Iowa : Safety by City
- Arnolds Park
- Cedar Falls
- Cedar Rapids
- Clear Lake
- Council Bluffs
- Des Moines
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- Fort Madison
- Iowa City
- Mason City
- North Liberty
- Pleasant Hill
- Polk City
- Sioux City
- Spirit Lake
- Storm Lake
- The Amana Colonies
- West Des Moines
There is a spot in the center of the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa, where if you navigate just right, you’ll be in three states at once.
While I’m not recommending you try that, it does show just how south the city is in the state of Iowa.
This is beneficial to anglers, because they can fish in three states with just one license from either Illinois, Missouri, or Iowa, so find the least expensive one!
You almost get a two-for-one deal when it comes to sightseeing because you can cross over the river and be in Hamilton, Illinois, which is known as “The Best Kept Secret in the Midwest.”
All of the hotels in this area are on the Keokuk side of the state line and all are right on Main Street.
Along the river at Rand Park, you’ll see a statue of the city’s namesake – Chief Keokuk.
The Native American leader was controversial, but also known as a diplomat who negotiated between the white settlers and Native Americans.
One of the best tourist attractions in Keokuk is something you’d only know if you were a geologist, but it’s fun for the whole family.
This landscape is unique for the development of geodes.
In fact, the rocks are so unique in Keokuk that the city is known as the “Geode Capital of the World.”
The rocks don’t look that exciting on the outside, but once you crack them open you’ll see a hollow core filled with stunning crystals.
Each one looks a little different, so geode hunting is a true treasure hunt.
Warnings & Dangers in Keokuk
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Keokuk due to higher than average crime rates. Much higher in some cases. Keokuk is a city of fewer than 10,000 people (and getting smaller by the year), so there are times the crime data can be exacerbated when you figure out the "crime per 100,000 people." However, with a violent crime risk of one in 113, there's really no getting around the risks here. While it's not too dangerous to visit, you need to forget any notion this is a safe small Iowa town.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Lee County, where Keokuk is located, has a bus system that is on-demand and not for general tourism use. Taxis and rideshares are available, but not as abundant as in bigger cities. Having a car here is going to be the best option. There's low risk with any way you choose to get around.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of being a victim of some kind of theft, but there isn't firm data on how many of the 207 thefts were pickpockets. You should protect your belongings on your person, in your car, and in your hotel.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Keokuk faces a medium risk of severe or disruptive weather throughout the year. Spring brings tornado seasons with thunderstorms, lightning, hail, and torrential rain. That can lead to flooding along the Mississippi River. Winter brings the risk of snowstorms, blizzards, ice storms, and sleet. While the community is used to all of these risks, tourists might be caught off guard if they don't have this kind of weather at home. The Lee County Emergency Management website has safety tips for all kinds of emergencies.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Surprisingly, there's a low risk here. I've seen this trend in Iowa cities that have high violent crime rates but low robbery rates. There were three robberies in 2021 and two in 2020. That's half the national average for robberies. However, with the way crime data has been reported, if a robbery turns into an aggravated assault, only the assault is reported to the FBI. Aggravated assaults were up 25% in 2021.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of a terrorist act here. This is just such a rural area without a high population. While the Mississippi River could always be a terror target, there are bigger cities along the 2,340-mile stretch of this river to target.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of a tourist being scammed here. The reported scams in 2022 include phone scams and some of the scams trending nationwide, all targeted at locals.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should use extra caution when visiting Keokuk. The sexual assault rate is two and a half times the national average. However, with the way crime data is calculated, that means there's a 100 in 100,000 people at risk of being sexually assaulted. The national average is 38 per 100,000 people. The reality is, that there were 10 sexual assaults, but when you do the math, the number looks more foreboding. You should avoid walking around at night alone and be careful when you are out by yourself. While a lot of small-town crime is usually among people who know each other, you should still take proper precautions.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Keokuk's water is safe with low risk as it meets all requirements at the state and federal levels. On top of that, in a 2021 water tasting test of seven Iowa cities, Keokuk's water won the taste test. Not only are you drinking safe water, but it tastes pretty good too.
Safest Places to Visit in Keokuk
Main Street in Keokuk is known as the Entertainment District.
Over the past decade or so, there has been a huge project revitalizing this area while preserving the historical buildings.
This has also become the place for festivals and events throughout the year.
You should check the MainStreetKeokuk.com website for events happening during your visit.
The Mississippi River Bridge Observation Deck is the remains of an old bridge turned into a tourist attraction.
You can stand on the bridge and get sweeping views of the river, the dam, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.
You might also see cruise ships riding the water of the Mighty Mississippi.
Feel free to wave!
Keokuk Union Depot is a renovated building that once ushered in trains from each coast.
The efforts to make this a destination are ongoing, and you can buy a hat or shirt at the gift shop to support the effort, or choose Keokuk Union Depot Foundation when you use Amazon Smiles to purchase things online.
Nearby is the Chief Keokuk Monument in Rand Park.
If you want a picture here, you’ll need a friend to be across the street because this statue is tall and mighty, just like Chief Keokuk.
This statue has stood there for more than 100 years.
The Keokuk-Hamilton Dam Museum gives you a behind-the-scenes view of a working dam.
Along the Mississippi River, engineers have always harvested the water supply and turned it into power and drinking water.
Fair warning – this museum closed abruptly in 2021, but it’s not closed for good.
It should re-open at a later date, so check before you go there.
You can still get great (and free) views of the Lock & Dam #19 on the Observation Deck.
This might be a random thing to mention but bear with me.
Keokuk WaterWorks 7th Street Water Tower is listed by the tourism bureau as a place to visit.
It’s the second-largest water town in the country even though the population here is so small.
You could also consider buying a yearly membership to the Keokuk Yacht Club.
The membership is only $60 and you can get access to food and entertainment, as well as the highest society in Keokuk.
As one Redditor jokes, “This is where the thousandaires hang out.”
The Southside Boat Club is another place to find boat rentals.
Places to Avoid in Keokuk
Keokuk isn’t big enough to have better or worse neighborhoods, but the higher concentration of crime is in the city’s center.
That’s not indicative of anything else than there are more people in the downtown area than in the rural areas.
You are just going to need all your safety smarts to be safer here.
This is a working-class city that has lost 25% of its population in the past three decades.
The pandemic hit the city hard, not just with closures due to COVID, but also with the inability to re-open some of the top places to visit.
Some restaurants had to close.
A plan to rebuild a derelict barge on the riverfront went belly up in 2019 when the cost of repairs was going to exceed $10 million.
This is a town barely getting by, but making the best with what it has, like in the downtown Entertainment District.
Even the main page of the tourism website for Keokuk shows you all the other nearby places to visit, in addition to highlighting a few local attractions.
You really are going to have a hard time spending more than a day or two in Keokuk unless you just want to fish or geode hunt all the time.
When you go looking for the Lee County Emergency Management website, the page isn’t working as of June 2022.
There is a spam warning that came up and a bunch of error codes displayed on the website.
I have alerted the EMA officials to get this fixed.
There is a Facebook page for the Lee County Emergency Management Agency.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Keokuk
- To legally collect geodes, you need to know the rules of the land. There are places you cannot collect the rocks. You can coordinate a geode tour through one of many travel agencies. Even at Geode Park, 45 minutes north of Keokuk, you can’t take any of the rocks you find.
- Keokuk Police list three numbers for non-emergency calls. (319)524-2741, (319)524-3132, and (319)524-3131. It might be wise to put those numbers in your phone now so you aren’t searching for them when you need them most.
- The Keokuk Police Department doesn’t have a lot of information (other than those numbers) on its website and there’s no Facebook page for the department. To stay up-to-date on things happening in the city, follow @KeokukAreaBreakingNewsUpdates on Facebook. For county information, follow the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. There is also a page for the Keokuk Area Tourism Bureau.
- It’s worth noting that there is a Keokuk County, but it’s not the county where Keokuk, the city, is located. As mentioned above, Keokuk is in Lee County. Keokuk County is about 90 minutes from Keokuk city.
- You’ll find a good passenger on the website and app for 511ia.org. This covers all road conditions, closures, and construction in the state. For Illinois roads, go to GettingAroundIllinois.com. For Missouri, go to Traveler.MoDOT.org.
- If you are bringing home some geodes, whether you hunted them or purchased them, you are allowed to bring these on flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says rocks are allowed in checked baggage and carry-on. If you check the rock baggage, the security scam might prompt an inspection of your bag, so if you lock your luggage be prepared for a broken lock.
- While nobody is going to stop you, it’s best not to swim in the Mississippi River. There is a lot of barge and cruise ship traffic here, as well as an extremely strong current. The muddy river water also carries debris like tree branches, glass, and hazardous materials that can hurt you or make you sick.
- Keokuk can experience extreme temperatures in the winter and summer. In the summer of 2022, there were several heat advisories with a “feels like” temperature of 105°(F). In winter, wind chill warnings can be issued when the “feels like” temperature goes below 0°(F). Be sure to pack for the worst of a season, and not the average.
- Keokuk is one of many Iowa cities that allows Urban Deer Hunts. This is to keep deer out of the residential and business areas. While it might be jarring to see a hunter in the city, there are several safety steps a person has to take to get a permit to Urban Deer Hunt. You can’t just wake up one morning and decide you’re going hunting on Main Street.
- If you notice the water is murky or brown during your visit, it’s likely due to the flushing of the hydrants. Don’t drink the dirty water, but simply let the cold water run for a few minutes and it will clear up. This is a normal step in making sure the hydrants are working and the water supply is safe.
So... How Safe Is Keokuk Really?
Keokuk is a small town with medium-sized city crime numbers.
While there isn’t an imminent danger when visiting here, you do need to take the same security steps as you would in a large city.
Crimes that aren’t domestic or between two people who know each other are generally crimes of opportunity.
There has been a rash of stolen cars over the past few years, with 35 cars being stolen.
Not broken into.
Flat out taken.
You should see if you can get a rental car with wheel locks and a steering wheel safety device.
Always roll up the windows and lock the doors when parking.
Don’t leave anything inside the car.
You’d be amazed at how something as simple as a GPS holder can become a treasure for a thief.
The risks in Keokuk break down as follows:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 113 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 3,300 risk
- Theft: 1 in 47 risk
- Stolen car: 1 in 282 risk
While I’d never want to detract someone from visiting a city that could use all the visitors it can get, Keokuk just isn’t a place that is booming with attractions.
It’s a small town and you might get easily bored, especially if rock hunting and fishing aren’t your thing.
The real fun in Keokuk is going to happen at the community events, and that’s also a great place to meet locals who can give you safety advice for that moment in time.
How Does Keokuk Compare?
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- Visas - You will need a U.S. Visa if you're traveling from outside the country. That process can take up to four months, so plan ahead. Having a visa doesn't mean you are guaranteed access. You still have to go through Customs at the airport where you'll talk with Border Patrol and Homeland Security. While this is more of a formality than a warning, don't make any safety jokes when going through Customs.
- Currency - The majority of locations here are going to take credit cards, so you really don't need to carry cash around with you. The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted. You should also give your bank a heads up about your travel since you might be exploring between three states here, and that could trigger a fraud alert.
- Weather - You'll need full winter gear to enjoy the outdoor attractions in this region. Bring snow boots as well as a raincoat. Pack sunscreen and bug spray for summer through fall. The humidity here is going to make you sweat a lot, so be sure you don't mind getting a sweat on the clothes you bring. This is a very casual town, and many times you'll see people wearing some kind of camouflage. Don't feel like you have to pack dressy clothes for Keokuk.
- Airports - You will have to travel for a few hours to get to a major airport. Des Moines and St. Louis are each about three hours away. Chicago is about a four-hour drive. The closest airports are in Peoria and the Quad Cities, but even those are a two-hour drive.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is going to give you peace of mind when you're flying or driving to a place this remote.
Keokuk Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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