Lake Sakakawea

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Lake Sakakawea
North Dakota on Missouri River basin map (cropped).png
Lake Sakakawea highlighted in light blue on Missouri River Basin map
Location of Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, USA.
Location of Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, USA.
Lake Sakakawea
Location of Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, USA.
Location of Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota, USA.
Lake Sakakawea
Location North Dakota,
 United States
Coordinates47°30′N 101°25′W / 47.50°N 101.41°W / 47.50; -101.41Coordinates: 47°30′N 101°25′W / 47.50°N 101.41°W / 47.50; -101.41
at Garrison Dam
Lake typeReservoir
Primary inflowsMissouri River,
Little Missouri River, Milk River, and Yellowstone River.
Primary outflowsMissouri River
Catchment area317,400 km2 (122,500 sq mi)
Max. length178 miles (286 km)
Surface area307,000 acres (480 sq mi; 1,240 km2)
Max. depth180 ft (55 m) at dam
Water volume23,800,000 acre⋅ft (29.4 km3)[1]
Shore length11,320 miles (2,120 km)
Surface elevation1,817 ft (554 m)[1]
SettlementsWilliston, Pick City, Four Bears Village, and Riverdale, North Dakota
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Sakakawea is a large reservoir in the north central United States, impounded by Garrison Dam, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam located in the Missouri River basin in central North Dakota. Named for the Shoshone-Hidatsa woman Sakakawea, it is the largest man-made lake located entirely within the State of North Dakota, the second largest in the United States by area after Lake Oahe, and the third largest in the United States by volume, after Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

The lake is located about fifty miles (80 km) from the state capital of Bismarck; the distance by the Missouri River is about 75 miles (120 km). The lake averages between 2–3 miles (3–5 km) in width and is 14 miles (23 km) wide at its widest point (Van Hook Arm). Lake Sakakawea marks the maximum southwest extent of glaciation during the ice age. The lake is located within the counties of: Dunn, McKenzie, McLean, Mercer, Mountrail, and Williams.


Lake Sakakawea, Garrison Dam, and other dams and reservoirs of the Pick–Sloan Project, and affected Indian reservations

The reservoir was created by construction of Garrison Dam, part of a flood control and hydroelectric power generation project named the Pick-Sloan Project along the Missouri river. Garrison dam was completed in 1956. It is the second (and largest) of six main-stem dams on the Missouri River built and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control, hydroelectric power, navigation, and irrigation.

The creation of the lake forced the displacement of members of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation from their villages of Van Hook and (Old) Sanish, which were inundated by creation of the lake. It is notable that predominately white towns were purposefully spared by the Army Corps. Members of the tribe received essentially no compensation for their forced displacement. In addition, the United States Congress, guided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, prevented the tribe from allowing their cattle to drink from the reservoir. They relocated and founded the villages of New Town, White Shield, and Mandaree. One name that had been proposed for New Town was Vanish (a portmanteau of the two previous towns' names). Elbowoods, a third reservation town where the agency headquarters, boarding school, hospital, and jail were located, was also lost to the lake. These three towns are commemorated in the names of the three campground sections at Lake Sakakawea State Park, a state park located adjacent to Garrison Dam.

During a training flight in winter 1969, a U.S. Air Force interceptor aircraft crashed into the western portion of the lake on March 10. The F-106A Delta Dart (59-0014)[2] was from Minot AFB, about sixty miles (100 km) north of the dam.[3] The pilot ejected safely to land and the plane sank below the frozen lake surface. It was not located until more than 35 years later, in September 2004, after an extended search by a local surveyors' group.[4]


The lake is a popular regional recreation destination for fishing, camping, boating, hiking, and other outdoor water-based recreation. Public recreation areas, parks, and wildlife management areas surround the lake and are managed by several agencies and organizations including the Corps of Engineers, North Dakota Department of Parks and Recreation, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c United States Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2007-07-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Accessed 16 July 2007.
  2. ^ "1959 USAF serial numbers". Joseph F. Baugher. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  3. ^ "59-0014". Aviation Safety. ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 138178. March 10, 1969. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  4. ^ "Parts of fighter plane found in lake nearly 35 years after crash". USA Today. Associated Press. October 1, 2004. Retrieved May 15, 2014.

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