Kansas : Safety by City
- Cottonwood Falls
- Council Grove
- Dodge City
- Fort Scott
- Garden City
- Great Bend
- Junction City
- La Crosse
- Overland Park
- Prairie Village
It’s ironic that Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, is in a place called Chase County because there’s nothing to chase here.
This is a slower way of life where you can take time to stop and breathe the fresh air and scenic vistas.
Even the sounds here will soothe your soul.
Cottonwood Falls is a city that might be missed if not for its close proximity to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
This unique region grows native grasses up to your waist and fattens up some of the most prized cattle in the country.
The annual prairie burning is a tourist attraction in its own right when the land is intentionally set on fire to bring fresh growth and weed out invasive species.
You won’t find any of the national-named hotels here.
There are bed & breakfasts, historic inns, cabins, and campgrounds for rent, promising a unique experience and peaceful night’s sleep for those who stay overnight.
You can get a hotel in Emporia, where there are more national chains.
That’s about 30 minutes away.
Emporia is just north of a plane crash site you might never have heard of unless you are a Notre Dame fan.
In 1931, a plane carrying nine people went down in the plains with legendary Fighting Irish coach Knute Rockne on board.
There’s a memorial in the field to remember the victims.
You can also attend a symphony on the plains here if you time your trip correctly, with an outdoor amphitheater with nothing but swaying tallgrass as far as the eye can see.
Warnings & Dangers in Cottonwood Falls
OVERALL RISK: LOW
The law enforcement here is provided by Chase County Sheriff's Office. There isn't a local police force. The SO doesn't provide crime data either and hasn't since 2017. Looking back on a 10-year trend from 2007 through 2017, crime has historically been low here and a search for news articles mentioning Cottonwood Falls was scarce. There is a detention facility here funded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that detains people in the country illegally. There's a low risk, but I want to be transparent about the path to that decision.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You'll need a car here. Calling a taxi or rideshare might take a while and there's not a public transportation system. There are miles of empty roadway between cities, so having your own car is necessary.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk, but it doesn't mean you should throw caution to the wind. If you're camping or using an RV, be sure to avoid leaving valuable belongings lying around when you aren't at the site.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
There's a little bit of everything here. In addition to the run-of-the-mill Kansas thunderstorms, snowstorms, ice storms, wind storms, and tornadoes, you'll face air quality concerns during the burning season. Because of all this, there's medium risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here. I've searched for a solid 30 minutes trying to find ANY crime in Cottonwood Falls in the past year, and nothing is coming up. Even in Chase County, crime is low.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
Another low risk here with the ICE facility being the only possible target. There are fewer than 150 inmates there - at most - so it's not even a big potential target.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The only possible scam I'd warn you about is to make sure when you rent a room you do it through the website of the inn or campsite and not through a third-party site like Craigslist. Never wire money to secure a room and if you suspect something is odd, you can ask to see proof of a rental license. Overall, there's a low risk you'll face a scammer here.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should feel safe visiting here with low risk, provided they follow the same safety precautions, such as not walking around at night alone.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The water here is safe to drink and the 2022 Water Quality Report showed no violations and all water testing met or exceeded the requirements. The water is tested twice a month to make sure the same standards are kept throughout the year.
Safest Places to Visit in Cottonwood Falls
The Chase County Courthouse is the oldest Kansas courthouse still in use and it’s a majestic sight from the outside.
There’s an elegant winding staircase inside, and you’re welcome to come in for a visit.
In front of the courthouse is Broadway Street, the main road through downtown Cottonwood Falls.
The charm of the courthouse carries into the street that is still paved with bricks and leads you through an array of antique stores, boutiques, and cafes.
If you’re visiting on a Friday, check out the Emma Chase Friday Night Music on Broadway.
This brings the whole town out for live music, food, and fun.
Two museums are in Cottonwood Falls.
The Roniger Memorial Museum and Chase County Historical Society Museum have artifacts from Native American, local history, and Ice Age fossils pulled from the earth.
One of the amazing parts of visiting this region is that many of the views are the same as they were hundreds of years ago and you learn the history of the Tallgrass Prairie and Flint Hills while visiting these museums.
The Flint Hills Scenic Byway goes right through Cottonwood Falls.
This nearly 50-mile road shows you the majesty of the rare Flint Hills.
The name comes from the sedentary rocks that mix with the dirt and grass and form uniquely rugged hills as far as you can see.
Settlers learned the ground was too rocky for traditional farming, so that’s when the cattle ranchers came in and used the grass to feed the animals.
You’ll need to check the schedule for the Symphony in the Flint Hills to see if any events are happening during your visit.
The venue is definitely one of a kind.
Last, but not least, there’s the Tallgrass Praire National Preserve just five miles north.
The preserve is free, which is a nice way to save some money too!
The preserve is open throughout the year, 24 hours a day – but you CAN NOT camp here.
Check the website for the preserve before you go to see if any controlled burns or cattle issues are causing certain trails to be closed or have limited access.
Places to Avoid in Cottonwood Falls
There aren’t any bad parts of town or dangerous neighborhoods here.
Quite frankly, the city of fewer than 1,000 people isn’t big enough to have a bad neighborhood even if it wanted to.
Staying on the main streets and highways is preferred to driving down neighborhood roads, just for your safety.
Avoid going to private property.
In this part of Kansas, everything can look like wide open public land, but there are property lines usually designated by a barbed wire fence.
You might end up face to face with an angry longhorn if you go to a property where you should not be.
If you have allergies or are sensitive to smoke from fires, you might want to avoid visiting here in the spring.
While the burners try to gauge wind speeds and keep the air quality from being impacted, the smoke smell will still last for miles.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Cottonwood Falls
- If you log onto the Chase County Emergency Management website, you can sign up for emergency notifications. You’ll get information about severe weather before, during, and after a storm. There is water quality information and burn details sent out as well.
- Many buildings here are made of limestone and here’s a fun fact I didn’t even know – it’s hard to get a mobile signal through limestone walls. For example, if you’re inside the courthouse, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to make a call or do an Instagram live while you’re there.
- Kantravel.org is the Department of Transportation’s website for roads across Kansas. This is a great resource to see construction projects, road closures, and weather impacts on roadways. During the winter, you can see a camera from the front of the snow plows.
- If you want to fish while you’re here, you’ll need a license from the Kansas Department of Transportation. You can review and purchase that online, as well as learn about the best fishing holes in the Flint Hills.
- When picking up your rental car, ask if you can get an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle. It will help, especially if you are visiting in the winter. There are also some gravel and dirt roads around this area that a rear-wheel drive vehicle might have trouble navigating.
- There are plenty of spots to pull off the road along the byways of Kansas. Don’t just pull over to the side of any road. Semi-trucks can come speeding through here and the gust could knock you off your feet. It’s just not safe to stop on the side of the road unless it’s an emergency.
- When visiting any park or preserve in Kansas, don’t take anything. The “Leave No Trace” signs aren’t just suggestions. You can face a fine for pulling out wildflowers, grass, or trying to take a fossil or rock. Take all your trash with you when you leave.
- Never haze the animals you come across. Bison and cattle won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. Bison can run up to 35 miles per hour. A good rule of thumb is if a bison sees you – you are too close. You can also tell a bison’s mood by the angle of its tail. Anything but a relaxed tail is a warning sign and, if the tail is pointed up, that one is ready to charge. Never run with your back to a charging bison.
- There are rattlesnakes in the region and they can be found as much in the wilderness as they can, looking for a cool spot indoors. If you see a snake, take a picture of it from a safe distance so you can report it to the proper officials. You are most likely to see snakes from April through October.
- The Chase County Chamber of Commerce is a great resource to find safe and fun activities. The website lists all the events happening throughout the county, but many of them are in Cottonwood Falls because it’s the county seat. Some other travel websites have very outdated information and the Chamber website will always be updated with verified events.
So... How Safe Is Cottonwood Falls Really?
I really wish I could elaborate on the crime statistics, but since the Chase County Sheriff doesn’t provide them, I can’t.
From 2015 through 2017, there were only three violent crimes reported in the county.
The year with the most violent crimes was 2012 and there were seven violent crimes, and six of those were in jail.
Going back as far as 2004, there weren’t more than seven thefts reported in a year.
Even with those small numbers, almost half of them were car break-ins.
I just don’t think there’s a city in America with a low number of car break-ins.
It’s important in places this remote to always lock your car, keep aware of your surroundings, and stay up-to-date on the weather.
You don’t want to get lax on personal security or safety because the city is so safe.
Before you visit the nearby cities like Emporia, you should read our reviews because there are some really dangerous cities in the state.
Just because a city is close doesn’t mean it’s just as safe.
How Does Cottonwood Falls Compare?
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A U.S. Travel Visa is going to cost around $160.If you're coming for business or for a religious reason, it will be closer to $190. You will fill out a form, attend an interview, and give over personal information like social media sites from the past five years. Once you are in the U.S. and outside of the airport, you can travel freely throughout Kansas without needing your Visa.
The U.S. Dollar is the currency of the country and the only type accepted. Stop in a larger city if you need to do currency exchange, or do it before you leave the airport.
You'll get a beautiful mix of all four seasons here, sometimes all in one day! The weather in the Midwest can be variable, so most of the year you'll need comfortable clothes with layers or t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, and jeans. Winter does get very cold with a nasty wind chill, so bring a coat and winter weather accessories. You'll definitely need good walking shoes or hiking boots here. Bring shoes that you've already broken in before your trip. Wearing brand new hiking boots is going to cause a lot of blisters.
You have several choices here, with Kansas City International Airport being the biggest airport and two hours east. Topeka's airport is a little over an hour east (but honestly, if you're going to drive that far - go all the way to KC.) Wichita is 90 minutes west.
Travel insurance is a great idea for a trip to Cottonwood Falls. Make sure you know what insurance you have for weather delays in the air and on the road, and what kind of insurance covers incidentals on the road - like a flat tire. For a laugh, ask your travel agency if there's protection against wild buffalo.
Cottonwood Falls Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Kansas - Safety by City