Kansas : Safety by City
- Cottonwood Falls
- Council Grove
- Dodge City
- Fort Scott
- Garden City
- Great Bend
- Junction City
- La Crosse
- Overland Park
- Prairie Village
I love a good “How did that city get that name?” story, and Council Grove, Kansas, has a pretty good one.
When the pioneers and Native Americans needed to form a council to set terms of passage for western-bound settlers, they did so under a grove of trees.
Hence, Council Grove.
This city of 2,100 people could easily look like all the other small Kansas towns were it not for the beautiful Council Grove Lake to the north providing endless outdoor recreation activities.
Unique spots in town before you even purchase a ticket.
Walking on Main Street is actually walking the exact path of the Santa Fe Trail.
There’s another tree outside of that famous grove that brings tourists from far and wide.
The Post Office Oak was used as a mailbox before there was a postal office here.
Travelers left notes for each other with tips, tricks, and hazards along the way.
That is just one of many historical attractions to see here.
For all the attention the male adventurer got back in the pioneer days, Council Grove makes sure to honor the women of the pioneer families who cared for the children and cooked large meals for the groups of wagoneers.
Warnings & Dangers in Council Grove
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk here with plenty of crime categories with no incidents in 2020, and the crimes that did happen were largely among people who know each other.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There is an on-demand service that is only available to Morris County residents. You'll need your own car here as taxis and rideshares will be very hard to come by. There's a low risk as long as you obey the rules of the road and pay attention while driving. There is a Trail Trolley available for rent, but you'd need to contact the Chamber of Commerce to get more information about possible tours or routes.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here, with no pickpockets or purse snatching reported in several years. Vehicle break-ins are the only theft category a traveler should worry about, but following basic vehicle safety, like locking doors and rolling up windows with no valuables inside, should provide all the deterrents you need.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You get the full brunt of Kansas weather potential here. Winters can bring ice storms, sleet, and blinding blizzards. Spring kicks off tornado season, and that risk runs through fall. Severe thunderstorms can bring torrential rain, intense lightning, and extreme winds. There's a medium risk because the storms here can be some of the worst in the nation.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
This is a low risk here since there has been just one robbery in Council Grove since 2010, which was in 2019.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here too. This is a small town without any kind of target that a terror group could find appealing. This isn't even on a major highway in the state.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There was a recent scam where scammers called local businesses trying to update information for the Chamber of Commerce, but that's the extent of the risk here. Tourists face a low risk of being scammed.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel safe visiting here with low risk. Of course, don't let your guard down and always stay aware of your surroundings. There have been about one sexual assault per year dating back to 2016.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report states, "The bottom line is that the water that is provided to you is safe," but there have been three violations in the Water Quality Reports since 2020. All violations have been three-month periods where monitoring for a certain chemical wasn't completed or reported. This isn't an egregious violation, more of an oversight, so there's still a low risk. If you have any hesitancy at all, feel free to drink bottled water and just use tap water for bathing.
Safest Places to Visit in Council Grove
Council Grove has 25 historical sites to visit, and while I can’t list them all here, I want to highlight a few of them.
Many of the sites represent the history of the Santa Fe Trail that ran right through Council Grove.
The majority of them are right on Main Street, which is also Highway 56.
- The Kaw Mission Historic Site is also a museum where you can learn about the history of the pioneers and Native Americans that walked this land.
- Madonna of the Trail is a sculpture that shows a pioneer woman with her two children. Identical statutes are located in a dozen cities along the National Old Trails Road.
- The Last Chance Store once lived up to this name long before there were convenience stores in small Kansas towns. This was the last supply stop on the Sante Fe Trail.
- The Bradford House is now a bed & breakfast inn, but you’re welcome to visit this iconic location, which is the oldest house on the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas.
- The Post Office Oak and Museum is where travelers once left messages at the base of an oak tree. The museum next door is full of travel adventures from the early days of Kansas.
- Hays House Restaurants is the oldest restaurant west of the Mississippi and has been going strong since 1857.
On that last note, there are several historic buildings here that still have working cafes or restaurants, so Hays House isn’t the only one.
I’d recommend you try out the local fare and avoid the fast food or chain restaurants to enjoy the historical ambiance of meals.
Council Grove Lake is anywhere from two to 14 miles away, depending on which part of the lake you want to visit.
The lake forms the shape of a V, so you must drive around either side to get to the center.
There are a lot of water activities here with watercraft rentals.
Fishing is excellent in these waters, and campsites are available by reservation.
While there are several stops along the way, don’t miss Kanza View, as it gives breathtaking panoramic views from atop a bluff.
Council Grove starts the path along the Flint Hills Scenic Byway.
(Kansas has a love affair with its byways, so if you’re driving across the state, look for all the options at travelks.com.)
The Flint Hills include a rolling landscape with tallgrass prairie, a very rare landscape in America.
A stroll on the Neosha Riverwalk will take you to some of the attractions we listed above, and you can enjoy great views of the Neosha River.
There’s also a pedestrian bridge where you can walk over the river.
Places to Avoid in Council Grove
Council Grove is a safe city.
There aren’t places to avoid bad neighborhoods.
In fact, if you’re just here for a day or two, you might actually have a hard time exploring all that there is to see.
One note – don’t mistake Council Grove City Lake for Council Grove Lake.
The city lake is much smaller and is lined by homes, either for residents or seasonal visitors.
You will have much more to see and do at the bigger lake unless you stay lakeside at the city lake.
I wouldn’t bank on getting a ride on the Trail Trolley unless you get some clarification from the Chamber of Commerce.
It’s listed as an attraction for rent or for tours, but it’s very unclear if those are tours you schedule yourself or pre-planned routes.
You can rent the trolley for $75 to $100 an hour and pay $25 for a tour guide, but during the holiday season, it appears there are trolley rides to see the Christmas lights for $12.50 a person.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Council Grove
- The Council Grove Police Department website has very little information on it for tourists. There is just a list of the names of people who work for the department. You can call (620)767-5200 to ask any questions you’d like. There is also a Facebook page for the police department that is much more robust and a great page to follow for more information.
- The city has a Facebook page with the handle @CityofCouncilGrove. This is a great way to learn about everything from hyper-local events to planned road construction.
- Don’t get startled if you hear gunfire and aren’t sure what is happening. Sometimes there are mock gunfights in cadence with Santa Fe Trail historic dates. This is another great reason to follow the city on social media, so you’ll get a heads up about things like that.
- In March of 2022, there was a rash of car break-ins or burglaries in Council Grove and nearby cities. Nearly 45% of all thefts in Council Grove are related to car break-ins. Lock up your car, keep the windows rolled up, and remove all personal belongings. If you think thieves don’t care about the “small stuff” in cars, how about this – in 2020, the average theft from a car was valued at $32. Leave your car as empty as if it just came off the assembly line.
- You don’t have a lot of “wiggle room” on the roads in this part of Kansas. Most of the highways, even the “big” ones, are two-lane roads. That means extra caution is needed, especially during rain, snow, or ice. If you’ve never driven on an icy road, let me tell you, it’s darn near impossible to keep control.
- You’ll need a fishing license if you want to drop a line in Council Grove Lake. You can purchase one online at the Kansas Department of Wildlife. You’ll need a non-resident license, and your home license will not work here.
- Hunting is allowed around Council Grove Lake, but you’ll need a license for that as well, in addition to a security certificate. If you want to do both activities, you can get a dual fishing and hunting license for a discount compared to buying them separately.
- Campers should research their selected site before they go. While there is ample camping in this region, all the amenities aren’t the same. Some have power and water, while others are more for boondockers than traditional campers.
- The City of Council Grove issues a monthly newsletter, and it would be wise to sign up for it before your trip. You’ll get a lot of specific information about things happening at that time instead of having to do extensive research on several different websites.
- Kantravel.org is the website to keep an eye on the road conditions in Kansas. The map is interactive, so you can search where you are going without seeing the whole state. There are real-time updates on traffic accidents, road closures, weather conditions, and construction projects.
So... How Safe Is Council Grove Really?
When you think of safe small towns with picturesque scenes and people happily strolling down the street, you think of Council Grove.
There were no homicides, sexual assaults, or robberies in 2020.
The violent crime rate is more than half the national average.
29 thefts were reported, and as we discussed earlier, almost half of those were car burglaries.
The city hasn’t had more than 34 thefts in a year since at least 2010.
There haven’t been more than eight violent crimes in a year dating back just as far.
Not a single homicide has occurred in a decade.
I wish I could tell you that every small Kansas town was this safe, but that would be a lie.
It’s important to research all the cities you’ll be visiting to ensure you have the best safety tips to enjoy your time in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
How Does Council Grove Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. travel or work visa to visit Council Grove. This process can take several months and will cost $160 to $190. You only need a visa to show at the airport, not as you travel around the state.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency that will be accepted here. You can use a credit card for most purchases, but bringing a little bit of cash is smart in case you come across a cash-only business.
- Weather - You should pack layers of clothing because the weather can be temperamental for much of the year. You'll need winter outerwear in winter, but there might be a mild day in there where you can get away with just a sweatshirt. Summers will be hot and incredibly humid. Bring bug spray and sunscreen. You will need comfortable walking shoes since there's a lot to see here and it's a very walkable city.
- Airports - You have airport options in all directions, but you'll be on the road anywhere from an hour to two hours to get there. The city options are Kansas City (2 hours), Wichita (90 minutes), Topeka (1 hour), and Salina (90 minutes).
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a good idea since the weather can really disrupt travel patterns here suddenly, in the sky, and on the road.
Council Grove Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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