Lake Herman State Park is a splendid place filled with history, lots of shoreline for fun, plenty of outdoor activities and 72 back-in campsites that boast electricity for motorhomes. Located two miles west of Madison, South Dakota, Lake Herman State Park is situated on a peninsula that jettisons out into the 1,350-acre Lake Herman. The state park was named after the original homesteaders in the region who were Herman Luce and his son William which settled in the area in 1870. Lake Herman was created when glacial ice gouged and thawed leaving numerous shallow and saucer-shaped lakes along the prairie grasslands.
Lake Herman State Park was originally the homeland to several Plains Indian Tribes including the Sioux, Dakota, and the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribes. Many other tribes visited the area and camped on their way to the red pipestone quarries that are some 30 miles away. Their first encounter with European settlers happened in the early 1800s when fur trappers flooded the area. After the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851, white settlers entered the area to homestead. In 1871 Herman Luce built a log cabin out of hand-hewn oak logs which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Today, the Lake Herman State Park is a magical place all year round with a plethora of outdoor activities for RVers and campers to enjoy. Activities range from hiking and cross-country skiing to boating and water skiing to fishing and nature watching. The campsites offer solitude and electrical hookups for rigs, which make for a perfect stay any time of year.
The weather at Lake Herman State Park has summertime temperatures in the mid-80s with up to three inches of rain per month. Wintertime brings temperatures in the mid-20s along with a minimum of six inches of snow per month.
RVers can access Lake Herman State Park from South Dakota Route 236 from the east and from South Dakota Road 38 from the north. Traveling west from Madison on Route 236, motorhomes can easily navigate the undulating prairie terrain that is mostly straight with very few curves. High winds at times in the prairie can prohibit your travel time, and you should plan accordingly.
Traveling south from U.S. Highway 81, RVers will need to turn on to State Road 38. The drive along State Road 38 is more difficult. Drivers will encounter several curves along the road that follows much of Lake Herman’s shoreline. There is also the possibility of high winds which may hamper your traveling. As you navigate along State Road 38, you will find three hairpin turns that are challenging for larger rigs and you are encouraged to use the pullouts to allow for steady traffic flow.
Once you arrive inside the state park, you will encounter congestion at each of the three-day use areas and near the boat ramp. The state park road is wide enough and should not be difficult to navigate. The campground loops do not have curves that are challenging for larger rigs, and you should adhere to all posted speed limits within the campground and the state park. The single road within the park is two way, and you can expect to share the road with bicyclists, pedestrians, and children playing inside the campground.
Lake Herman State Park Campground is situated along four loops that are located between the shoreline of Lake Herman and Herman Pond. Most campsites within the campground boast shade, privacy from other campers, and an easy walk to Lake Herman or Herman Pond. There are 70 back-in and two pull-through campsites that feature electrical hookups, a fire ring, picnic table, and a gravel parking pad which may require leveling for your RV or motorhome. RVers are encouraged to fill their water holding tanks at the dump station which is located near the northern day use area of the state park. RVs are limited to 50 feet in length and not all campsites can accommodate larger rigs. Other amenities within the campground include flush and vault toilets, fresh water spigots, a playground, and an amphitheater. Water may not be available during the winter months. Generators may be used from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained by a six-foot leash at all times.
RVers definitely want to pack their rod and reel when visiting Lake Herman State Park. The 1,350-acre lake is home to great shore and boat fishing. From the shoreline you can expect to catch yellow perch, white crappie, yellow bullhead, and a variety of bass species live in the lake. Trolling with a boat offers the best action for northern pike and walleye. If that’s not enough try your luck from the fishing dock located on Herman Pond where you have the opportunity to catch small and large mouth bass. Check the South Dakota fishing regulations for bag and size limits before dipping your line.
Hiking is a popular thing to do in Lake Herman State Park. There are a variety of trails that are ideal for beginners, experts and families. The Luce Adventure Trail is the longest at more than one mile in length. The trail boasts interpretive signs explaining the ecosystems of the state park. Families will enjoy the one mile Abbott Trail which is perfect for bird watching. The Pioneer Trail is less than one-half mile and is perfect for families with small children.
Water sports at Lake Herman State Park are a must do for RVers that can pull a boat. There is a boat ramp for easy launching into the 1,350-acre lake. If you are traveling with a kayak or canoe you may be able to carry the water craft from the campground. Once on the lake you can enjoy water skiing, jet skiing and trolling for the monster fish you dream about. If you just want to lounge next to water, you will find a nice swim beach that offers swimming in picturesque Lake Herman. Water crafts are not allowed on Herman Pond.
During the winter months you will be thrilled if you packed your cross-country skis or snowshoes. With three major trails within the park you have plenty of options to glide over the frozen and snow packed landscape. Snowshoeing is encouraged along the shoreline of Lake Herman and Herman Pond where you will find benches to enjoy hot chocolate. Cross-country skiing is a favorite on the Abbott, Luce Adventure and the Pioneer Nature Trail. You can mix and the three trails to make for a great three miles of cross-country skiing.
When William and Herman Luce decided to settle in the area, they constructed an intricate hand hewn oak cabin. The cabin was built in 1871 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. There are period furnishing inside and plenty of interpretive signage explaining the life of the Luces and other homesteaders that settled in the area. Accessing the cabin in the winter is no problem along an easy trail from the road that is usually snow packed and does not require snowshoes or cross-country skis.
Every person in a campervan should make room for their binoculars. Viewing wildlife with binoculars is convenient and healthy for the animals and humans. When you are at Lake Herman State Park you can expect to spot a variety of birds including American white pelicans, great egrets, green herons, snowy egrets, and black terns. Herman Pond is also a haven for migrating geese and ducks traveling south for the winter. Wildlife includes several species of deer, muskrats, prairie dogs, coyotes, and pronghorns.