Oklahoma : Safety by City
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Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is a beautiful and culturally rich city located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.
It is the capital of the Cherokee Nation and is home to a thriving Cherokee community.
The history dates back to the early 1800s.
In 1839, the Cherokee Nation was forced to relocate from its ancestral lands in the southeastern United States to Indian Territory.
The Cherokee people chose Tahlequah as their new capital because of its central location and its proximity to their traditional homeland.
Tahlequah is home to several cultural attractions, including the Cherokee National History Museum, the Cherokee Heritage Center, and the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum.
Visitors can also learn about Cherokee culture at the Sequoyah National Research Center and the John Ross Museum.
Then there’s the ample adventures that await in the nearby outdoors.
The city is surrounded by lakes, rivers, and forests, offering plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, camping, and boating.
Visitors can also take a scenic drive along the Cherokee Nation Scenic Byway, which winds through the hills and valleys of Cherokee Nation land.
While Tahlequah might look like a small dot on a map, you’ll be impressed by the number of things to do here and how much you can learn.
Warnings & Dangers in Tahlequah
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk in Tahlequah and a bunch of things to do whether you're into history or the great outdoors.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Check the transportation section of the city's website to see a handful of options. There isn't a traditional public transportation system, but some rides on demand are provided. You can get taxis and rideshares, especially near the university. A car rental is your best bet since you have more freedom to explore the lakes and parks.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, with just four pickpockets or purse snatchings reported in the past five years. However, shoplifting is a major problem here. That means people capable of theft are around you. Use standard cautions.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
The medium risk is due to the potential for major storms like tornadoes, but also because of the outdoor-focused region. You should know about severe thunderstorms, tornados, wildfires, and wind warning safety measures while being prepared for winter weather, from blizzards to ice storms.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
This is another low risk, with just two reported in 2022. You don't want to let your guard down because crime rates are never low enough to throw caution to the wind.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, as a remote area surrounded by wilderness. No matter where you visit, it's still encouraged for everyone to report any suspicious activity. Being vigilant helps keep crime rates low.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Tahlequah has seen a rise in gift card scams. That's when someone threatens you with a (fake) unpaid bill and demands you purchase gift cards to cover your debt. Anytime someone tries to force you to buy a gift card, it's a scam. Also, if you're getting a rental home or cabin, be sure the person renting the home can show proof of a rental permit. Too many fake rentals are posted online. The risk is low, but being knowledgeable about common scams keeps it that way.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Nothing in the crime data suggests women are at a greater risk. Of course, you should still use all the same personal safety standards as you would in a larger, more dangerous town. Also, if you're going on a hike, to the river, or visiting the lake alone, please let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows three violations. The fact that the violations were reported is a positive sign, and the issues range from not reporting a required test or having an excess of a chemical in the water beyond the strict standards set by regulators. Even when there is a violation, it is quickly addressed, and most would require years of exposure before any real risk presents itself. The risk is low, but if you want to understand better how the reporting works, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
Safest Places to Visit in Tahlequah
TourTahlequah.com is the official tourism site for the region.
The website has a slew of tourist guides, which I love.
This helps visitors avoid reading one LONG guide for everything to do and offers niche booklets for things like the outdoors, arts & culture, and Cherokee Nation places to visit.
We have a lot of things to explore in Tahlequah, so I want to make it as exhaustive as possible while being efficient.
First, let’s start with Cherokee Nation places to visit.
- Cherokee National History Museum: This museum tells the story of the Cherokee people from their origins to the present day. It houses a collection of artifacts, documents, and photographs that illustrate the Cherokee experience.
- Cherokee National Prison Museum: This museum is located in a former prison that was built in 1875. It exhibits the history of the prison and the Cherokee people who were incarcerated there.
- Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum: This museum is located in the former Cherokee National Supreme Court building. It exhibits the history of the Cherokee court system and the Cherokee people who served as judges.
- John Hair Cultural Center and Museum: This museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting Cherokee culture. It houses a collection of artifacts, documents, and photographs that illustrate the Cherokee way of life.
- Cherokee Heritage Center: This museum is located in Park Hill, Oklahoma. It exhibits the history of the Cherokee people in the Park Hill area.
Downtown Tahlequah is the oldest of its kind in Oklahoma.
Anchored by Courthouse Square, you’ll find a plethora of shops, restaurants, and galleries to explore.
It’s also where major events are held, like the annual Red Fern Festival or the Crawfish Festival.
Beyond the city attractions, this region is known for its outdoor attractions.
First, we start with the lakes.
Tenkiller Ferry Lake and Ft. Gibson Lake are less than 15 minutes from the city.
You can also choose to stay in a lodge or cabin at the lakeside.
Rentals and campsites are available too.
Four seasons of outdoor fun fill this area, like boating, fishing, and hiking.
The Illinois River runs through the foothills of the Ozarks, offering more dynamic terrain than you might expect.
Float trips are the favorite thing to do in the warmer months.
Trips can go from just a few miles to nearly 15 miles.
Some outfitters offer nearly 60-mile trips!
Again, you’ll find many resorts, rentals, and campsites near the river banks.
You’ll also find casinos sprinkled throughout Green Country.
These are mostly on native land and run by the Cherokee Nation.
You won’t notice that difference once you’re inside, as they look a lot like smaller versions of Las Vegas casinos.
Places to Avoid in Tahlequah
Tahlequah doesn’t have dangerous neighborhoods or parts of town that are too risky to drive through.
It’s a small town of just 17,000 people, so it would be hard to avoid a certain area anyway.
A few things I did want to note include letting you know how law enforcement works here.
There’s the city police department, the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, and then university law enforcement.
Tahlequah’s boundaries aren’t even, and that means responding officers from the city might realize it’s technically Cherokee Nation land.
The major departments are both deputized to assist with crimes in each other’s jurisdiction when necessary.
While this won’t be noticeable to you as a visitor, it might explain why you see different vehicles driving around the city.
It’s worth noting that if you do get pulled over or have an accident on tribal land, the laws of that land prevail.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Tahlequah
- Tahlequah has its own police department. You can find them on Facebook @tahlequahpd and call (918) 456-8801 if you have additional questions.
- The Cherokee National Marshal Service covers the tribal land around Tahlequah. They are on Facebook @CherokeeNationMarshalService with a phone number of (918) 207-3800.
- There’s one more law enforcement agency to know about in Tahlequah, and that’s for Northeastern State University. The Facebook page is @nsupolice. For X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram, look for @NSUOK_police. The phone number is (918) 444-2468, and the email is University_Police@nsuok.edu
- You can sign up for emergency alerts in the city using the CivicReady program. There’s a link on the city’s website. It’s important to stay informed of approaching severe weather. NSU also has its own alert system, but you have to be a student or faculty member to sign up.
- Several locations in Tahlequah have been designated as public storm shelters. That means if there’s a tornado, you can go to the safety of the assigned buildings. The full list is on the city’s website. Look for “Public Storm Shelters in Cherokee County.”
- Tahlequah’s biggest crime problem is shoplifting. Please do not attempt to stop a shoplifter or intervene on your own. You can let the store employees know or call the police, but trying to stop the crime yourself is too dangerous.
- The police chief in Tahlequah does regular “Chief Chats” on Facebook Live, which is a great way to learn about the most recent safety concerns in the community.
- Search for the Notify Me section of the police department’s website. Choose the “News Flash” section to get updated public safety alerts. You can skip enrolling in the agendas, as those are just city council meeting information.
- Use OK Traffic’s website to check road conditions if you’re driving around the region. Tahlequah has a lot of two-lane roads in all directions, so an accident could back up or close a road for hours. The website shows real-time traffic, weather conditions, and live cameras.
- Anglers are required to have a fishing license from the Oklahoma Department of Conservation. Check the pricing online and get the proper license for your needs. Hunting and boating also require licenses, but there is a lot more safety training to get either one of those.
So... How Safe Is Tahlequah Really?
All crime statistics from 2022 show below-average rates, with only theft being anywhere near the national average – and even that is slightly lower.
Beyond that, 58% of violent crimes happen in homes, and just 18% of violent crimes happen against strangers – going back at least five years.
I will say that Tahlequah gave me a crime statistic I’d never seen before.
In 2022, 97% of all thefts were shoplifting.
All but seven thefts were shoplifting.
Over the past five years, that number is closer to 71%.
The university saw 27 thefts in 2022, with almost half being car break-ins.
The Cherokee National Marshal Service also releases crime statistics to the FBI, but there’s nothing in the data that goes above average from a tourist’s perspective.
The data is also unclear if it’s for just Cherokee County or the entire Cherokee Nation, which is why I’m not going into more detail about that.
You can email email@example.com if you have more questions about that.
Overall, this is a safe area to visit by all accounts.
Of course, be prepared for severe weather, as that’s one of the biggest risks here and totally within your control about how safe it “really” is to visit.
While you can’t control storms, you can control how prepared you are for the right safety steps.
How Does Tahlequah Compare?
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International travelers are required to obtain a visa or visa waiver to enter the country. To determine your eligibility for a visa waiver, consult the U.S. State Department website. If you're attending Northeastern State, you'll need a student visa. Ensure your passport isn't within six months of expiring.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar currency in America. Tahlequah is a small, remote town, so take care of getting cash before you arrive. Your home bank offers the lowest rates.
Plan for four robust seasons, but temperatures are known to fluctuate in this part of the country, especially in spring and fall. The region is also windy, which might impact how you'll wear your hair, what hats you'll bring, or if you want flowing clothing. I could never wear a long, flowing skirt when I lived there without holding it down all the time.
Tulsa International Airport is an hour west. Northwest Arkansas National Airport is about an hour and 15 minutes in the other direction. While neither is a major hub airport, you can get to destinations like Dallas, Kansas City, and Atlanta from those.
Anytime you take a trip where weather could potentially interfere with flights or driving, we highly recommend getting travel insurance. Don't forget to look into health insurance if you won't already be covered at your destination. Supplemental policies are available for emergencies. Also, confirm your rental car has insurance coverage for accidents and roadside assistance.
Tahlequah Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Oklahoma - Safety by City