Montana : Safety by City
- Big Sky
- Great Falls
- Miles City
- West Yellowstone
You have to be really looking for Sidney, Montana, to find it, and that’s why so many people do seek it out.
This small town of fewer than 7,000 people is tucked into the northeast corner of the state near the North Dakota border.
Sugar, agriculture, and outdoor recreation are the economic drivers of this distant town after the oil boom of the 1980s ended.
It’s also some of the best agate hunting in the country, with different versions being unearthed with every seasonal shift of the river.
This location is ideal for some of the rarest fish and the best access points to the vibrant Yellowstone River.
You’re also just two hours from the Canadian border.
History buffs will love Sidney, too.
There are historic forts nearby that facilitated everything from fur trades to defending fights with Native Americans.
The safest wildlife of Montana is found here, with staggering numbers of deer, birds, and fish, without the worry of bears being everywhere or a wayward moose charging at you.
Ok, there are coyotes, but they’ll likely want nothing to do with you!
Bison too, but we’ll talk about those wildlife safety steps later on in this article.
Warnings & Dangers in Sidney
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk here, with a downward trend in violent crime since 2017. Make no mistake about it - this is remote and rural, but if that's your cup of tea, you'll be amazed at all the things to do here safely and sanely.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Richland County does have a public transportation system, but staffing shortages can impact available routes, and it's pretty small as it is. Download the RCTS app to learn more. However, you'll need a rental car to get here, so it makes sense to use that as reliable transportation.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
If you can get pickpocketed in a town this small, you really need to work on your safety awareness. There's a low risk, but never low enough to protect your stuff. The more likely theft would be unattended items at a campsite or expensive items left in a car.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The 2022 Hazard Mitigation Plan lists floods, summer storms, winter weather, drought, wildlife, landslides, and dam failure as the biggest risks. You can review the plan to keep the risk low but treat it with a medium risk, so you can stay informed. There's a section on the Richland County Emergency Management Page to help kids understand the natural risks.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
This is a low risk. Since 2013, the city hasn't had more than one robbery per year, with several years - like 2021 - having no robberies.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Here is that low risk straight from the Hazard Mitigation Plan, "The multiple energy storage and distribution facilities located throughout the county may be a potential target for terrorism, although a specific threat has not been identified. Terrorism and violence are an ongoing concern, but it is very unlikely an event will occur in the county." This is really too remote of an area for any terror group to find worth targeting. However, you're always asked to stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There aren't any scams specific to Sidney but review the Better Business Bureau and social media sites locally to see what scams are trending closer to your visit. Never buy gift cards for payment or be forced to wire money to reserve anything. When in doubt, walk away.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Statistically, women have a slightly higher risk of being a victim of a violent crime. However, with the small percentage of crimes that happened against strangers, there's a low risk. I can't emphasize how remote this area is, so if you feel uncomfortable driving alone on rural roads, this might not be the best place for you.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. Residents and visitors are asked to use water conservation and quality control measures to help keep it that way.
Safest Places to Visit in Sidney
I’m pretty judgmental about tourism websites, given my job here to educate travelers, but Sidney has a great tourism website for a city of its size.
Sidneymt.com is provided by the Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture.
To learn more about the region, look for “Montana’s Missouri River Country.”
The MonDak Heritage Center is one of the top attractions here, preserving the history and culture of the region.
It features exhibits laid out like an Old West town about the area’s Native American tribes, pioneers, and homesteaders, as well as a collection of artwork and artifacts.
Events are held throughout the year to make the experience immersive.
Two nearby historic forts are worth adding to your itinerary.
The Fort Union Trading Post was once the “Walmart” of trading posts, with more than 100,000 furs being harvested each year.
This location straddles Montana and North Dakota and is part of the National Park Service.
Fort Buford is a Montana State Historic Site and was once a critical point for battles in the late 1800s as it was the supply stop for troops.
As you’ll learn in the museum, this was also the location where Sitting Bull surrendered after the battles between pioneers’ expansion into the Western U.S. and Native Americans defending their land.
If you’re driving up to Sidney from I-94, stop in Savage at Harmon’s Agate and Silver to learn about agate hunting.
The Yellowstone River beds are rich with unique minerals that come in a wide array of dynamic colors and shapes.
For those who like craft beer, Meadowlark Brewing was the first of its kind in Sidney and is still thriving today.
The closest entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is just an hour east, which has a fascinating history (that I won’t spoil for you).
Places to Avoid in Sidney
Crime isn’t a concern here as far as avoiding dangerous neighborhoods or parts of town.
It is wise to adapt to the environment, like avoiding joking about cowboys and such.
People here are more likely to say “Howdy” than “Hi!”.
Montanans are welcoming people, but they don’t want other lifestyles forced on them, especially with the influx of Californians coming to the state.
In southeastern Montana, there have been issues with anonymous notes being left on out-of-state cars, stating, “Go back to your own state.”
Winter can last a long time here, with even April 2022 bringing road closures in all directions because of a snowstorm.
Research the weather patterns here to make sure you’re visiting during a climate you can handle and be educated about the safety precautions.
Avoid getting this city confused with Sydney, Australia.
It sounds unlikely, but in February 2023, a Jamaican man heading to Australia for the cruise of a lifetime ended up in Montana.
He had gotten the spelling of the city names confused, and despite seeing a nine-seater plane, still opted to trust the airline and ended up in Billings.
He was bummed to miss his trip, but he also stated, “Montana didn’t have kangaroos.”
Safety Tips for Traveling to Sidney
- Sidney does have its own police department, and you can follow them on Facebook @SidneyPD. For a small town, they do a great job of updating safety information on social media.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through the CodeRED system, so you can get weather warnings, river concerns, and other safety information directly to your mobile phone. Also, follow @RichlandCountyDES on Facebook to get updated safety information from the Disaster & Emergency Department.
- It’s important to check the river levels and ice jam potential. An ice jam is when frozen water starts to break up, but the ice “jams” and can cause flooding near the site of the jam. I live in Nebraska, and we deal with this quite often during spring.
- Winter lows can get down to -55°(F) wind chills, which can freeze skin or cause frostbite in less than 10 minutes. If you’re not used to bitter winters, you need to research the best way to layer and cover all exposed skin.
- In this part of Montana, there might be a reference to some attraction being “just down the road” when it’s really 2–3 hours away. Pack your car with emergency supplies, and you can find a list on the DES website.
- Sidney Police post an annual report each year, which I can verify is rare for a city this small. Above and beyond that, the annual report shows crime statistics for Sidney and all the other cities in the state, giving an easy comparison option as you consider where to visit.
- Use Inciweb to check fire activity in the state. Wildfires can spark quickly and change direction fast with the winds. Even a fire far away can make awful air quality.
- To check road conditions and map out the safest route anywhere in the state, use 511 MT. You can see live cameras, check construction zones, and get real-time traffic.
- You’ll need a fishing license from the Montana Depart of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks if you want to fish in any waters of the region or state. You can purchase those online, but review the different permits and restrictions before you do.
- If you happen to get too close to a bison (which we strongly discourage), you can tell a lot by its tail. If it’s wagging like a friendly dog, it doesn’t see you yet or doesn’t care that you are there. If it starts to go horizontal, you’re annoying them. By the time it’s straight up in the air, they are ready to stampede. You want to back away slowly if this happens. Don’t run; that will make them more agitated. Screaming and flailing arms won’t work either. Climb a tree if you can or hide behind something big, like a car.
So... How Safe Is Sidney Really?
Sidney’s crime rate is nothing to worry about, but you should never let down your guard.
The violent crime rate peaked in 2017 but flattened out in the following years.
The violent crime rate is technically 17% higher than the national average, but when the population is this small, a few crimes in either direction can skew the numbers.
Since less than 15% of violent crimes happen against strangers, there’s a small risk for a visitor minding their own business.
Safety in Sidney is really about how well you can handle being in a remote area and how prepared you are for weather elements in all seasons.
There’s plenty of information out there to research and put to good use.
Overall, Sidney is a safe city in a state of safe cities, but its isolation can make some people uncomfortable.
You’ll be on long stretches of road alone without mobile service at times.
You could be stopped by a pack of bison chillin’ on the road.
A late spring or winter storm could leave you stranded.
Or you can look at it as you get some of the best scenic views without traffic.
You get to see bison in their natural habitat from the safety of a car.
You can call your boss and say, “Sorry, need a few more days.
Stuck by a Montana snowstorm!”
This is truly a gem among agate country, and it’s the biggest city in this part of the state.
Don’t miss the sunrise, as it’s called Sunrise City because it’s so close to North Dakota that it gets the first sunrise in Montana each day!
How Does Sidney Compare?
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- Visas - Whether you cross over from Canada or fly into the state, you'll need a passport with either a visa or visa waiver. Start with the U.S. State Department website to expedite the process with the best information.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here. Canadian dollars aren't accepted. Exchange currency in your home city for the lowest fees and to avoid trying to find a place that can handle the transaction in small towns.
- Weather - It's colder than you might expect year-round, but the temperatures can fluctuate. Always pack based on the 10-day forecast and then bring extra sweatshirts. In winter, pack like you're going to the North Pole because it's going to feel like it at times. You need sturdy shoes or boots that protect your ankles, bug spray, and sunscreen.
- Airports - If you're going to fly into Montana, the closest airport is five hours away in Billings. There are flights available on Cessnas from Billings to Sidney, but you'll need to be comfortable on a small plane. The views are worth overcoming any fears.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is highly recommended for your flights and car, as road conditions can be treacherous. You should also look into supplemental health insurance if you don't have coverage in America. There is no such thing as free health care here.
Sidney Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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