We were surrounded by corn fields as we drove down the road to the entrance of Lake Thompson Recreation Area, located just a few minutes from De Smet, S.D. What we discovered at the end of the road was a camping oasis in the middle of rolling waves of farmland. Whether you are coming to visit the local Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum or you are just looking for a relaxing destination trip, Lake Thompson is a great place to stay.
Campground: We stayed at Lake Thompson for two nights mid-week and we practically had the whole place to ourselves. Even on a busy weekend, though, it probably doesn’t feel too crowded because almost all of the sites we saw were quite large with ample space between them. If you were looking for an area to have a camping reunion with friends or family, then the second loop (sites 82-96) would be ideal because it is small and more private. (Only downside is there isn’t a shower house–just pit toilets–in that loop, so you would have to walk or drive over to the other loop.) Sites along the lake have beautiful views–and nice breezes–but shade was rather limited. Since it was pretty hot during our stay, we actually swapped our lake-view site for a shaded spot near the playground.
The only negative thing we have to say about our stay at Lake Thompson was that while we were there it seemed to be the peak of some sort of stonefly or mayfly hatch. So when you walked in the grass the bugs would swarm you, but fortunately they did not bite. And as long as we stayed off the grass they seemed to (mostly) leave us alone.
Bathrooms: The campground had two very well-maintained shower houses. They appeared to be pretty new and were clean and well stocked. In the second loop and in various parts of the campground there were pit toilets available as well.
Amenities: Lake Thompson Recreation Area complements its well-maintained campground with a host of amenities. For those who plan to use the lake for fishing and/or boating, there is a nice boat ramp in the campground and a very nice fish cleaning station. Those who want to swim in the lake will find a groomed beach area that is in walking distance of the campground. Near the front gate, there are hiking trails that incorporate the fun Kids in Parks Program.
Touring: The main reason for our visit to Lake Thompson Recreation Area was to visit nearby De Smet, which is home to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes Guided Tours and the Ingalls Homestead. De Smet is also home to one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageants. Kristin and Sweetpea really enjoyed this stop because we got to tour the actual surveyor’s house from the book By the Shores of Silver Lake, as well as walk in the home Pa later built.
We do suggest being well stocked before arriving in the region, as the grocery stores in town were small and the restaurant options limited. The closest Wal-Mart is either an hour east or west of De Smet.
Dates of stay: July 13-15, 2015
Cost: $17 per night PLUS $7.70 nonresident fee and $6 per day state park entrance fee. So our total for two nights was $59.79.