About Us

About Lake Sakakawea

Lake Sakakawea is second largest man-made lake in the United States and the third largest by volume.

The lake stretches from near the Montana border with the confluence of the Yellowstone River in Williston, North Dakota all the way to Riverdale, North Dakota, which is 50 miles north of Bismarck, North Dakota in central North Dakota.

The lake was created in 1954 with the completion of the construction of the Garrison Dam, which is one of six dams along the Missouri River that provides flood control, irrigation, navigation, and hydroelectric power.

Lake Sakakawea offers more shoreline than the California Pacific coast, hosts 35 recreation sites, provides some of the best fishing in North America, and provides abundant opportunities for boating, sailing, and outdoor recreation.

The lake is named in honor of Sakakawea (often listed as Sacajawea), the young Shoshoni woman who served as the guide to the Lewis and Clark expedition. The name also recognizes the Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa native tribes who have lived along the Missouri River in the northern plains for centuries.

Lake Sakakawea: By the Numbers…

Surface Area

480 square miles / 307,000 acres

Water Volume

23,800,000 acres per feet

Maximum Length

178 miles

Shore Length

1,320 miles

Maximum Depth

180 feet at the base of Garrison Dam

Drainage Basin

122,500 square miles

Number of Recreation Sites


What We Do

The Friends of Lake Sakakawea works to make North Dakota’s Great Lake by building upon the recreational, economic, and environmental opportunities of Lake Sakakawea. We principally achieve our work through…


Advocating for sensible lake management and reasonable conservation of Lake Sakakawea’s resources.


Protecting water quality for residents who depend on Lake Sakakawea for drinking water and raising awareness to stop the introduction of Aquatic Nuisance Species.


Ensuring access for boaters, anglers, and recreationists.


Investing in improvements that enhance Lake Sakakawea’s quality of place and the experience of all users and visitors.


Promoting Lake Sakakawea’s full recreational and economic potential.

Our History

For many years, downstream states along the Missouri River exerted great political and economic influence resulting in greater releases from the reservoir and lower lake levels for North Dakota anglers, recreationists, and lake area communities.

Dried up marina bays and unusable boat ramps limited recreational opportunities. In many cases, recreation became impossible.

Lake area communities and rural water districts had to contend with adverse effects to their water intake systems.

Lake-dependent businesses were severely harmed with too many being forced to close.

The Friends of Lake Sakakawea was founded in 2004 to advocate on behalf of sensible lake policy, to protect the lake’s environment, and advance the lake’s economic potential.

We work for all those who love and use our great lake: anglers, sportsmen and women, recreationists, cabin owners, businesses, and lake area communities and residents.

Our organization has developed collaborative relationships and partnerships with North Dakota’s congressional delegation, state and tribal leaders, local lake area officials, and with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, North Dakota Game & Fish Department, and North Dakota Parks & Recreation.

Over the years, we have extended those relationships to include the energy industry to protect water quality and guard against pollution. And we are working diligently to raise public awareness in stopping the introduction of Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS), which will devastate Lake Sakakawea.

Our Board of Directors

To ensure the interests of many are represented on the Board of Directors, individual directors are elected to represent the lake area counties, the tribal community, businesses, cabin owners, recreationists, and economic development.

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Contact Us

Friends of Lake Sakakawea
PO Box 1853
Bismarck, ND 58502

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The Friends of Lake Sakakawea is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. All memberships and contributions are tax deductible. We operate entirely off of the support of people like you.