Dude Ranch Lakeside Use Area, Oacoma, SD

Lake Francis Case

Army Corps of Engineers

Free Camping Near Chamberlain, SD

Dude Ranch Lakeside Use Area is a combination boat launch and camping area managed jointly by the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. It’s located right on Lake Francis Case, a reservoir created by Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River. Dude Ranch is a popular area due to its close proximity to both Chamberlain, SD and Interstate 90.


Lake Francis Case

Army Corps of Engineers

Lake Francis Case Office:

Tel: (605) 487-7845


GPS: 43.7812, -99.4255

Reservations: First come, first served

Camping Fee: None (voluntary donation box on site)

Permit: None

Max Stay: 7 days

Amenities: Picnic tables, vault toilet, fish cleaning station, boat ramp

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Dude Ranch Lakeside Use Area, Oacoma, SD

You won’t find a lot of free camping in South Dakota east of the Badlands. Dude Ranch happens to be among the handful, and probably one of the most popular. Because it’s located just a couple miles away from I-90 and the City of Chamberlain, many RV boondockers come here to capitalize.

It was primarily intended to give boaters access to Lake Francis Case, but it ended up becoming more known as a boondocking area. There are still plenty of boats launching from Dude Ranch, however. It’s just that you’ll probably see more RVs.

There is a shorter 7-day maximum stay here at Dude Ranch, likely due to heavy use it sees during the summer. There is a vault toilet, picnic tables, and a fish-cleaning station. Verizon 4G comes in pretty good here, 3-4 bars of strength.

The road in is dirt. It’s not too bad, but there are a couple of hairy places, including a dip and some washboarding. It looks like during the rains the road gets muddy as evidenced by some rutting we encountered. All in all, it’s still accessible by low-clearance vehicles, and four-wheel drive is not necessary.

Nights are actually peaceful here. You’re more likely to hear the sound of semi-trucks along I-90 in the distance than anything else. Coyotes do prowl here, so keep an eye on your dog or cat if it needs to go out at night.

Dude Ranch Lakeside Use Area Summary

Pros: Short drive into Chamberlain. Right off Interstate 90. Beautiful view of Lake Francis Case.

Cons: Very little shade. Mosquitoes and gnats during the warm part of the year. Light amount of trash strewn about.

Price: Free

Max Length of Stay: Maximum 7-days.

Access: Dirt road all the way in, lightly washboarded and rutted.

Amenities: Picnic tables, vault toilet, fish cleaning station, boat ramp.

Cellphone Signal Strength: Verizon 4G signal came in about 3-4 bars.

Insects, Pests, & Wildlife: A fair amount of flying insects were noted, including mosquitoes. Coyotes frequently heard at night

Noise: Mostly peaceful during the week. The weekend gets busy with more campers and boaters. Night remains quiet aside from the sound of trucks on I-90.

Safe or Sketchy: Seems pretty safe boondocking here. Most people here at night are fellow boondockers who seem to respect each other.

How Crowded Is It: During the week there’s maybe one or two other RVs. The weekend tends to fill up with boat trailers and more RVs.

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