Charming and cozy Lake Cochrane Recreation Area, which is nestled between two clear water, spring-fed lakes, is one of the few state parks in South Dakota which is open all year long. So, whenever you need to get away, make your reservations online, pack your RV, and hit the road.
If Lake Cochrane Recreation Area was nothing but the lakes themselves, it would be one of the most popular state parks in Northeastern South Dakota. But there are lots of other activities at this 88-acre state park. RVers can enjoy fishing, boating, team sports, and more. Furthermore, since it’s far away from major roads and towns, Lake Cochrane Recreation Area is a quiet and relaxing place to park your motorhome. And, because of the park’s small size and diligent staff, it’s usually quite clean and very well-kept.
Lake Cochrane Recreation Area has 30 RV campsites arranged in a large loop. Many of these sites are almost directly on the water. The campground has many of the amenities you’d expect, and some that may surprise you.
Lake Cochrane Recreation Area is just off State Highway 22, which is the main drag between nowhere and nothing. The closest town is Camby, Minnesota. That should give you some idea of how isolated this place is. That being said, Highway 22 and the smaller park access roads are usually clear even in winter. So, reaching the park should be no problem at all. Just be sure you have plenty of gas and supplies before you leave.
Inside the park, there is a large parking area on the shores of Lake Oliver, near the fishing pier and boat launch. There’s another large parking area on the shores of Lake Cochrane, near the swimming area and sheltered picnic area. Additional parking is available near the park entrance and visitors’ center.
This loop campground has 30 back-in, electric hookup RV parking spots. One spot is ADA-accessible and one is reserved for campground volunteers. Each spot has its own picnic table, so you have some dining options aside from your RV kitchen. Drinking water is always available in the summer. From November through April, it may be shut off from time to time. The same is true of the RV campground restroom and shower area. The vault toilets, RV dump station, and children’s playground are usually always open.
In the winter, you’ll really appreciate the sheltered picnic area at Lake Cochrane Recreation Area. It’s located near the swimming area in a very shady and secluded spot. If you feel like being in the open air, there are lots of unsheltered picnic tables around as well. One of them is on a large concrete slab. Drinking water is usually available in the picnic area between April and November.
You would think that a park this size would not have many recreational opportunities. But you would be wrong. An athletic field is ideal for snow soccer. If you’ve never tried that, put it on your bucket list. If there’s no snow on the ground, pickup basketball and volleyball is lots of fun. There are also horseshoe pits, if you prefer a little mano-e-mano challenge.
Lake Cochrane is pretty much off-limits to hunters. But Lake Oliver, on the other hand, is an excellent place for in-season waterfowl hunting. The south shore is a bit swampy in parts, so lots of ducks like to hang out here. There are lots of geese here as well. Check with a ranger about hunting seasons and permitted hunting hours as well as places during the season.
The Lake Cochrane swimming area is basically an open meadow with a narrow and rather pebbly beach between the grass and the water. Since the boat launch is basically in another zip code, swimmers never have to worry about wayward boats. There may be an occasional inner tube in your path, but they are pretty easy to avoid. Lake Cochrane has an even, sandy bottom without any major drop-offs. And, as mentioned, it’s also a pretty shallow lake. There’s no designated Lake Oliver swimming area. But no one will say anything if you take a dip in it.
Both lakes have boat launches. The larger Lake Cochrane is also a little more crowded, mostly because there are so many private homes and boat docks on this lake. Still, it’s plenty big enough to accommodate motorboats as well as kayaks, canoes, and inner tubes. The Lake Cochrane boat launch is also about a quarter mile away from the park boundary. We’re not exactly sure why. The Lake Oliver boat launch, on the other hand, is in the Day Use Area. And, boaters have this lake pretty much all to themselves. We suggest you try both lakes out and pick a winner for yourself.
Lake Cochrane is a very large (350 acres) and fairly shallow (25 feet at its deepest point) body of water. So, there are a vast array of fish in the lake, including bluegill, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, white crappie, yellow bullhead, and yellow perch. Most anglers fish from boats on Lake Cochrane. On the other hand, the much smaller Lake Oliver has a very nice fishing pier. It’s about a third as big as Lake Cochrane. Still, there are a variety of fish in this spring-fed lake.