Fort Pierre National Grassland

Area Status: Open
A coyote hides within tall grass

Fort Pierre National Grassland is comprised of approximately 116,000 acres of federal land located south of Fort Pierre, South Dakota, north of Interstate 90, and west of the Lower Brule Indian Reservation. The topography ranges from flat to gently rolling hills with large drainages on the north and west boundaries containing relatively steep slopes and creeks that flow toward the Bad River and the Missouri River. The Grassland has numerous intermittent drainages that have been dammed to create small to medium-sized ponds that provide water for wildlife and livestock. Many of these ponds have become important for waterfowl habitat and popular fisheries. 

Fort Pierre National Grassland is widely known for its mixed grass prairie vegetation that provides shelter to the Greater Prairie Chicken, the Sharptail Grouse, the Chinese Ring-neck Pheasant, and numerous migrating birds. Other wildlife species that make their homes on the Grassland include: black-tail prairie dogs, badgers, coyotes, rattlesnakes, burrowing owls, raptors, jack rabbits, mule and whitetail deer, antelope, and various rodents.


The Fort Pierre National Grassland offers a wide variety of recreation opportunities from dispersed camping to hunting and fishing. With the north boundary of the Grassland being located approximately 8 miles south of Pierre, South Dakota; visitors have the choice of dispersed camping or sleeping in nearby accommodations. There are two undeveloped campgrounds that have large dams for fishing: Richland Dam and Sheriff Dam. 

All motorized vehicle travel is restricted to designated routes on a year-around basis. Our office has free copies of the Motor Vehicle Use Map, which show national forest system roads open to motorized travel as well as seasonal designations.

During the spring and summer months, the Fort Pierre National Grassland comes to life with wildflowers, waving grasses, and an abundance of wildlife in all shapes and sizes. The Grassland is a great place to birdwatch, fish, disperse camp, and just enjoy the Great Plains. 


Things to be mindful of while recreating on our Grassland are: insects, snakes, and the weather. The tall grass provides the perfect habitat for ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes so be sure to have that insect repellant handy! Various species of snakes can be found across the prairie and prairie dog towns are famous for rattlesnake dens so one must pay extra close attention while in those areas. 

Weather on the plains is always changing; the temperatures can range from cool mornings to very hot afternoons with high winds. Be sure to have sunscreen and plenty of water available. The Great Plains are also infamous for severe weather capable of producing heavy rains, hail, and tornadoes. 

FPNG_BirdWatching Monarch butterfly spreads its wings on greenery A large hawk in a bare tree in winter.

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Year round
Fees: No fee
  • Shooting a firearm within 150 yards of a developed recreation site or across a forest road is prohibited (36 CFR 261.10.d.1).¬†
  • Snowmobiles are prohibited from driving on the Grassland.
  • Certified noxious weed-free hay/feed is required on national forest lands.
Closest Towns: Fort Pierre, South Dakota 
Water: No
Restroom: No. Please bury all human waste.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Fort Pierre Ranger District
1020 North Deadwood Street
Fort Pierre, SD 57532
(605) 224-5517

General Information


From Pierre, SD travel on US Highway 83 South for about 24 miles.

The Fort Pierre National Grassland is located in Central South Dakota. Visitors taking Interstate 90 may access the Grassland by taking Exit 212, then heading north to Pierre on Hwy 83. 

The Grassland is split nearly in half by Hwy 83, with two thirds being on the east and one third being on the west of the highway.  

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Dispersed Camping

There are no developed campgrounds at the grassland. Visitors may hike into areas without road access to pitch tents or camp in a campers parked up to 30 feet off any designated road on the Grassland. Make sure to view the Motor Vehicle Use Map to check where you can go.

All camping visitors are prohibited from using charcoal grills, having open camp fires, smoking outside of their vehicles, and operating engines without a spark arresting device installed. Commercial petroleum fueled stoves and lanterns are permitted.

NO services available, pack it out.

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is a great past time during the winter months for locals and visitors. Fishermen can try their luck on several panfish species including: bluegill, large-mouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie, white crappie, bullhead, and catfish. There are a few ponds that are known to have walleye and pike as well.

Under the new Travel Management rules, several roads were created for seasonal access to ponds for ice fishing. These designated roads are open from December 1 through August 31. 

Snowmobiling to the ponds for ice fishing is prohibited, as snowmobiles are only allowed in the Highway 83 right-of-way. 

Horse Riding

With vast open prairies, the Fort Pierre National Grassland is a great place for visitors to enjoy riding horses. 

During the summer months, cattle and buffalo can be seen grazing on the Grassland.  Horsemen are encouraged to avoid riding through these livestock herds and reminded to close gates behind them. 

Certified noxious weed-free hay/feed is required on national forest lands.

Big Game Hunting

The vast prairie of the Fort Pierre National Grassland is home to many deer and antelope. The shrubby drainages located across the Grassland are home to both mule and white-tailed deer. These drainages provide hunters with good walk-in areas during archery and rifle hunting seasons. 

All areas are open for public hunting under state rules and regulations. Shooting a firearm within 150 yards of a developed recreation site or across a forest road is prohibited (36 CFR 261.10.d.1). 

South Dakota Hunting Rules & Regulations

Small Game Hunting

The Fort Pierre National Grassland is widely known for its population of greater prairie chicken and sharptail grouse. Hunters come from all over the United States to hunt these birds with or without their dogs. 

In six locations across the Grassland, the Forest Service has set up voluntary wing donation boxes. Hunters are asked to clip one wing from each bird harvested and place in the donation box. The data collected from these donations assist biologists in monitoring prairie grouse populations.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are also hunted - find information here


Viewing Wildlife

The Fort Pierre National Grassland diverse with all forms of wildlife from reptiles to feathers. On any given day visitors can see countless species of birds including: upland sandpipers, various raptors, short-eared owls, eastern and western king birds, greater prairie chicken, sharp-tailed grouse, and much more. 

Prairie dog towns are wonderful places to find dens of rattlesnakes and burrowing owls. 

Areas for Viewing Wildlife at Fort Pierre National Grassland

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

The Fort Pierre National Grassland does not have any designated cross-country skiing trails; however, visitors are allowed to strap on their skis to explore when snow levels allow. Always check the weather and Know Before You Go.

Warming Shelters None


Snowmobiles are prohibited from driving on the Grassland, the only area designated for snowmobile recreation is the Highway 83 right-of-way that runs north to south through the Grassland.

When recreating in the right-of-way be sure to dress appropriately and be watchful of traffic traveling on the highway.

Quick Links

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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