Iowa : Safety by City
- Arnolds Park
- Cedar Falls
- Cedar Rapids
- Clear Lake
- Council Bluffs
- Des Moines
- Fort Dodge
- Fort Madison
- Iowa City
- Mason City
- North Liberty
- Pleasant Hill
- Polk City
- Sioux City
- Spirit Lake
- Storm Lake
- The Amana Colonies
- West Des Moines
“I remember Muscatine (Iowa) —still more pleasantly—for its summer sunsets.
I have never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them.”
When a place is inspirational enough that even Mark Twain makes a comment like that, you’ve got to write more about it, right?
Mark Twain is one of the many things that make this eastern Iowa city popular.
While he didn’t live here long, he sure did make an impact on people’s desire to see the sunset here.
This is also the “Pearl Button Capital of the World.”
If you’ve ever had a shiny pearl button on a shirt or sweater, there’s a good chance it was made right here.
Muscatine sits right on the mighty Mississippi River, with Illinois just across the water.
It’s a diverse community with almost 20% of the population being Hispanic/Latino.
You might have heard somewhere that Muscatine stinks.
Well, it kinda does.
The Grain Processing Corporation has a property in Muscatine and was taken to court in a class-action lawsuit about pollution and a despicable stench.
It was a battle that started in the early 2000s and took until 2018 to settle.
The smell, if you smell it at all, is much more tolerable than in years past.
Of course, as someone who grew up along the Mississippi River, I can tell you that old lady doesn’t always smell so good either, so “insert shrug emoji here.”
Most of the hotels here are along Highway 61, far away from the river and the factory.
There is one upscale hotel downtown.
What doesn’t stink in Muscatine is the number of things to do.
No, you aren’t going to be blown away by big theme parks, but you’re going to literally get a taste of the Midwest in so many ways.
Warnings & Dangers in Muscatine
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk here, with lower than average crime rates and the majority of crimes down year-to-year. This is just a half-hour from the Quad Cities area, which has a WHOLE different level of crime, so read our articles about that metro area before you visit.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
MuscaBus is the public bus system here and rides are just $1 each way. Taxis and rideshares won't be as on-demand as in bigger cities. Having a car here is going to be the best option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's low risk with theft rates just below the national average. Don't go letting your guard down because of that. A lot of times the theft rates are low because people take great safety precautions.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Muscatine gets its fair share of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flooding. If you've read any of my other articles about Iowa, you've seen me talk about the 2020 Derecho. If you haven't seen the video, you must search on YouTube. It's like a Michael Bay film, only it really happened. Winter pales in comparison with its winter storms, but the roads can get slippery and hazardous for travel. There's a medium risk of a storm happening throughout the year, so make sure you understand winter and severe weather safety.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
An interesting fact here for those who are into crime data, like I am. There were just three robberies, which is low risk at just that. However, this city also had a 100% increase in aggravated assaults - which can be what's reported when a robbery leads to violent attacks - in 2021. It's a good reminder to never fight back if a robber happens to approach you. Just remember as much as you can to report to the police.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of any kind of terror attack here. The city is just too small compared to other cities on the Mississippi River. Davenport and St. Louis would be bigger risk cities.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Utility and jury duty scams are the biggest concerns here, and that's not going to impact a tourist. You can feel safe that there's a low risk.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
It seemed high to me that there were 20 sexual assaults reported in 2021, and that averages 60% higher than the national rate. This is a small town, and don't let that friendly vibe give you a false sense of safety. You should still stay in well-lit areas and don't drive around at night off the main roads. There's still a low risk, but be cautious.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Annual Water Quality Report shows a low risk with all standards being met or exceeded. Muscatine also has some of the lowest prices in the state. Now the Mississippi River water quality is a different story and we'll get into those details shortly.
Safest Places to Visit in Muscatine
If you don’t like having to listen to a tour guide, then for $3 you can buy a walking tour of the historic district in Muscatine.
There is a mix of architecture here, which makes it all the more exciting.
Without going all “agro-nerd” on you, the soil in and around Muscatine is ripe for some of the juiciest melons you’ll ever taste.
I happen to be a HUGE watermelon fan, but it’s such an intricate science to get the texture and taste just right.
Muscatine nails it.
You’ll need to visit in the summer to get the pick of the crop.
Where do you get those melons?
Visit the Saturday morning farmer’s market, or visit one of the many family farms in the area.
There’s a reason this city is nicknamed “The Melon City.”
There’s also a reason there’s another nickname for this city.
“The Pearl City” represents the pearl button-making business.
While it might seem odd that buttons warrant a museum, you must understand that back in the early 1900s, these buttons were a status symbol of wealth.
Some people searched for riches in the gold mines out West.
Others opted to dig up the river clams and make their money that way.
This is a museum any sewing fan needs to see and it’s free for everyone.
Riverside Park is right along the river.
(No, it’s not also nicknamed “The River City.”)
There’s a park with a fountain called the “Mist of the Mississippi”, though I strongly hope the water isn’t fresh from the river.
This park is the perfect place for a casual stroll or morning run along with the trail system.
Iowa is wild about bicycling, so there’s a bike path there as well.
While you’re near the river, check out the butterfly garden.
It’s a one-acre garden for the most beautiful butterflies you’ll see.
Use your camera’s slow-motion feature to get a unique look at the butterfly flying.
Wildcat Den State Park is 10 miles from Muscatine, but worth the trip.
You’ll get a mix of history and nature.
There’s a working grist mill here, one of the oldest of its kind in the state.
It looks a lot like the village where Belle and Gaston wandered in Beauty and the Beast.
The trail system is rated as “moderate”, but you can turn around anytime the trails get too tough.
Those who forge ahead will be greeted by amazing rock formations like “Devil’s Punchbowl” and “Fat Man’s Squeeze.”
Stop by Wilton Candy Kitchen to have a scoop of ice cream in the longest-running ice cream parlor and authentic soda fountain in the world.
While I can’t fact-check that, I can tell you the website for Wilton Candy Kitchen says it has been around since 1910, while the tourism website for Muscatine says it has been around since 1860.
Either way, it’s as old as it is delicious.
Honestly, that’s about half of the things I’d love to tell you about in Muscatine.
Check out VisitMuscatine.com to learn about more attractions and specific annual events.
Places to Avoid in Muscatine
The downtown core of most smaller towns is going to have the most crime, and the same holds true for Muscatine.
Other than that, the southwest side of this city has higher crime rates, but a lot of the crime numbers there are driven by property crimes.
The part of the city along Highway 61, where most hotels are located, is one of the lower crime areas.
It doesn’t take much for flash flooding to happen in Muscatine, and if it has been a particularly rainy season, there might be flooding from the river too.
The city is designed with hills going up from the riverfront, so stay away from Second Street and Mississippi Drive until the water recedes.
Never try to drive through a flooded road.
Speaking of water – there are a lot of great things to do in and around the Mississippi River, but swimming isn’t one of them.
The current of this massive river is enough to sweep you away so fast the rescue crews wouldn’t be able to find you.
There’s debris – like broken glass, clams, and fish hooks – moving with the river current.
The water can also be incredibly cold, leaving you no chance of escaping without hypothermia – which will also prevent you from being able to swim.
Then add in the bacteria and algae that come with a river like this?
It’s just a “No” all the way around.
“People really do not understand how dangerous it is,” Ted Hillard, Battalion Chief of the Muscatine Fire Department, said in a 2017 news release.
“There is a lot of river current. If you don’t know how to swim, are a weak swimmer, or even a strong one and don’t have a life jacket on, you could be in trouble.”
If you really want to swim while visiting Muscatine, stay at the Merrill Hotel.
There’s an indoor saltwater pool there open throughout the year.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Muscatine
- Muscatine Police will not take anonymous tips as part of its department policy. There are crime tip forms on the department’s website, but it is best to call the non-emergency number at (563)263-9922 if you don’t want to fill out the detailed form.
- Another interesting thing I saw on the website. There’s a traffic complaint form. This means you can report any erratic driving behavior or speeding. However, that also means someone can make a complaint against you! Stick to the speed limits and don’t drive distracted.
- Look for the Iowa Flood Center online so you can check the Mississippi River gauge and flood risk levels. This site can also show you any body of water in the state if you plan on venturing out past Muscatine. Every stream, creek, and river in the state is monitored around the clock.
- Muscatine County has a Hazard Mitigation Plan, which means preparing in advance for a natural or man-made disaster. There’s a video available on the Muscatine Access Channel Nine YouTube page that lays out the plan and best practices.
- There’s a city blog all about the community in Muscatine. If you look at the bottom of the city’s website, click “Muscatine Blog.” This is where I learned a Japanese Garden is going to be restored in the city (another thing to add to your list of things to do?) and that the water utility is using algae to help keep tap water safe to use.
- The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is a must-visit website for anyone who wants to fish while they’re in Muscatine. Here you can purchase the required fishing license, but you can also learn about the fish in each body of water, the best times to fish to get the catch you want, and if the fish is safe to eat at that point in time.
- While swimming in the Mississippi River is strongly discouraged, Deep Lakes Park is on the far south side of town and there is a swimming beach there. You can ONLY swim in the beach area. There is no boating or fishing allowed in the designated beach swimming area.
- Sign up for Alert Me notifications through the city’s website. You have many options for alerts to get, but be sure to, at minimum, subscribe to the “Alert Center.” This will get you safety and emergency weather information throughout the year. You can also sign up for Alert Iowa, which is a wider and more robust emergency management notification system.
- The city offers 1400 parking spots in the downtown area. Parking meters can run either two or 10 hours. There is some street parking that is free for the first two hours. The Levee Parking Lot is the biggest lot available and is an easy walking distance from the downtown area. Parking there is free.
- There’s one bridge in Muscatine that goes over the river, and it’s many miles before you’ll find another one. You’d have to drive to Davenport or Burlington. In winter, use extra caution on the bridge as it’s going to be the first roadway to ice over and the last to thaw.
So... How Safe Is Muscatine Really?
Many cities I’ve researched for this website saw crime go up in 2021 after the lockdowns and anomalies of 2020.
Muscatine went the other direction.
Just about all crime categories went down.
The only areas where the crimes were up include:
- Aggravated Assault: Up 100%
- Thefts: Up 7%
- Destruction of Property: Up 18%
The sexual assault rate is high, and it was actually lower in 2021 than in 2020.
However, the numbers provided don’t give context if these were domestic crimes or random acts.
I did a lot of social media research for this story to see what people were saying about it.
Three main things came up:
- The “smell”
- It’s boring aside from the river
- There aren’t a lot of big box stores and restaurants
Muscatine is the quintessential Midwestern small town.
I was surprised when I researched things to do and a long list came up.
While it’s not a top tourist destination, it is a place with plenty of activities and a community spirit that is worth experiencing.
It’s also helpful that the crime number is mostly at or below average.
How Does Muscatine Compare?
- Visas - You'll need to plan your trip with enough time to get a U.S. visa if you're traveling from outside the states. The process can take three to four months. You'll have to fill out paperwork and do an in-person interview before you find out if you're approved. Your visa will only be needed at the airports, not throughout Muscatine.
- Currency - Exchange your currency before you get to Muscatine. Only the U.S. Dollar (USD) is accepted here, and some places will require cash. Just be careful you don't keep all your cash in one place or let it be seen when you open your wallet.
- Weather - Summer tourists will be surprised at how humid it gets here, especially with the river being so close by. You'll get very sweaty, so you might want to bring extra deodorant. Pack winter clothing starting in mid-October, but there isn't always going to be snow on the ground here. Spring can be very volatile with its temperatures and storms, so bring layers of clothing and a rain jacket.
- Airports - Quad City International Airport is your best bet. It's in Moline, Illinois, which is just 40 minutes away. Read our article about Moline before you decide to stop for gas or food there.
- Travel Insurance - There are just too many weather risks here to plan a trip without insuring the travel.
Muscatine Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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