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Pactola reservoir, SD

Although Pactola Reservoir is the largest reservoir in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we weren't expecting to find it when we did! While out exploring on an ATV, Pactola Reservoir suddenly rose out of the trees as we turned a bend in the road and we were immediately in awe of its expansiveness. So we did what any logical human would do. We parked our ATV on the side of the road, scrambled down the hillside, ditched our shoes near a downed tree and jumped in the water, clothes and all. It was the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer afternoon. The shoreline was all rock, but it was smooth and easy to walk on with bare feet. The water was shallow for the first ten feet, then took a good drop. If we'd had a raft or canoe, it would've been fun to explore out on the lake some more. But for us, swimming was perfect. Afterwards, we climbed back up the steep hill and rode in the ATV to the general store down the road where we treated ourselves to some ice cream. 

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Now for the person planning out their trip to Pactola Reservoir, in a less spontaneous way than we discovered it, this is the ultimate spot for a family get-away. Pactola Reservoir is not only fun if you want to spend the day on the water, but it's surrounded by endless miles of biking and hiking trails. Check out the Osprey Trail! If you're into high-adventure, go cliff diving at Jenny Gulch and Alcatraz. And if you want to rent water toys or go camping, here are a few helpful hints:

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1. You can rent fishing boats, pontoons or canoes at the North or South Pactola Pines Marina (605) 343-4283.

2. If you're motorized, launch out of the North or South Marinas ($6 fee).

3. If you're not motorized, launch out of Jenny Gulch (no charge).

4. Pactola Lake Camp Area has 83 sites and has a $24 fee. It's open Memorial Day to Labor Day. There aren't any hook-ups, but you'll enjoy the use of restrooms, showers and laundry.

5. Bear Gulch Camp Site is for group camping, up to 60 people.

To access the Pactola Campground from Rapid City, go west on State Highway 44 for 15 miles. Turn left, or south, onto Highway 385 and travel two miles to Custer Gulch Road. Turn right, or west, onto Custer Gulch Road and follow for two miles.