Minnesota : Safety by City
- Brooklyn Park
- Detroit Lakes
- Fergus Falls
- Grand Marais
- Grand Portage
- International Falls
- Maple Grove
- New Ulm
- Red Wing
- St. Cloud
- St. Paul
- Two Harbors
Lanesboro, Minnesota, holds a lot of mystery, and we’re not just talking about the 13-mile labyrinth of caves that run underground.
It’s also one of the counties in the Land of 10,000 Lakes where you won’t find natural lakes, but you can still get your fill of water activities.
Lanesboro, when paired with Preston and Forestville, makes up a trio of small towns, each with its own eclectic nature (and some ghosts) in southeastern Minnesota.
The town has a population of fewer than 900 people, but it’s also ranked as the “Most Stunning Small Town in Minnesota” by MSN.
Art accolades are regularly given to this small town as well, sometimes upstaging the natural attractions surrounding the Root River.
This is also Amish Country, with the simple life spreading into the rural fields while still offering guests a chance to shop the custom-crafted and homemade delicacies of the community.
Quite frankly, I’m torn right now if I should keep writing this article or hop in the car to explore this hidden section of Minnesota that has a slice of everything that makes life great.
Warnings & Dangers in Lanesboro
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Lanesboro gets its law enforcement from the nearby Preston Police Department, and outside that jurisdiction is the Fillmore County Sheriff. There's a low risk here - so low that I actually LOL'd while crunching the data for the third time. Add that to the number of things to do, and wilderness and weather safety are really the only concerns.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You'll need a car to get around as public transportation, taxis, and rideshares will be hard to come by. There are some shuttle and tour bus companies you can consider, but you'll appreciate the freedom of having your own car.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The risk is low, with no pickpockets or purse snatchings reported in the past decade. The only concern for a visitor would be a car break-in or car accessory theft. Even that's a low risk, with fewer than 120 happening in the last 10 years.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
This is a medium risk due to severe or winter weather risks year round and the number of activities geared toward being outdoors. Spring brings tornado season, with severe thunderstorms, heavy rain, and intense lightning. That risk can run into fall when winter weather can include ice storms, blizzards, and extremely cold weather. Flooding is a year-round risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Between the city and the county, there have been seven robberies since 2000. That's a very low risk. If you don't practice smart wildlife safety, you could get robbed by a bear.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk with no hard targets and no large cities nearby. The risk of even a Lone Wolf attack is low here, but you should never let a city's safety ranking let you lower your guard.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Utility scams are the only ones reported here over the past few years, which would impact locals or landlords only. I would suggest using rental home safety steps to make sure the rental you are considering is legitimate. The state attorney general's website has a bunch of information on that.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
This is another low risk, provided the visitors know wilderness, wildlife, and extreme weather safety. While this remote area is much better visited with a buddy for safety, you can take appropriate steps when traveling solo to make sure someone knows where you are going and when to call for help if you don't come back.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations in Lanesboro. There are some water quality concerns in the county related to agricultural chemicals and animal waste that could impact water quality. The Amish in this region has also sued for the right not to adapt to water quality standards since it impedes their religious views. While those topics are more interesting than a risk, it's worth noting.
Safest Places to Visit in Lanesboro
The Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce has a website of things to see and do in the city.
The city of Preston also has its own tourism site through its Chamber of Commerce.
MNHS.org is the official website for Historic Forestville, but if you want to learn more about the state parks, wilderness areas, trails, and Mystery Cave State Park, check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website.
If you can, start at the Lanesboro Museum for a great overview of the region’s development.
You’ll appreciate some of the places you’ll explore that much more when you know the history behind them.
You know what?
Maybe that’s not enough for you.
Add a visit to History Alive Lanesboro to get animated tours by characters in period costumes to walk you through significant moments.
Spending time in downtown Lanesboro is “live living in a postcard.”
Download the What’s APPening in Lanesboro app to help navigate the downtown blocks of stores, restaurants, resorts, and hotels.
One must-see is the Stone Mill Inn, where self-guided tours are open to the public.
At the end of the historic district, visit Bluffscape Amish Tour group to schedule your group tour through the nearby Amish community.
You’ll meet some Amish people, shop in the stores, see the work they do at home, and maybe even help out with some chores.
Fishing for something else?
Let’s see if this hooks you.
Look up the Lanesboro Area Fisheries on the DNR website.
You’ll get a list of the best fishing locations and pair that with a visit to the Root River Rod Company, where you can get all the accessories and inside secrets to what the owner calls “some of the best fly-fishing you’ll find anywhere.”
Steve Sobieniak goes on to say, “It doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but it gets a lot of people who want to fish.”
The Root River Trail System follows the river on a path that spans 60 miles.
You don’t even have to worry about renting a bike since the trail has several cities participating in the Bike Share system.
RootRiverTrail.org covers the trail details, each city along the way, and upcoming events.
Safety tips and contact information is also available.
We highly recommend traveling the 30 minutes to Historic Forestville and Mystery Cave State Park.
This once bustling community is now a ghost town that almost fell the shambles were it not for the tenacity of people who wanted the founder to see his dream come true.
Forestville was turned into a park and guided or solo tours are now available.
It’s also at the same location as the Mystery Caves, which also offers tours from simple and easily accessible to guided tours deep into the darkness of 13 miles under the earth.
Places to Avoid in Lanesboro
There aren’t dangerous neighborhoods or parts of town in any of the Fillmore County Communities.
The only places to avoid will be the places or activities you haven’t researched.
Lanesboro and the surrounding area are in a region known as the Driftless Area.
This is a small part of the country that wasn’t covered by the ice age.
Without getting all geological on you, the bottom line is that region is full of caves, hills, cliffs, and curves.
It’s rugged, remote, and rare for the state of Minnesota.
To learn more, research the Bluff Country in Minnesota, as that’s how state tourism officials refer to the Driftless Area in the state.
The Driftless Area also reaches into Wisconsin and northern Iowa.
When you know more about the unique characteristics, you’ll be more inclined to explore.
It’s also strongly advised to avoid limiting your trip to just Lanesboro.
Lanesboro is so close to many other great communities:
- Preston: 9 Miles
- Forestville/Mystery Cave: 25 miles (using the detour)
- Rushford/Peterson Valley: 19 miles
- Niagara Cave: 19 miles
Safety Tips for Traveling to Lanesboro
- Since Lanesboro doesn’t have its own police force, you can keep up with Preston Police on Facebook @Preston-Police-Department. You can also view the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook, but they don’t have an assigned handle. Just confirm you’re looking at the one with the address 901 Houston Street, Preston, MN.
- The weather forecasts, watches, and warnings come from the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wisconsin, which is 58 miles away. You’ll still get proper countywide emergency information, so don’t let the office being in another state confuse you.
- I’m going to be honest with you – the police here don’t have a lot of criminals to chase down, so they really crack down on the speed limits. Ridge Road is one location where people are prone to speed, and it’s known as a speed trap. Some parks have limits as low as 10 miles per hour. Take your time, pay attention to the road, and don’t speed.
- I’ve had several people ask me what the difference is between a winter storm warning and a blizzard warning. The common question is, “Aren’t they both just a lot of snow, wind, and cold?” It’s a valid point until you know the details. A blizzard stands out above a winter storm in that the winds must be sustained or fusing to at least 35 miles per hour, with visibility expected to be reduced to 1/4 mile or less for at least three hours. I’m in a Winter Storm Warning as I write this, with up to nine inches of snow expected and wind gusts between 25–35 miles per hour. It just *barely falls short of the criteria, but it’s still a dangerous situation for anyone on the roads.
- The DNR makes it clear that you should not follow your GPS directions to Forestville or the Mystery Cave since some road washouts and bridge closures have forced detours. What they don’t tell you is HOW to get there. (I’m shaking my head). So, to get the most updated road information, call (507)808-8000. Whatever you do, don’t try to turn onto Route 11 to Route 118. Once you leave Preston, stay on Highway 16 until Highway 5, where you’ll head south. Then you can meet up with an accessible portion of Highway 118.
- Ok, “accessible” was a strong word to use in that previous sentence. Be warned that some of the roads here are narrow, poorly marked, and might even look more like hiking trails than roads. This is why the park is closed during the winter. Don’t try to go here during the off season. Even looking at Google Maps Street View made me a little concerned for your safety.
- Since this is a remote area with spotty mobile phone service, bring a GPS unit, battery-powered NOAA weather radio, blankets, water, flares, non-perishable snacks, and a red article of clothing to use as a warning flag. You should be prepared for the worst case scenario on the roads and then be glad when you have extra snacks if there isn’t a problem.
- Use the DNR website to get a fishing license, as it’s required for everyone. While you’re there, bookmark the Fish Consumption Advisory and River Level pages to get all the safety information you need before heading to the river.
- For those planning a winter trip, keep your start and end dates flexible. Storms here can close off roads and services for days at a time. Over the Christmas holiday in 2022, the sheriff warned about hazardous conditions from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday evening.
- If you are taking an Amish Country tour, please do not take photos of the Amish people up close or from a distance. The community members believe any photo replication of themselves is self-centered and ego-driven, which goes against the founding beliefs of the lifestyle.
So... How Safe Is Lanesboro Really?
Lanesboro and all of Fillmore County have seen less crime in the past decades than most cities do in a month.
Even with a rise in drug, gun, and violent crimes nationwide, this region has managed to avoid the surge.
I can usually judge the safety of a community by the number of lost dogs/keys/wallets vs. wanted criminals on the social media pages of law enforcement, but I also have plenty of official FBI crime statistics backing me up on this.
The biggest surprise that can impact safety is the challenging elevation of trails, the winding roads, the sheer drop-off of cliffs, and the remote nature of rocky trails covered in mud, snow, or ice.
All of these things are what make the Driftless Area so special, but it also catches people off guard who think Minnesota is just a flat land with lakes.
While you’re spending so much time on the DNR page, research coyotes, black bears, ticks, mosquitoes, and poison ivy.
There are a lot of great safety tips and advice on how to handle unexpected wilderness events.
Take it from someone who once squatted in a batch of poison ivy – you don’t want to risk not knowing “leaves of three, let it be.”
For what it’s worth, I’m jealous of your trip to Lanesboro.
It truly is a gem of a town for history, culture, and nature.
How Does Lanesboro Compare?
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International guests need to show proof of a passport and U.S. Visa when they enter the country, but you won't need any ID to go from town to town or to cross state lines.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and keep some cash stashed away. The Amish communities don't take credit cards and will only accept cash or checks. Exchange currency at home to get the lowest rates, or find the Duty-Free shop at the airport to get the best value stateside.
You'll need rugged outdoor clothing suited for the season. Temperatures can easily get below zero, with painful wind chills in the winter. Hiking boots and snow boots should be used as seasonally appropriate. Winter visitors should also bring crampons to put on the boots. Bug spray and sunscreen are necessary too.
You can get to Rochester, MN International Airport or La Cross, WI, Regional Airport in an hour, but if you want to use the Twin Cities airport, tack on another hour to the drive time. Use MN 511 to check road conditions before you go.
Travel insurance is very important when visiting an area with so much severe weather risk. Even if you can get to your connecting airport, road closures could make it hard or impossible to get to your destination. Check into extra rental car insurance in case of a breakdown, accident, or storm.
Lanesboro Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Minnesota - Safety by City