Lake Poinsett Recreation Area is a fabulous spot with 16 miles of shoreline, everything for outdoor enthusiasts, and a campground that features 107 campsites furnished with electrical hookups for rigs. Located 14 miles northeast of Arlington, South Dakota, the recreation area includes the glacially created Lake Poinsett named after former U.S. Secretary of War Joel Poinsett. Poinsett is a remarkable figure having championed the Fremont and Nicollett expedition of the area in 1838. He was also a physician and botanist having brought numerous winter blooming plants from Mexico including the famous poinsettia. The recreation area has an excellent museum and visitor’s center on-site which boasts the history of Poinsett and the Native Indians that occupied the area.
The area surrounding the prairie land was the original homeland of numerous Plains Indian Tribes including the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe. The tribe was one of many Sioux tribes that called South Dakota home. The tribe first encountered fur trappers in the area in the 1790s and had contact with the Nicollett and Fremont Expeditions at Lake Poinsett in 1838. The tribe entered into the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and was placed on the Great Sioux Reservation. Today, there are nine Indian reservations in the state of South Dakota.
Lake Poinsett Recreation Area has plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts looking for fun and exploration on land and water. The recreation area is a hotbed for water sports in the summer months with boating, jet skiing, water skiing, and fishing on the lake. Hiking, biking, and interpretive programs are also unique to the area. Winter time campers can indulge in plenty of winter sports like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
Weather at Lake Poinsett Recreation Area brings summer time temperatures in the 80s accompanied by up to four inches of rain per month. Winter time has temperatures in the mid-20s with up to six inches of snow per month.
Recreation vehicles can access Lake Poinsett Recreation Area at the intersection of South Lake Drive also known as County Road 2 and 497th Avenue.
Large rigs traveling northeast from Arlington will follow U.S. Highway 81 north until intersecting with South Lake Drive. The highway is straight making travel easier along the undulating prairie landscape but you might encounter high winds that can prohibit your speed. Once driving east along South Lake Drive you will follow the contour of the lake’s shoreline. There are a couple of curves that drivers of rigs should use caution especially if towing a vehicle.
Traveling southeast from Estelline you will drive along State Highway 28 until you reach East Lake Drive. The drive is straightforward along undulating prairie landscape where you might encounter high winds at times. Driving southwest on East Lake Drive you will follow the contour of the lake’s shoreline. There are a few places of caution where the road winds until you reach Southeast Lake Drive.
Once inside the recreation area you will encounter congestion in several locations including the museum, the visitor’s center, boat ramp, and several day use areas. The campgrounds are situated along one loop roads that do not pose any difficulties for people driving larger rigs. While driving in the recreation area drivers should be prepared to share the road with bicyclists, pedestrians, and children playing in the campground. Please adhere to all posted speed limits within the recreation area for safety reasons.
Lake Poinsett Recreation Area Campground 2 is situated along one loop that contains 24 campsites that offer electrical hookups for rigs. The campground has one pull-through campsite. The campground is in a heavily wooded area with direct access to the Lake Poinsett Potpourri Trail. Campsites offer privacy and shade for campers. Each campsite is furnished with a fire ring, picnic table, and a gravel parking pad that may require some type of leveling. There is a dump station located near the entrance to the recreation area. RVers are encouraged to fill their water tanks when dumping their holding tanks. Other amenities within the campground include showers, vault, and flushing toilets. Generators may be use from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained by ten-foot leach at all times. Although the campground is open year round, there is no water service from October 1st through April 30th each year.
Lake Poinsett Recreation Area Campground 1 is situated along one long loop and contains 83 campsites that are furnished with electrical hookups for camping vehicles. The campground is located along the shoreline of Lake Poinsett with 40 campsites directly on the shoreline and there are 20 pull-through campsites. Most campsites offer shade and privacy within the wooded shoreline area. Each campsite is furnished with a fire ring, picnic table, and a gravel parking pad which may require leveling. RVs and camping trailers are limited to 60 feet in length and not all campsites can accommodate larger rigs. There is a dump station located near the park entrance and you are encouraged to fill your water tank while dumping your rig. Other amenities within the campground include vault and flush toilets, showers, an amphitheater, and a children’s playground. Generators may be used from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained by a ten-foot leash at all times. Although the campground is open year round, the water is turned off from October 1st until April 30th each year.
Experienced campers usually always have their hiking boots packed away in their vehicle. Fall is an especially great time to go hiking at Lake Poinsett Recreation Area for numerous reasons. When the leaves and grass prairie landscape begin to change, the three segments of the Lake Poinsett Potpourri Trail boast a plethora of colors. The first section of the trail offers a wooded area with oaks, honey locusts, elm, cottonwood, and pine trees. The second section sports a prairie landscape mixed with wetlands that offers excellent wildlife habitat. The third section has you hiking along the shoreline for breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding scenery.
Hunting season brings hunters to the campground for their base camp. The surrounding area of corn fields, wetlands, and forested area offer hunters plenty of options. Pheasant and duck hunting are the most popular in the area with wild turkeys roaming around the fields. Several species of deer call the recreation area home including mule, white-tailed and black-tailed deer. Hunters need to come prepared because there is no water service available in the campground but there are electric hookups for RVs. Check with South Dakota hunting regulations for licensing, hunting seasons, and bag limits.
When the snow flies at Lake Poinsett Recreation Area the cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are excellent. The recreation area grooms the Lake Poinsett Potpourri Trail for skiers and there is plenty of open area for snowshoeing through the prairie landscape. Snowmobilers will find plenty of snowy terrain within the recreation area to explore before having some hot chocolate with lunch. Ice fishing is also very popular in the winter time where you can catch a walleye or northern pike under the ice covered lake. Always check the ice depth for safety whether fishing, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing.
Everyone should carry some frisbees in their camper to play disc golf when staying at Lake Poinsett Recreation Area. There is a wonderful nine-hole disc golf course at the recreation area that offers something for every type of player. The disc golf course is not very long at less than 2,000 feet but the holes weave through a wooded area with tight fairways. Most of the holes are blind shots so be prepared to be patient and you might lose in the tall grass if you’re not in the fairway. Disc rental is available if you forgot to pack yours.
Water sport enthusiasts will be thrilled with the options available at Lake Poinsett Recreation Area. There is a convenient boat launch for larger water crafts and if you brought your kayak or canoe on your campervan you can launch almost anywhere including near the campground. Fishing is the most popular boating activity on the lake but you will encounter people water skiing or pulling inner tubes. The shore side campground is ideal for swimming with a pleasant sandy beach area to help you enjoy your day.
One of the more popular things to do in Lake Poinsett Recreation Area for RVers is fishing. With 16 miles of shoreline, Lake Poinsett is an angler’s dream come true. There is easy access from the campground to find your perfect spot to dip your line in the water. You can launch from the boat ramp when you are ready to troll for the big ones or try fishing from your kayak and canoe. Fish you can expect to catch include smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, bigmouth bullhead, channel catfish, and 16 other species. Please check the South Dakota fishing regulations for bag and size limit.