Missouri River.

Yankton in Dakota means “People from the end village,” It is also sometimes called the river city because of its close proximity to the James and Missouri rivers. Visit the historic Cramer-Kenyon Heritage Home, which also serves as a ceremony venue. Take a walk on the Meridian Bridge and absorb the serenity of the surroundings and pristine river. For some landmarks, The Dakota Territorial Capitol Replica Building is on Yankton Riverside Park. Take a tour of the surroundings and chill in the park. Go hiking at Fantle Memorial Park, where you can enjoy sporting activities, or visit the art gallery at the Yankton Area Arts Association. Don't forget to refresh and grab a pint at Ben's Brewing Co. or Ben's Brew Station.

These eight charming river towns in South Dakota will leave you yearning for more Midwest adventures. Explore breweries, monuments, and lakes to your fill, all without the bustling crowds of larger cities and highly-frequented states. Travel at your leisure in these towns, and don’t forget to buy a keepsake to remind you of the great time had with friends, family, or on a solo adventure.

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