North Dakota : Safety by City
- Devils Lake
- Fort Ransom
- Grand Forks
- Valley City
- West Fargo
Garrison, North Dakota, a picturesque town near Lake Sakakawea, is known for two things – a small town with a big fish and a love of Christmas.
It’s quite a contrast to the history steeped in the Wild West.
This quaint town was once a pivotal stop along the Lewis and Clark Expedition route and then became a stop on the railroad.
It was the creation of the Garrison Dam that created Lake Sakakawea that encouraged travelers to stop instead of just pass through.
The pristine waters of Lake Sakakawea provide ample opportunities for water-based activities like fishing, boating, and swimming.
If there’s any doubt this is a fishing town, just look for the Wally the Walleye statue as you enter town.
Garrison is a small town.
It has fewer than 2,000 residents and covers less than 1.5 square miles.
Still, the town boasts a vibrant arts scene, with local galleries and craft shops showcasing the talents of North Dakota artists.
For those with a taste for the extraordinary, don’t miss the awe-inspiring views from the stunning Four Bears Bridge, which spans the Missouri River nearby.
Come Christmas season, Garrison reinvents itself for the Dickens Village Festival.
As a bonus for travelers, it spans three weekends, offering flexibility during the busy holidays.
If you’ve ever wanted to be immersed in “A Christmas Carol,” this is your chance.
In Garrison, you’ll find history, natural beauty, and a warm community waiting to welcome you.
Plus, it’s a safe place that won’t scare the Dickens out of you.
Warnings & Dangers in Garrison
OVERALL RISK: LOW
The risk here is low, but the options are somewhat limited if you aren't an outdoor lover. Weather risks are much greater than crime concerns.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You'll need a vehicle here, as public transit and taxis/rideshares are sparse. The risk is low with your own vehicle, provided you pay attention to the weather forecast and get a 4WD vehicle in winter.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The risk is low, with just six thefts occurring in 2022. That's six thefts ACROSS THE BOARD - not pickpockets.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
You can get severe or dangerous weather throughout the year. Winter brings snow storms, blizzards, and ice storms. Snow can pile up for months due to bitterly cold temperatures. Warm weather can bring flooding, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes. Drought can increase the risk of wildfires. Treat it as a medium risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
This is the kind of town where a single mugging could call for an emergency session of the city council. The risk is low, but don't take advantage of that by making unsafe decisions.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
Even though there's a dam on the lake nearby, the risk is low. This is a small, remote town with little concern for international terrorism.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Scams here are targeted at residents and are usually run-of-the-mill, like IRS or fake police scams. You can help by reporting any potentially scandalous activity you come across. Just call the local police.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
You'll need to be "outdoorsy" to love Garrison and the surrounding area, but there's no reason to consider this any more than a low risk.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance with required standards. If there's an issue with water pressure or quality during your visit, you should get an alert from your hotel or through the city's social media pages.
Safest Places to Visit in Garrison
As of this publication in 2023, it appears the tourism site for Garrison is down.
That might be due to an updated site being created, but you can use the Visit North Dakota website and search for the Garrison section.
Visit McLean County is another option, as the north end of the lake and Garrison are located in that county.
You’ve likely come all this way to enjoy lake life.
A visit to Fort Stevenson State Park is a must.
Situated on the picturesque shores of Lake Sakakawea, the park offers a myriad of recreational opportunities.
You can hike scenic trails, go birdwatching, or simply relax on the sandy beaches.
The park also has historical significance, with the reconstructed Fort Stevenson guarding the area’s history and offering insight into its past.
Fishing enthusiasts will be hooked at the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum.
Explore exhibits showcasing vintage fishing gear, learn about local fishing legends, and immerse yourself in the fascinating world of angling.
It’s a perfect place to gain insights into the region’s angling heritage.
Don’t forget to make a stop to meet Garrison’s iconic mascot, Wally the Walleye.
This quirky roadside attraction is a hit with visitors of all ages.
Snap a photo with this giant fish statue, a symbol of the town’s deep connection to walleye fishing.
It’s a fun and memorable way to commemorate your visit to Garrison.
For a dose of history and heroism, the North Dakota Firefighters Museum & Hall of Fame offers a fascinating journey.
Explore the heritage of firefighting in the region through antique fire trucks, equipment, and engaging exhibits.
It’s a tribute to the bravery and dedication of North Dakota’s firefighters.
If you’re looking for a tranquil camping experience, head over to Douglas Creek Campground and Recreation Area.
Nestled amidst rolling hills and lush forests, this campground offers a serene getaway.
Whether you prefer camping under the stars, fishing in the nearby waters, or taking leisurely hikes, Douglas Creek is a haven for those seeking outdoor adventure.
Dickens Village Festival kicks off Thanksgiving weekend and then runs the following two weekends.
This event has been running for more than two decades and has earned Garrison the nickname “The Christmas Capital of North Dakota.”
Places to Avoid in Garrison
From a crime perspective, there aren’t bad parts of town or dangerous neighborhoods here.
That’s a superb thing here because the town isn’t big enough to have parts of it to avoid.
If you aren’t prepared for a North Dakota winter, I’d seriously consider researching the temperatures and risks before booking a trip.
This town is (once again) small and remote; even a trip to Minot could be impossible during a blizzard.
You’ll also need to adjust outdoor activities if a storm is approaching any time of the year.
That includes not going boating if thunderstorms are on the way or delaying a hike until at least 30 minutes after thunder.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Garrison
- Garrison does have its own police department, which was surprising to me in a town this small. You can follow them on Facebook @AGPDept or call (701-463-2296 to ask questions. You can follow the McLean County Sheriff @mcleancountysheriffnd.
- Since this region is geared toward outdoor activities, I want to run through some safety tips and requirements quickly. You can read them all on the Fish & Game website for the state of North Dakota. First, fishing requires a license, even if you are a non-resident.
- Order the Boat North Dakota guide to learn about safety training, regulations, and registration. Children as young as 12 can operate boats, but they’ll need to take a safety course. That can be done remotely.
- Hunting comes with seasons, license restrictions, and permits by type of game. That can be big game, upland game, waterfowl, other migratory birds, and furbearers.
- If you’ll be hiking or enjoying the outdoors during one of those hunting seasons, it’s wise to wear Hunter Orange to stand out in the wilderness. That goes for family pets, too.
- North Dakota is windy. That makes for great windsurfing but can also easily knock you off course when paddling. Always check the wind direction and strength before you go on the water.
- If you’re hiking in the woods, you should be aware that ticks could be present in any season. Always check your body (even those delicate areas) for ticks after a hike. Remove them as soon as possible. Bug spray in the warmer months will help keep mosquitoes and flies away.
- North Dakota law now allows law enforcement to pull over drivers who aren’t wearing seatbelts or if someone in the car isn’t wearing one. That does include the backseat. Make sure everyone buckles up before you drive.
- Bring a battery-powered weather radio with you if heading into the wilderness. Even campsites at state parks might not have service to get emergency alerts through mobile devices. You’ll need to program the radio before you can use it properly. The information can be found on the local National Weather Service website.
- Sign up for CodeRED notifications to get emergency alerts for the county on your mobile device. If you’re within mobile range or on Wi-Fi, you’ll get text messages, emails, or phone calls (you pick which you prefer).
So... How Safe Is Garrison Really?
It’s really important to understand context when looking at crime data.
For example, Garrison’s violent crime went up 200% in 2022.
In reality, there were three violent crimes.
As noted above, just six thefts were reported in 2022.
That includes two car break-ins.
Especially if you’re visiting the lake or parking at hiking trailheads, it’s still important to lock your car and leave personal items out of plain sight.
Solo travelers should check in with loved ones at regular intervals.
Use social media to tag locations you’ve been to if you’re in the wilderness and have service.
This could be very helpful if you get lost.
Download the ND Roads app and always check road conditions, closures, and construction zones before you go.
Wildlife can also be hazards on the road, so keep your eyes up and scan the horizon as you drive.
It’s really a matter of common sense and understanding the weather risks in Garrison that will make or break your trip here.
That includes never assuming ice on a frozen lake is safe to walk or drive on.
You should know how to measure ice thickness.
Those simple steps will go a long way to enjoying your time in Garrison.
How Does Garrison Compare?
|Sao Paulo (Brazil)||45|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
International visitors need a passport and then must apply for a visa. The visa type will be determined by the purpose of your travel. For example, tourists need a tourism visa. If you're coming here for work, that's a work visa. You might be eligible for a visa waiver. Check the U.S. State Department website for that information.
Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here, and you're unlikely to find currency exchange options within an hour or two of Garrison. Take care of that at home, where your bank will offer the lowest fees. You should also know what ATM requirements are needed to get cash from your international bank if you have one.
You'll need outdoor clothing throughout the year, with several layers during the winter and accessories that will cover as much exposed skin as possible. Long sleeves and pants will likely be needed throughout the year, even in summer, when the nights can still be chilly. As mentioned above, you'll want bug spray, and don't forget sunscreen.
Minot International Airport is the closest commercial option. That's about an hour north. If you're flying out of Bismarck, expect a two-hour drive.
Travel insurance is highly recommended for trips to remote areas, subject to severe weather that could impact your health, safety, or travel plans.
Garrison Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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North Dakota - Safety by City