Pactola Lake (elevation 4,580') There are quite a few lakes that people dive, but the most popular is Pactola Lake. This lake is the deepest in the Hills area and is created by a dam. Although you may hear stories of a town at the bottom, that's largely false, but the visibility is typically fairly good for lake diving. Fishing is good. Water temp is on the cold side.
Angostura Reservoir (elevation 3,127') Located close to Hot Springs, this is a lake that some divers prefer for spearfishing. The visibility can vary depending on the time of the season.
Cold Brook Reservoir (3,550') Also located close to Hot Springs, this small lake has the reputation of being slightly warmer earlier in the spring.
Things to remember diving in the Hills
Altitude Pay attention to the elevation of whatever lake you dive. Pactola Lake, for example, is at elevation of 4,580 feet, so you will be altitude diving. Remember to account for that in your dive planning/calculations. Also consider the other things you intend to do while in the Hills. For example, the very scenic Needles Highway has a maximum elevation of 6,402 feet so plan your after-dive excursions keeping altitude in mind.
Water Temperature Pactola Lake water temperatures are more tolerable later in the summer season (the lake takes a long time to warm up). We have been diving in October when the air temps were colder than the water temps. So while a hot summer day in July may hit 90 degrees, the water temp at 50' could still be in the 50s. We dive Pactola in 7mm wetsuits, semi-dry or dry suits. If you are sticking close to the surface, a 5mm wetsuit may be perfect. We hate hoods, but they tend to be necessary.
Cell Reception Cell reception is spotty at best throughout parts of the Black Hills. Be cautious and dive your skill level.
Unpredictable Weather During the summer, afternoon showers are common and roll in and out rapidly. They can be accompanied by thunderstorms which can include hail and damaging winds. Best bet is to monitor weather forecast. Thunderstorms are more frequent in the afternoons/evenings.
Nearest dive shop Black Hills Aquatic Adventures (local dive shop - we provide air fills, equipment rentals, equipment service, sales and training): 605-791-1262
Nearest recompression chamber Regional Health Rapid City Hospital - call 911 or DAN (Divers Alert Network) if a member
Local diver group If you live in the area, consider joining the Paha Sapa Area Divers facebook group. You may find a dive buddy for your local adventures.
Boat Rentals (Pactola Lake) Pactola Pines Marina has boats for rent, boat fuel, food and drinks: 605-343-4283
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