Is Deadwood Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On April 16, 2024
Deadwood, United States
Safety Index:
80
* Based on Research & Crime Data

The name Deadwood might not sound appealing, but this is one of South Dakota’s premier tourist towns.

It might ease your mind to know the name came from the number of dead trees in the gulch when pioneers arrived, but yet there’s no clear reason why the trees were dead.

I suppose when they found all the gold in the creek, they stopped caring about the trees.

Once a notorious gold rush town in the 1870s, it attracted gunslingers like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Lawlessness reigned, with saloons, gambling halls, and brothels lining the dusty streets.

It’s also where Wild Bill was killed, holding what is now known as the Deadman’s Hand (aces and eights).

Many original buildings, painstakingly preserved, house museums, theaters featuring reenactments of shootouts, and even the very saloon where Hickok met his demise.

Visitors can pan for gold, explore historic sites, and experience the Wild West come alive.

You’ll also be surrounded by the beauty of the Black Hills, with places like Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park nearby.

Deadwood also has a surprising number of casinos, which were permitted after a series of voter initiatives in 1989 and have expanded ever since.

The gambling age is 21.

While formerly one of the most dangerous and violent Old West towns in the United States, the transformation into a tourist attraction with dozens of things to see and do in a town of 1,200 people is astonishing!

Warnings & Dangers in Deadwood

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

Once a lawless town, there's now a low risk in this modern Old West iteration. Plus, there are so many family-friendly things to do.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Deadwood has a trolley that takes guests around the area. It's the preferred way to get around. Three taxi companies are located here, but rideshares are not allowed unless the ride originates from Rapid City. A rental car is the best option to explore as much as possible, but use that trolley service in town.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

A surprisingly low risk, with just one pickpocket reported in the past five years. Keep in mind that this place sees 2.5 million visitors a year - so just one pickpocket is mindblowing.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW

One thing that hasn't changed in Deadwood is the weather risk throughout the year. Wicked winds, severe storms, tornadoes, winter storms, blizzards, ice storms, and flooding are all possible. You need to stay informed about the weather and check road conditions before you head anywhere.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

200 years ago, the robbery risk was high. Today, not so much. As a small town with one long street full of tourist attractions, there's really no risk of being mugged, but don't let your guard down and stay out of those alleys at night.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low risk, especially since it's a small town near thousands of acres of wilderness. You can also report suspicious activity to the local police because no city is immune to domestic terrorism or mass shootings.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Some might say that Deadwood as a whole is a tourist trap and a scam within itself. However, most common scams in recent years focused on residents. I would review the Chamber of Commerce and police department websites and social media pages to get a look at the most recent scams. The risk is low if you know the common signs of a scam.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Women don't have anything additional to worry about beyond basic personal safety steps they'd use anywhere. It's a family-friendly town, but review each attraction to see if it's suitable for kids. You will have mock shootouts in the street, so talk to your kids about that before you arrive.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The City of Deadwood has more than two decades of safe drinking water verified. It also got the award for the Secretary’s Award for Drinking Water Excellence from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Safest Places to Visit in Deadwood

The tourism website of Deadwood.com is simple enough, but you can also look at cityofdeadwood.com for more practical information.

For a site about the greater region, use blackhillsbadlands.com.

Deadwood has great access to major tourist attractions in the outdoors, like Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Black Hills National Forest, all about an hour away.

To save money, get an America the Beautiful interagency pass for $80.

This will cover all National Park Service, National Forest, and Bureau of Land Management locations for a car full of people.

Several tours are offered in Deadwood to give a more immersive experience, with period actors and experts explaining the history or archeology of the area.

Visit Deadwoodalive.com for a list of action performances, like shootouts and stagecoach rides.

Some of the most popular tours are the guided walking tours with a “lawman,” the candlelight tour at Broken Boot Gold Mine, and a look at more than 400,000 artifacts at city hall.

Speaking of archeology, when the city was building a parking garage, the Old Chinatown District was partially unearthed.

As more is discovered, you’ll be able to visit this former site and see some of the history that was hidden for decades.

You can also embark on a ghost tour to learn about Deadwood’s supernatural side.

Hear tales of ghostly encounters and haunted locations as you wander the dimly lit streets of downtown Deadwood.

Downtown is a treasure trove of things to do beyond the supernatural, set among a historic and authentic Old West main street lined with authentic 19th-century buildings.

One of those is the Deadwood Brothel, now a museum with guided tours.

The working brothel was active from 1876 through the 1970s.

However, this tour is NOT recommended for anyone under 16 years of age.

You have so much more to consider surrounding the history of Deadwood, and I suggest visiting deadwoodhistory.com to find the attractions and museums that suit your interests.

In addition to the brothel, two largely popular sites are the Adams Museum and the Days of ’76 Museum.

Step into Saloon No. 10, famously known as the place where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed while playing poker.

It’s a must-visit for history buffs and those intrigued by tales of the Wild West.

Witness the reenactment of the Trial of Jack McCall, the man who shot Wild Bill Hickok, at the Historic Adams House.

This interactive performance provides insight into the events that shaped Deadwood’s history.

Take a walk through Mount Moriah Cemetery, where Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and other legendary figures from Deadwood’s past are buried.

The cemetery offers picturesque views of the town and surrounding Black Hills.

Places to Avoid in Deadwood

Deadwood is a major tourist town, so there aren’t dangerous neighborhoods or places to avoid.

I will tell you that the highway in and out of Deadwood has a lot of hills, which doesn’t bode well if there’s snow or ice on the ground.

You’ll just need to use extra caution and get an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle if you can.

Late August is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which brings thousands of people through this area.

If you aren’t visiting for the rally, I would recommend avoiding this area during that time.

Speed limits are lowered, traffic backs up, hotel rooms sell out at inflated prices, and there’s a lot of noise.

If you are here looking for information about Sturgis, my best advice is to book as far in advance as possible.

Finally, avoid looking for anything related to the Deadwood series on HBO.

That series was filmed in California.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Deadwood

  1. Deadwood is a small town, but it does have its own police department. Follow them on Facebook @DeadwoodPoliceDepartment to get updates during your trip. You can also email (police@cityofdeadwood.com) or call (605) 578-2623 if you have specific safety questions.
  2. Outside the city limits, you’ll be in the law enforcement territory of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office. Since that’s a common name in counties across America, the phone number there is 605-578-2230.
  3. Deadwood uses the CodeRED system to send out emergency alerts. This free service alerts users to severe weather, winter storms, major accidents, road closures, and public safety threats. It’s a must-have tool for the safest trip possible.
  4. Use the Park Smarter app to search for and pay for parking in Deadwood. The lots and street parking will have kiosks you can use with cash or a credit card, but paying from the safety of your car with a mobile device is a better plan.
  5. Mountain lions are found in this area, and they have been spotted in the city. I’ve seen at least three mountain lions in my lifetime, and each time, they couldn’t get away from me fast enough. However, if you do face an angry mountain lion, stare it down while making yourself as “big” as possible (arms up, stand on toes, etc.)
  6. The Deadwood Trolley has an interactive map where you can check the location of your trolley or see where the closest stop is to hop on.
  7. When snow is falling, you’ll need to move your car away from street parking or risk being ticketed and towed. The CodeRED system will alert you to this snow parking ban. You can also follow the city’s Facebook page at @officialcityofdeadwood.
  8. Fishing and hunting require a license from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. Check the specific requirements for each activity, as hunting will have stronger requirements than fishing. Keep that license with you at all times while hunting or fishing.
  9. Regardless of where you are from, if the city or county issues a “no travel advisory,” please don’t travel. The winds and/or snow can make even staying on the road dangerous. Nobody drives well enough to manage on an inch of ice. Also, when you take a risk like that, you’re also putting Search & Rescue officers at risk when coming to save you.
  10. Use SD 511 to get information about road conditions across the region. Live cameras, real-time traffic, weather conditions, and detour information are all provided on the website or app.

So... How Safe Is Deadwood Really?

Any crime data provided needs to come with the context that 2.5 million people visit each year.

Crime rates are determined based on the raw number of crimes figured through basic math to be “per 100,000 residents.”

That makes it hard to get an accurate picture of crime rates, but it also affirms that Deadwood is a safe place to visit.

Otherwise, those millions of visitors would go somewhere else.

Here’s a good example – Deadwood’s crime rate jumped 80% in the past decade, with a 1000% jump between 2020 and 2022.

That’s more than 100% higher than the national and state averages.

Sounds pretty unsafe, right?

Well, since Deadwood only has 1,245 residents, the crime rate doesn’t tell the full story of the 2.5 million people who visit.

The most important aspect comes with the raw data.

In 2022, the city had 10 violent crimes.

Three of those were against strangers, and the rest were known to their assailant.

Before the spike in 2022, the city hadn’t had more than six violent crimes in a year throughout the past decade.

Even with a high crime rate, having less than one violent crime a month in a place that sees millions of visitors is not a concerning statistic.

Theft rates have a similar fate.

The larceny numbers show a rate per 100,000 that is 117% higher than the national average, yet just three thefts happen (on average) each month.

Just five of the 69 thefts in the past five years were car break-ins.

Most thefts are in the “Other” category or from a building, none of which would impact a tourist.

It is worth noting that since 2016, the theft rate has increased by 533%, going from six thefts in 2016 to 38 in 2022.

There’s also no indication if the crimes committed were mostly local or committed by people traveling through, which could change the risk at any given moment.

While that’s an over-explanation of the simple answer, it helps to know the context instead of reading elsewhere that it is as dangerous of a town as you see on HBO’s Deadwood.

Given that so many people visit here, use standard security steps as you would in any tourist town.

Check the weather and drive safely.

How Does Deadwood Compare?

CitySafety Index
Deadwood80
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International guests need a visa or visa waiver, and you can check your eligibility for the waiver on the U.S. State Department website. Please ensure your passport doesn't expire within six months of your trip or else you'll need a renewal.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the currency of the land. Try to use credit cards as much as possible, especially considering how large the crowds can be here. Credit cards offer better fraud and identity theft protection. If you need cash, take care of that at home to get the lowest rates.

Weather

Weather

You get four seasons here, but winter will be colder, longer, and darker than you might expect. Spring and fall bring highly fluctuating temperatures. Summers will be hot, dry, and windy.

Airports

Airports

The closest commercial airport to Deadwood is Rapid City (RAP) Airport, about 41 miles away. It's the best option, considering the rural nature of South Dakota.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance gives peace of mind for any delays, cancellations, emergencies, or health issues. Be sure you have roadside assistance on a rental car.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Deadwood Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -5° C
Feb -3° C
Mar 1° C
Apr 6° C
May 11° C
Jun 17° C
Jul 20° C
Aug 19° C
Sep 14° C
Oct 8° C
Nov 1° C
Dec -4° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
2471318242827221473
Low
°C
-11-9-6-149121161-6-10
High
°F
363945556475828172574537
Low
°F
121621303948545243342114

South Dakota - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Brookings80
Deadwood80
Hill City83
Mitchell81
North Sioux City70
Pierre81
Rapid City57
Sioux Falls76
Spearfish80
Sturgis80

Where to Next?

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