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Lake Sakakawea - Top-Rated Lake in North Dakota

7 Top-Rated Lakes in North Dakota (2023)

North Dakota might be a sparsely populated state in the United States, but this predominantly flat state has some of the most stunning natural landscapes. Bordering Canada to the north and having the Red River of the North on its eastern border, North Dakota is every tourist’s dream destination. The southwest part of the state is part of the famed Badlands and home to the gorgeous Theodore Roosevelt National park, known for its hilly landscape and buttes.

Being geographically diverse and having the Missouri River cut through the state of North Dakota, it is no wonder that there are many gorgeous lakes in North Dakota. There are lakes spread throughout the state, varying in depth and size.

7 Top-Rated Lakes in North Dakota

So if you ever visit this beautiful Peace Garden State, here are some of the top-rated lakes in North Dakota you must check out.

1. Devil’s Lake

Devil’s Lake is the largest natural lake in North Dakota. In fact, it is the largest natural water body in the state. Sitting at the height of 443.24 meters above sea level in the northeastern part of North Dakota between the Ramsey and Benson counties, this lake is famous for its unique name. It is known for the variations in lake level. Surprisingly, the lake levels vary quite a bit and even go down to shallow at times to a depth of 18 meters during periods of excessive rainfall.

This recreational lake attracts many tourists from all over the place and is home to the Sullys Hill National Game Preserve and Grahams Island State Park. The Spirit Lake Reservation is also located on its southern shores.

This is an excellent area for fishing, boating, picnicking, and camping. There are several boat ramps here to accommodate anglers. The lake remains a popular tourist attraction in the winters as well, as it remains open for ice fishing.

2. Lake Sakakawea

Another popular lake to check out in North Dakota is Lake Sakakawea. Spread over 124 hectares, this is the biggest artificial lake in North Dakota. It is also the third-largest artificial lake in the US. The lake is 286 kilometers long and is sprawled over six counties in the heart of the state.

Located along the mesmerizing Missouri River, this lake is just 80 kilometers away from the capital city of Bismarck. The 2120 kilometers shoreline of the lake is ideal for many recreational activities and attracts tourists from all over the country.

Lake Sakakawea is surrounded by many recreation areas, wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas, and parks. This makes the surrounding area full of lush greenery. Boating, camping, picnicking, and fishing are some of the most popular activities on the spot. There are also several hiking trails and swimming beaches around the lake.

3. Lake Oahe

Sprawled through the counties of Sioux, Emmons, Morton, and Burleigh, this 372-kilometer long lake is shared between North and South Dakota, stretching through eight counties in South Dakota as well. Lake Oahe is another lake that sits along the beautiful Missouri River. Lake Oahe is also the fourth biggest reservoir in the US.

It is estimated that over 1.5 million people visit this beautiful lake every year to enjoy the 51 recreation areas here, many of which are located in North Dakota. Many of these recreations areas come equipped with camping grounds, boat ramps, a marina, and picnic spots. There are several hiking trails that crisscross through this region.

Fishing is one of the most popular activities here as there is a wide variety of fish in the lake, including channel catfish, walleye, smallmouth bass, and northern pike. Activities like water skiing, swimming, paragliding, and many other water sports are also popular with tourists at Lake Oahe.

4. Red Willow Lake

Located in Griggs County, the Red Willow Lake is a naturally formed lake situated in the eastern part of North Dakota near the city of Binford. The lake is spread over 60 hectares and has been a popular spot for recreational activities since 1882. The lake has been a famous tourist attraction in North Dakota for years now, attracting both international and domestic visitors.

The lake has a 4.5-kilometer-long shoreline which is home to many resorts and camps, including the famous Red Willow Lake Resort. The lake has a swimming beach, a fishing pier, and a boat ramp. The resort is also very popular as it sits where the historic recreation area of the lake is located and plays host to many of the events that are hosted every year at the lake.

The lake has a swimming beach, a fishing pier, and a boat ramp. You can also take boats and paddle boats on rent from the resort. Camping is only available at the Red Willow Lake Resort.

5. Stump Lake

This natural lake is located in Nelson County in North Dakota, just east of the famous Devil’s Lake. It is home to the Old Settler’s Pavilion, which is listed on the famous US National Register of Historic Places, and it is a popular tourist attraction in the state. Stump Lake is sprawled over an area of over 6370 hectares, with a shoreline of approximately 117 kilometers long.

This is a closed lake that is fed through human sources and rainfall. This is the reason why its depth keeps changing throughout the year. This is also why you can enjoy different activities at the lake at different times of the year.

Located along the southeast shoreline of the lake is the Stump Lake Park, which offers a wide variety of activities to be enjoyed throughout the year. Camping, hiking, fishing, water skiing, paragliding, paddle boating, and boating are some of the activities you can enjoy in the summer months, while the lake becomes a popular place to enjoy ice skating during the winter months.

6. Lake Upsilon

This is a beautiful Y-shaped lake located in the Rolette County of North Dakota. Sitting in the northern part of the state, Lake Upsilon is very close to the Canadian border. Owing to its location, this lake is a quiet and secluded one, nestled in the Turtle Mountains. Again, there are a variety of recreational activities you can enjoy here.

In fact, anglers from all over the state flock to Lake Upsilon to catch some crappie, walleye, bluegill, northern pike, and trout. It is also a popular location for swimming, jet skiing, water skiing, and leisure pontoon rides.

The lake is famous for being a family reunion spot, and generations of families have come here to enjoy amidst the tranquil atmosphere. There is a park called Lion Park located at the southern tip of the 170-hectare lake. The park offers fishing and camping facilities and also has a boat ramp.

7. Lake Isabel

Situated in Kidder County, Lake Isabel has an entire western shoreline that is skirted by Highway 3. This has made it very easy for visitors to reach the lake. Spread over 330 hectares, the lake’s shoreline stretches for over six kilometers. The Slade National Wildlife Refuge is also located at the northern end of the lake.

It is believed that the deepest point of the lake is around four meters deep, which makes it an ideal spot for fishing. Yellow perch and northern pike are the two commonly found species of fish at Lake Isabel. There is also a boat ramp located at the north of the shoreline, along with a special needs camp in the southeast part.

The lake remains open all year round, with camping facilities located on the northern part inside the Slade national Wildlife Refuge. This is a free camping ground and includes a separate picnic area, but with limited facilities. If you want to spend on having more comfortable accommodations, you can rent a cabin or home along the shoreline or book your stay at the nearby Dakota Outback Cottages.

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