Discover the 5 Most Dangerous Places in Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota.
© MH Anderson Photography/

Written by Katie Downey

Published: January 27, 2024

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Minnesota is known for its love of hockey and the great outdoors. The state also has a massive amount of lakes, so it’s no wonder why it’s sometimes called “the land of lakes!” Minnesota has over 15,000 lakes that are larger than 10 acres. Speaking of lakes, they’ve even made it on our list of the seven most dangerous places in Minnesota. Get ready; some of these dangerous places might come as a surprise.

1. Rural Backroads

A two lane country road in Ohio during fall as leaves turn from green to yellow, orange and brown.

Some of the most dangerous roads in the U.S. are backroads.


When driving on rural back roads in Minnesota, it could seem like a safer and better idea than traveling on main roads or large highways. Oftentimes, backroads can be more dangerous than the well-lit travel options. A lot more can actually go wrong on backroads in numerous ways. If traveling after dark, it can be dangerous because of wildlife running out in front of cars, lack of street lights, and a much greater danger to large limbs in the lanes. It’s also possible to run into vehicle trouble and end up in much worse trouble when a dangerous person stops to “help.”

If the person driving doesn’t know the road very well, there’s plenty of opportunity to take a turn too fast or not slow down for a dangerous intersection. Plenty of inebriated drivers take the backroads to avoid driving around too much traffic and avoid police. Many people die every year because of this. Backroad driving can be fun, but it’s better to stick to it during the daytime.

2. Icy Lakes

Scenic panoramic view of the silhouette of a young hockey player skating on a frozen lake with amazing reflections in beautiful golden evening light at sunset in winter

When the temperature drops, it can mean something more serious than fun on the ice.


A frozen lake can sound like the place to be when you’ve been stuck inside for too long. Braving the freezing temperature to add a bit of fun to the day is what sends rescue crews out to save numerous people yearly in Minnesota. It isn’t easy knowing when the ice on a lake is thick enough to walk on, and there’s even less of a chance that children are going to contemplate this than adults. However, it is more frequently the adults that find themselves in trouble on the ice than children.

If the lake is packed with tasty fish, ice fishing typically ranks high as a popular leisure activity in the Midwest. Plenty of people mistake the icy lake for safety when it isn’t and find themselves in a deadly situation. This is one reason it is always important to take along a friend and survival gear when braving the ice. Once you’ve fallen through the ice on a lake, it’s very difficult to get out. Hypothermia sets in fast and can be deadly.

3. St. Croix River

St. Croix River in the fall season at Interstate State Park, Taylors Falls, Minnesota USA

St. Croix River is just one of many places adventure-seekers dare to cliff jump in Minnesota.

©Linda McKusick/

Cliff jumping is something too many movies and shows have glamorized, but it is a terrible idea. In Minnesota, a place filled with 15,000 lakes and many rivers, it is more frequent than in some other states. It’s hard to say how deep that exact spot on the river is, and a jumper breaking their neck, spine, legs, or other bones is a very real possibility. It’s also impossible to say what is under the water in the landing spot; it could be a snagged tree limb, sharp rock at the bottom, broken glass, or trash of some kind that would end in injury or death if the jumper fell on them. If a jumper were to land head-first on a jutting rock below the surface, the result would likely be deadly.

These are just a few examples of the many situations that can happen to create a very unsafe experience while cliff jumping. It also puts those the jumper is with in jeopardy because it would be up to them to get the jumper back up to safety without drowning or the jumper drowning. Currents in rivers can be extremely volatile.

4. Residential Homes

View looking west along East 142nd Street near the intersection with Grand Boulevard, showing large single-family houses on a tree-lined residential street. Washington Park (not visible) is across the street from these homes. The Washington Park neighborhood was developed around Washington Park in the south part of East Chicago.

The home always seems like a person’s “safe place,” but not every home is safe.

©UIC Library Digital Collections / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 – Original / License

We all want to believe our home is the safest place we can be, but to many, that is not true. Domestic violence can happen to anyone at any time. It doesn’t just happen to one type of family or to one housing bracket. Domestic violence is frequent across the board and doesn’t discriminate in any way. It can be difficult to tell if a living situation has become unsafe for those we know. Cruelty, abuse, threats, and murder happen all too frequently at home to families who may appear to be perfect and happy on the outside. If you suspect violence is occurring at a neighbor’s, friend’s, or family’s home, do not wait until it is too late to notify the authorities.

5. Rural Campsites

Camping is another favorite pastime of Americans, with rural “off the trail” camping becoming more popular.

© Willard/ via Getty Images

One of the reasons people enjoy camping so much is because of the escape from the public eye and the seclusion they feel when they do it. Sadly, plenty of dangers wait for those who choose to camp away from other campers or who go out alone and vulnerable. Robbery is the most frequent downfall to the extra seclusion, though a number of violent crimes follow it closely.

It is imperative to stay smart while camping and to pack important emergency gear. Many people die every year while camping. If it isn’t because of an attack, it can also be from freezing to death or becoming lost in the wilderness. Always camp smart and bring important survival gear. Like your mother or somebody’s mother always said, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

6. Kettle River’s Hells Gate

No matter where you choose to kayak, it is important to know the body of water you will be kayaking in. It’s best to do a walk through the area you will be kayaking to avoid any unpleasant surprises once you’re paddling. If walking isn’t feasible, being a drone to fly ahead and scout the area is another good idea. Do plenty of research and talk to other boaters who’ve recently visited the area you wish to paddle in. Make sure to bring important survival gear in case of an emergency. It’s also important to wear a lifejacket and bring your cell phone in a waterproof floating container in case of a spill. Bringing a friend along to paddle alongside can be a lifesaver.

In Minnesota, plenty of rivers exist with higher classes of whitewater. This can be extremely dangerous for the inexperienced whitewater kayaker. It is extremely important to have the correct whitewater gear, including a helmet. Hells Gate in the Kettle River is a popular but potentially very dangerous spot. The whitewater through that area is a Class III, which is not for those who aren’t experienced. It can be a death sentence to go alone or without the proper gear. This is one area that will show you why it is so important to wear a helmet during any whitewater kayaking. The “gate” is a narrow and very rough passageway between sharply jutting rocks on either side. The water can vary depending on depth and rainfall or melting snow upriver. Take some friends along. It can be a blast, but be ready for things to go wrong, just in case!

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About the Author

Katie Downey is a writer for A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, arachnids and insects. Katie has been writing and researching animals for more than a decade. Katie worked in animal rescue and rehabilitation with handicapped cats and farm animals for many years. As a resident of North Carolina, Katie enjoys exploring nature with her son, educating others on the positive role that insects and spiders play in the ecosystem and raising jumping spiders.

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