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For being a simple small village, Bentonsport, Iowa, is really quite confusing.
It’s a historical district near the “Big Bend” on the Iowa River, but all addresses are listed as Keosauqua.
Bentonsport is too small of a district to have crime data and it’s part of a city, Keosauqua, that is also too small to have crime data.
All of the Bentonsport addresses are listed as Keosauqua, but that can be confusing because Keosauqua is really seven miles away.
The good news is, if a crime is committed by a Bentsonsport resident, it won’t take long to find them.
The city only has 40 residents.
(Not a typo.)
Keosauqua has less than 1,000 people.
To get crime information we have to go to the full county of Van Buren, which has 7,000 residents.
Bentonsport wasn’t always this small.
As a city on the river, the port brought nearly 1,000 people to live here.
Over time, the population dwindled, but not the history or tourist attractions of this incredibly small town.
There are almost as many sights to see as there are people to meet.
Visiting here is like going back to another era.
Aside from clear, running water indoors and electricity, not much has changed since the 1800s.
Even Google Maps drivers didn’t get street views here, but if you aren’t looking for Bentonsport, you can literally blink and miss it.
You won’t rack up any hotel points, because the places to stay are all elegant bed and breakfast inns or cottages.
This walkable city still offers a pedestrian bridge to cross the Iowa River, but there’s not much on the other side of it.
Warnings & Dangers in Bentonsport
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk in Bentsonsport. I can't stress how small this town is and even the entire county it resides in has low crime levels.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Ummmm, there are only nine streets in Bentonsport, so you'll be doing a lot of walking or bicycling. It would even be silly to park from place to place since everything is so close. There are no taxis or rideshares here and no bus system. You'll need a car to get here and Bentonsport is a little more than two hours southeast of Des Moines.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk. The entire county only had 14 thefts in 2021. You should still only carry what you need with you, just in case.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
There's the risk of river flooding. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can happen throughout the spring and summer. Winter can bring snow and ice storms. You should study emergency management protocol because there are not a lot of people to help you in case of a weather emergency while you're here.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There wasn't a robbery in the entire county in 2021, so there's pretty much no risk of it happening to you, but crime trends can change.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
It took me 15 minutes to find this place on a map, so I doubt any terror group would be able to do so. There's literally no risk of a terror attack here.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
All of the attractions are listed on one website, so you're pretty safe not to get scammed when booking a room or paying for admission to a historic site. There's a low risk all around.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women shouldn't worry about anything here, other than mosquitos in the summer and cold weather in the winter. No sexual assaults were reported in the whole county in 2021.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
It took me another 15 minutes to find the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report, but I dug through several sites to find it. There were no violations as reported by the Keosauqua Water Works report. If you want to read it, then go to the Facebook page for the City of Keosauqua and go to the April 22, 2022 date to read it.
Safest Places to Visit in Bentonsport
At the first blush of writing this article, I had no idea how I was going to make the expected word count.
Then I dug deeper and looked closer.
Van Buren County is filled with small towns like Bentonsport, known as “The Village of Van Buren.”
- Iowaville & Selma
- Mt. Sterling
They are all detailed on the VillagesOfVanBurenCounty.com website, so you don’t have to click around to find the information.
In Bentonsport, you have an entire National Historic District to explore.
You’ll sleep, eat, and shop in that same district.
The unique shopping is nothing compared to the live crafts and arts you’ll see being made as you wander.
A walk across the pedestrian bridge is a walk on a century-old piece of history.
(Don’t worry, it’s stable and safe.)
There are 27 buildings to see, including several of the churches, along with two cemeteries, two nature trails, one dam, and one walking bridge.
Everything is coming up roses in the Bentonsport Rose Garden.
Stone archways and walls greet you for a private moment among the flowers and water.
There’s a butterfly garden right next door.
This area has flooded twice in the past 30 years and was rebuilt both times.
The Bentonsport Nature Trail is a bit of a climb and descent, but the bulk of the path is flat and walkable.
The trail is 2.5 miles long and it’s a great place for a morning run or a lazy afternoon hike.
If you take the Bill Richards Nature Trail, you’ll be rewarded with a waterfall at the end of it.
Visiting a lock and dam might not sound too exciting, but it’s the history of this one that makes it special.
Back in the heyday of Bentsonsport, steamboats navigated through the bend in the river.
Once the river traffic was shut down, a dam was installed and the river became a recreational opportunity instead of just transportation.
The Indian Artifacts Museum is another great spot to visit where you can see hand-crafted pieces of history from when Native Americans roamed this land.
In the spirit of “Tell me you’re a small town without telling me you’re a small town,” the Indian Artifacts Museum states “The museum is open by chance or by appointment.”
Places to Avoid in Bentonsport
I don’t think you physically can avoid any spot in Bentonsport.
It’s just so small!
I guess if you went into the wilderness without telling us where you were going you might never be seen again, so there’s a warning to always let someone know when you plan to go hiking or swimming.
You should feel free to explore this unique area.
In fact, unique isn’t even a strong enough word for it.
It’s just – priceless.
Definitely bring a camera to take plenty of pictures and if you don’t get mobile service here, then set your phone on airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain.
Bring water with you because summers can get muggy and you’ll sweat a lot.
Before you plan a visit, you should review the website to see what is open throughout the year and what’s open seasonally.
While this is a great town to walk around any time of year, and I bet Christmas is second-to-none, some facilities don’t stay open all year long.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Bentonsport
- The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office has a tipline where you can text information should you have non-urgent information about a crime. That number is (319)931-3973. This is ONLY a text line and it’s monitored around the clock.
- Pay attention when driving here, as ATVs are allowed on some of the roads. ATVs can travel on gravel roads and cross over paved roads. They can only drive on paved roads if they do so to get to another gravel road. Violating the ordinance comes with a $65 fine, but an accident involving a car and an ATV is going to cost a lot more.
- You’ll definitely need to follow 511ia.org to get road information for this region. There aren’t four-lane roads in this immediate area, so you’ve got all two-lane roads for several miles until you hit a four-lane highway. Especially in winter conditions, take your time. The roads can get icy, and there’s not a lot of room for error on country roads. Even without highway cameras, the 511ia website will update about any closures or construction happening.
- The nearest gas station to Bentsonsport is seven miles in either direction, so don’t roll into town on empty. You’ll need to go to either Keosauqua or Bonaparte to get gas.
- The closest cities with traditional grocery stores and national brands are Ottumwa, about an hour away, or Fort Madison, about 45 minutes away. If you need groceries, you should stop at one of those before heading to Bentonsport. There are restaurants in Bentonsport, but all are locally owned with incredible food.
- If you have safety questions about Van Buren County being so remote, you can reach out to the Van Buren Sheriff’s Office via a web form on their website. The non-emergency line is (319)293-3426.
- Download the Smart911 app to sign up for emergency notifications in Van Buren County. This is a great tool for any traveler because another feature of it allows you to enter emergency contact information and your medical history in case you ever need to call 911. This applies to any city in the world that uses Smart911, not just Van Buren County.
- To get a fishing license, you’ll need to go through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website. Don’t wait until you get to Bentonsport. Fill out the form and pay for the license online. It’s required for all anglers to have a fishing license.
- There is camping in Bentonsport and throughout Van Buren County, but you are asked to make a reservation at least five days in advance. Bentonsport has 23 campground sites and they are all on the south side of town. Each site is an approximately 44×10 gravel pad and includes a fire pit with a picnic table. Water from a hydrant is available on site. There are 20, 30 & 50 amps of electricity available.
- The Village of Van Buren County Facebook page is a great resource to see the events happening closer to your time of visit. It’s also a way to ask all the tourist questions you want so the locals can give you real answers.
So... How Safe Is Bentonsport Really?
All of Van Buren County had just 73 crimes total in 2021.
The highest crime category was “simple assault” with 20 cases, and theft came in second at 14 cases.
There wasn’t a single violent crime reported in the entire year.
In 2020, there was just one violent crime.
Again, that county has 7,000 people.
We still strongly recommend never letting your guard down and you should still lock doors and roll-up windows when parking.
Keep your valuables hidden in your hotel room.
You’ll meet amazing people here from a different lifestyle than yours, but don’t share too much personal information in the name of safety.
How Does Bentonsport Compare?
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You should plan for four months of processing to get your visa if you are coming from outside the United States. That way you'll meet all the deadlines. You won't need to show your visa as you travel through the villages. You can store it away until you depart Iowa.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. In case there are some cash-only stores, bring cash with you and exchange currency at the airport. Be sure to hide your cash well and don't carry it all in one place.
Plan for thick winter clothing because it does get cold here. If you check the forecast before you go, you'll know if you need snow attire or not. This isn't a place where there is always snow on the ground in winter. Bring casual clothing for summer that can handle a lot of sweat, because it's muggy here. You'll need a lot of bug spray because Iowa mosquitos and ticks are a problem.
Des Moines International Airport is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Bentonsport, longer if there's any snow or ice on the ground. St. Louis Lambert Airport is about three and a half hours south.
For all the beauty of a small town, the resources are slim when something goes wrong. Travel insurance can help you with flat tires and canceled flights.
Bentonsport Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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