Recommended Retreat Areas

This page is divided into three sections:

Criteria for Choosing a Retreat Locale in the Continental United States (CONUS)

State Level Data and Rankings Very special thanks to “Wise Tioga”, who out of the goodness of his heart laboriously converted my data on 19 western states into a handy Excel (.xls format) spreadsheet.

Detailed Retreat Locale Data

Note: The contents of this web page are brief draft excerpts from the much larger and more detailed hard copy book “Rawles on Retreats and Relocation”, available from Cafe Press.


(Click for high-resolution maps.)

Criteria for Choosing a Retreat Locale in the Continental United States (CONUS)

When doing radio interviews or when giving lectures, I’m often asked where the “perfect” place is for a survival retreat. The short answer is: There is none. Granted, there are a lot of places that are much better than others, but there is no single “one size fits all” perfect place. Like buying a pair of boots, the decision has as much to do with the size and shape of the foot as it does the maker of the boots. Everyone has their personal needs and expectations, as well as their own ideas of how a retreat should be configured. (See my Profiles page for many examples that show this diversity.) Some people prefer dry climates while others can’t stand them. Some folks like the feeling of privacy provided by a wall of trees where others would feel claustrophobic. Some need the stimulation of exposure to the arts, while others could care less. And some have good health, while others need to live close to medical specialists.

Even more importantly, before deciding where you might move, you have to weigh the Risks and Benefits of moving at all. From an actuarial standpoint, you might have nearly as good a chance of living to a ripe old age if you stay in the suburbs. It all depends on your personal “worst case scenario”. If your envisioned worst case is an economic depression similar to that of the 1930s–with a relatively intact infrastructure–then you might conclude that there is no need to relocate. (You can just “stock up” and stay put where you are.) But if your worst case is a full scale whammy–such as a terrorism campaign that levels cities and/or causes a long term grid-down societal collapse, then you will probably want to move to a remote, lightly populated farming region with plentiful water. I’m not in the business of making scenario-based decisions for people. Those decisions are up to you, as an individual. Once you decide that you definitely want to move, then, yes, I certainly have some good suggestions on potential locales for you.

As a Christian, I believe that any major decision should be preceded by prayer. Seek God’s providence for your life. You can only do that if you have repented of you sin and have begun a Christian walk. In deference to the nature of this forum and the wide range of views held by my readers, I won’t go into great detail about this. But you know where I stand.

Deciding exactly where to relocate is not an exact science. You can gauge the potential threat and plan accordingly. But you can never be sure what will happen and where you will truly be safe. But you can sleep well, knowing that at least your percentage chances will be higher if you make the move.

There is an apocryphal story about a man who was living in Virginia in the late 1850s. He could see the U.S. Civil War brewing, and he wanted no part of it. He realized that his native Virginia was likely to be heavily contested territory, so he set about finding the safest place possible where he could shelter his family during the coming war. After much searching and deliberation he finally found a peaceful place that was far, far away from where the anticipated the battles would occur. He moved his family up to Pennsylvania–a little farming town called Gettysburg.

Basic Criteria
Once you have selected a potential region to concentrate on, select an experienced local real estate agent. Odds are that you won’t be able to find one that specializes in retreat properties. So it may take a while and a few false starts before your agent starts showing you the right type of properties. The following is a basic criteria list that you can give a real estate agent. (Tailor to suit your particular needs):

Plentiful water–preferably spring fed or an artesian well. (Pumped well water would be an inferior second choice.)

Good exposure for gardening and photovoltaics.

Not on a flood plain and in aregion with minimal natural disaster risks. (See this map: Where to Live to Avoid a Natural Disaster.)

Southern exposure (for those reader in the northern hemisphere, naturlich)–particularly important at higher elevations

“Panoramic views.” This usually means a hilltop location with open fields of fire and defendable terrain. The concept of holding high ground goes back to pre-history. Yes, I know, that this is mutually exclusive with the concept of having a house that is not in line of sight of any major road. TANSTAAFL. Decide on one or the other. But don’t buy a place that has neither attribute.

A diverse and healthy local economy. (See the City Data web site to do your reserch on demographic information.)

Minimal noxious weeds. (Russian Thistle, Teasel, Russian Knapweed, Yellow Star Thistle, etc.)

Not in the path of real estate developers. Look at where suburban developments have been established in the county. Suburban tracts tend to follow a “line of march” in certain directions—especially where there is level terrain. Note that in most regions row crop farmland and orchard land is at the greatest risk because it is easy to subdivide. Put on your thinking cap and do some extrapolation. If your intended area is in the path of the sprawl within 10 to 15 years then start looking in a different direction in less advantageous terrain, or a little further out of town.

If it has an existing house, a house with fireproof/ballistically-protected (e.g. masonry) construction. Note: If it is also in an earthquake prone area, you might weigh the odds in this regard and opt instead for more earthquake safe timber-frame construction.

Low housing costs. As discussed in detail in some of my previous blog posts, don’t overlook examining as many factors as possible including home and car insurance rates, property taxes, and so forth. This useful Internet tool compares cost of living in two cities.

An active, growing farmer’s market. I have found directories of Farmer’s Markets posted on the web for Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. The presence of farmer’s markets is a good indicator for towns with retreat potential. Furthermore, in a post-collapse America, itr will likely be the farmer’s markets that will be the genesis of a revived economy.

Not near any nuclear power plants.

My personal preference is to select a retreat in a mixed farming/ranching/timber region in low-humidity area of one of the American Redoubt states. I generally discourage folks from living in coastal regions for health reasons, risk of tidal waves or hurricanes, oil tanker mishaps, visits by foreign terrorists, and the outside chance of dramatically rising or falling sea levels in the event of a climate shift. I also discourage relocating to anywhere within 150 miles of the Mexican border. (Note: I’m not a racist–just a realist. The crime rate is higher near the border, and in the event of civil war in Mexico or any number of variations on TEOTWAWKI there could be a huge influx of illegal immigrants.)


State Level Data and Rankings

The following data (also available in an Excel spreadsheet) describes 19 western states. After much consideration, all of the eastern states were intentionally excluded from this analysis because they are all either downwind of nuclear targets and/or are in areas with excessive population density. (See my post on population density, back on August 5, 2005.) This wasn’t just the result of subjective bias. I try to use the dispassionate mindset of an actuarial accountant.

Take a look at this population density map of the US, Mexico, and Canada. Sometimes a picture truly does tell a thousand words. And on a global scale, The Human Footprint Composite Map hosted by NASA’s web site is similarly enlightening.

SurvivalBlog reader C.D.V. kindly sent me a map of the most rural counties in the U.S., compiled by Purdue University. By the way, you can right-click -> zoom. Do you notice a correlation with my designated American Redoubt states? Interesting. (And BTW, here is the source page and there is an accompanying Rural-Metropolitan Levels map, and here is the key for the second map. And it is interesting to correlate that data with the Frontier designation of some counties.

Also consider the relative grid power independence and stability various regions. The Pacific northwest is perhaps the best, because it is a producer of abundant hydroelectric power. For starters, take at look at these maps: Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid. Note that these are interactive map page. Be sure to click on all of the tabs and pull-down menu options!

You will also note that I don’t write a lot about overseas locations with retreat potential. That is outside of my area of expertise. I would appreciate hearing from folks who have viable retreats in other countries. I will gladly post your letters to the blog. (Anonymously, of course.)

Look West of the Mississippi River

As evidenced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, population density is perhaps the most crucial factor to consider when selecting a safe haven. The big cities on the Gulf Coast became hell holes, whereas the small towns got by fairly well. I know that this will cause acrimony with a lot of my readers who live east of the Mississippi River, but the plain truth is the East has too much population! The northeast is also downwind of some major nuclear targets. Unless you are among the uber-rich and can afford to buy an elaborate fully hardened bunker with HEPA filtration deep in the Smoky or Appalachian Mountains with a five year food supply, then I firmly believe that you will be safer west of the Mississippi River. That is just my opinion, so your mileage may vary (YMMV). However, before you write me a tirade about how wrong I am and how safe you’ll be in upstate New York, please re-read my August 5th through August 10th, 2005 posts in the early SurvivalBlog Archives. Also, take a long hard look at the “Lights of the U.S.” photo maps at: A picture tells a thousand words.

When thinking about where you’d prefer to buy your retreat and/or retirement home don’t just look at climate. Look at all the factors. Depending on your age and interest in true independence from “the system” you might also consider factors like home schooling laws and home birth laws.

Here is my overall Retreat Potential ranking of 19 western states, which I will explain in detail:

1 Idaho
2 Montana
3 Oregon
4 Washington
5 Wyoming
6 Utah
7 South Dakota
8 North Dakota
9 Arizona
10 Colorado
11 Nebraska
12 Kansas
13 Texas
14 Nevada
15 New Mexico
16 Arkansas
17 Oklahoma
18 Louisiana
19 California

As a point of reference, here is an excerpt from Boston T. Party’s Gun Law ranking (for the 19 states on my list), from Boston’s excellent book Boston’s Gun Bible.

1 Idaho
2 Louisiana
3 Wyoming
4 Montana
5 Arizona
6 New Mexico
7 Texas
8 Oklahoma
9 Nevada
10 Utah
11 Colorado
12 South Dakota
13 Kansas
14 Arkansas
15 Oregon
16 Nebraska
17 North Dakota
18 Washington
19 California

And as yet another point of reference, here are the same 19 states, ranked by the length of their growing season (in the warmest part of each state):

1 Arizona
2 Texas
3 Louisiana
4 California
5 Nevada
6 Oregon
7 Washington
8 Idaho
9 Utah
10 Kansas
11 Arkansas
12 New Mexico
13 Oklahoma
14 Colorado
15 Wyoming
16 Montana
17 Nebraska
18 South Dakota
19 North Dakota


For comparison, consider the population density of the 50 States, versus available farm land, in the following table kindly supplied by SurvivalBlog reader Dr. Hugh:

State Population


Sq. KMs
of Farmland


Pop. per Sq. KM
of Farmland
WY 498,703 13,366 37
MT 909,453 21,903 42
ND 634,110 15,220 42
SD 761,063 16,997 45
NE 1,729,180 17,924 96
NM 1,855,059 16,997 109
KS 2,715,884 18,311 148
IA 2,936,760 12,593 233
OK 3,493,714 13,134 266
ID 1,341,131 4,597 292
CO 4,506,542 12,091 373
TX 21,779,893 50,606 430
MN 5,019,720 10,971 458
AR 2,710,079 5,640 481
MO 5,672,579 11,512 493
UT 2,316,256 4,481 517
OR 3,521,515 6,644 530
AZ 5,456,453 10,237 533
MS 2,871,782 4,249 676
KY 4,092,891 5,254 779
NV 2,173,491 2,627 827
WI 5,441,196 6,142 886
WA 6,068,996 6,065 1,001
IN 6,159,058 5,949 1,035
IL 12,600,620 10,701 1,178
VT 616,592 518 1,191
TN 5,797,289 4,520 1,283
WV 1,801,873 1,391 1,296
AL 4,486,508 3,438 1,305
LA 4,482,646 3,110 1,441
AK 643,786 355 1,811
OH 11,421,267 5,679 2,011
GA 8,560,310 4,249 2,015
VA 7,293,542 3,361 2,170
SC 4,107,183 1,854 2,215
HI 1,244,898 556 2,238
NC 8,320,146 3,515 2,367
MI 10,050,446 4,018 2,502
ME 1,294,464 487 2,659
CA 35,116,033 10,701 3,282
DE 807,385 216 3,732
PA 12,335,091 2,975 4,147
FL 16,713,149 3,940 4,242
NY 19,157,532 2,936 6,525
MD 5,458,137 811 6,728
NH 1,275,056 158 8,050
CT 3,460,503 139 24,883
MA 6,427,801 216 29,713
RI 1,069,725 23 46,509

The preceding is based on land in current farm production and the cited “245 people per square kilometer” is a worst case average. As was pointed out in some of the follow-up letters, if you have an area with higher yields per acre, such as rice producing regions, this figure can increase, but it should give us an idea of how bad the dislocations are going to be in a societal collapse.

Important Note: Dr. Hugh took out grazing lands, CRP lands, etc. and only had square kilometers of land under actual cultivation.  This is based on a USDA estimate since exact figures are not kept except on a county by county level.  This is why the “final” number is square kilometers is much less than it would appear to be on the surface.

For example a piece of land Dr. Hugh is looking at — 160 acres — only has 10 acres under active cultivation.  The rest of the section is either open range grazing land or CRP land.

He ruled out the original colonies and adjacent areas.  (Those have the figures shaded light red.) He ruled out the states west of the Mississippi River but with population densities that are far too high for sustainable agriculture. (Those are shaded dark red.)

He evaluated the states west of the Mississippi that are adjacent to “basket case” states with high population densities, and shaded them yellow.

This leaves us with a list of  only 11 states (shaded in green) that would make a good retreat/relocation area, so long as you choose wisely within the state itself.

For example, Dr. Hugh rates Wyoming high on his list, but if limit your criteria to only areas that are in the milder climate zone west of the Great Divide, then that leaves only parts of the western third of Wyoming. Similarly, he rates Montana highly, but if limit your criteria to only areas upwind of nuclear targets and that are in the milder climate zone west of the Great Divide, then that leaves only northwest corner of Montana. He also discounts Oregon and Washington, but the eastern halves of both of those states are very lightly populated.

Dr. Hugh’s short list is then:

State Population
Sq. KMs
of Farmland
Pop. per Sq. KM
of Farmland
Dr. Hugh’s
MT 909,453 21,903 42 2 1
WY 498,703 13,366 37 5 2
ID 1,341,131 4,597 292 1 3
SD 761,063 16,997 45 7 4
ND 634,110 15,220 42 8 5
NE 1,729,180 17,924 96 11 6
NM 1,855,059 16,977 109 15 7
KS 2,715,884 18,311 148 12 8
CO 4,506,542 12,091 373 10 9
OK 3,493,714 13,134 266 17 10
TX 21,779,893 50,606 430 13 11

Why not Alaska?

A year ago, I heard one “expert” on the radio recommend Alaska as a retreat destination because it has the lowest population density of any State, and has low taxes. IMHO, he couldn’t be more wrong! The biggest problem is that from an economic standpoint, Alaska is essentially a big offshore island. Many essential items are shipped or flown in. What happens when the ships and planes stop arriving? It won’t be pretty–at least not in Alaska’s cities. (Ironically, although it is the most lightly populated state, Alaska has the second highest crime rate in the country!) Coastal Alaska is also earthquake prone. Further, you may think that because of the North Slope oil that the state will have plentiful fuel. Bzzzzzt! Wrong answer! There is insufficient refinery capacity of meet Alaska’s “domestic” needs, and insufficient transport to get refined fuels where they are needed. (Current transport is geared to distributing fuel and lubricants brought in from the Lower 48–not locally produced fuel and lubricants.) So the little fuel left in Alaska post-TEOTWAWKI will be jealously guarded–doubtless saved for critical tasks like running farm tractors and chain saws. So there will be virtually none available for fishing boats or between-town commerce.

In a long term collapse, the residents of Alaska’s densely populated coastal cities will likely starve and/or freeze to death. Meanwhile, those in inland towns, albeit better fed, will be geographically isolated so that commerce with the coast will be difficult if not impossible. Bush pilots will eventually be grounded due to lack of fuel, lubricants and spare parts. The only people I foresee surviving are a few seasoned Sourdoughs and native tribe members that still have well-honed outdoor survival skills and are still capable of reverting to a self-sufficient mode. The best set up for this would be a small settlement on a clear water (non-glacial) stream with an active salmon run and a couple of productive “fish wheel” salmon traps.

Another consideration is that the Alaska Pipeline is vulnerable if the power grid goes down. As of 2007, grid power is needed for the four giant electric pumps used to pressurize the oil pipeline. These replaced the pipeline’s original diesel-powered pumps.

My prediction: In the event of TEOTWAWKI, the Al-Can highway will have heavy traffic with heavily-laden pickup trucks carrying beau coup gas cans, going in both directions: Greenhorns from the lower 48 thinking that Alaska is the place to be and Alaskan Citizens who realize that Alaska is not a viable place to stay in a long term Crunch.

A SurvivalBlog Reader in Alaska Adds:

Mr. Rawles,
As a long-time resident of Alaska, I agree in general [with your Retreat Locales page assessment] that it’s just not a viable survival location for most people. Someone wanting to move here should carefully consider whether it would work for them. Alaska is huge, with a low population. While 275,000 people live in the Anchorage area, only 400,00 live in the rest of the state, comprised of over 1/2 million square miles. But more than 99% of the land is off limits to settlement, because it’s owned by either government or native corporations. Even if land were available, most of it is inaccessible if you can’t afford a helicopter or float plane. Much of it is treeless, windblown, and covered with ice and snow more than six months per year. When the ice finally melts, the roads buckle and heave due to the cycle of freezing and thawing. This requires expensive maintenance that would not be sustainable if TSHTF.

The economy of Alaska is driven by oil income and government spending, both of which would cease if the U.S. economy collapsed. There is very little local manufacturing capability. Sadly, even most natives have lost the ability to live off the land, due to income from various government programs and business ventures.

Home heating is a huge expense in Alaska; $6,000 or more per winter for some households. Even if you have a source of wood and cut it yourself, it’s going to occupy a lot of your time.

On the plus side, there’s unlimited pure air and water. While wildlife isn’t as abundant as most people think, there are more than enough fish to keep everyone alive in a survival scenario. There are almost no insects to bother crops, and although the growing season is short, some vegetables do very well in the long daylight hours in summer. Alaska has one of the best concealed-carry laws in the country, and most prisoners are outsourced to other states, so they would not be a problem in a collapse. Alaska has a high concentration of military and former military personnel, who generally have a sound grasp of Constitutional issues.

Alaskans understand survival. Many who live in villages or in the bush have no running water. Some have no electricity. Alaska is a great place to practice survival skills. But you might not want to stay after TSHTF unless you’re in extremely good health, you tolerate cold well, and you’re prepared to do the hard work it would take to survive in a hostile environment. – K.L. in Alaska

And Why Not Hawaii?
Just as in Alaska, what happens when the ships and planes stop arriving? Too much population (1,250,000 and growing!) and too little self-sufficiency. Lousy gun laws, too. The only thing that Hawaii has going for it is a mild climate and the fact that each island produces its own power—albeit with imported fuel. If and when the North American grid goes down, it will be something that Hawaiians will see reported on the evening news. Yes, I know, fish are plentiful and you can walk through the jungle and forage enough fruit in just an hour to feed your family for a day. But the two-legged predators will be out in force. It probably won’t be safe to go out fishing or foraging. Perhaps the residents of some of the smaller islands will pull through a Crunch. Certainly they might on Ni`ihau–the small western island reserved for natives only and their traditional lifestyle–subsistence agriculture, and fishing. But of course: “Haoles need not apply…”

Taxes and Cost of Living

Before making a move to another state, be sure to research the various tax rates and the relative cost of living. These web site might prove useful:

Overall Tax Burden by State

State Income Tax Rates

State Sales Tax Rates

Cost of Living Comparison

Profiles/Data/Commentary on 19 Western States


Population: 5.1 million.
Population Density: 44.7 per square mile (Rank 7 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 114,000 square miles (rank 6 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $438/yr. (rank 30 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 48 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 91%.
Per capita income: $24,988 (rank 37 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 25 of 50.
Plusses: Mild winters at lower elevations. Has the nation’s top rating in “education freedom” (the state is at the forefront of the charter school movement.) Open carry of handguns is legal and perhaps the most commonplace in the Lower 48. “No-permit required” concealed carry was enacted in 2010.
Minuses: Intensely hot summers at lower elevations. Fairly high population density (by western states standards.) Water is scarce in much of the state. Very high crime rate! Expensive car insurance rates. (Because it has the highest car theft rate in the nation.) Nuclear targets. Proximity to the Mexican border. Some northern parts of the state are recommended (with provisos). Has a high ratio of illegal aliens. Note: I probably should have given Arizona a higher ranking, due to its favorable gun laws and long growing season. However, its very crime rate, high insurance costs, and proximity to the Mexican border pushed it down the list.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 9 of 19.

An Arizona Citizen Adds the Following Comments
Just adding some thoughts on your assessment of Arizona. There are two Arizonas, the lower half at an average elevation of less than 3,000 feet, and the half up on the Colorado plateau at 5,000-8,000 feet, and the two are totally different. You are absolutely correct about Southern Arizona being too populated, too close the border, and too much crime, almost all of which is in metropolitan Phoenix. If ones does their research (and I am not going to spell it all out here), there are some locations that come in very high. First check your groundwater availability, some areas have intermittent surface water, and no aquifer. Other areas have excellent, clean, well flowing, deep aquifers. You will probably have to put in a well, either wind or solar powered. Solar power has an advantage in that it can be hidden better, but it had the disadvantage of being more technologically complex. [JWR Adds: The folks at Solarjack/SunPumps of Safford, Arizona are both knowledgeable and reputable PV powered pump dealers. I first did business with them in 1991.] With a good well, you not only have drinking water, you can grow crops. There are large concentrations of LDS members in some areas, this is a good thing to look for, crime is low, and they make good neighbors, even if you are not LDS. Land is reasonably cheap ($200-$500/acre) out of the towns a few miles, but you will have the added expense of your well, which will cost $12-$15K including the windmill or solar, and solar electric generation for lights, and other power, which can add that much again, for a modest system. Game is available, and the population density is these localized areas is measured in square miles per person. My nearest neighbor is 3/4 of a mile away, the next closest is two miles in the opposite direction, and more than three miles each in the other two directions,yet there is a town of about 5,000 people, only nine miles by rough road, away. (The place I selected, allows my retreat to not be seen from the little traveled rutted dirt road in front of my place; the only indication that someone is even there, is a slightly overgrown track leading over a low ridge through some trees, from a nondescript barb wire fence gate. After one rainstorm, the track looks like it hasn’t been traveled for months. The CONEX boxes are painted olive drab, and hidden by trees. blackout curtains are used at night in the neutral colored dwelling, you cannot see the place, day or night, from 40 yards away, even though there are large meadows on two sides, as I made sure at least some trees were between the open areas and the structures.) Cattle and crops are grown in the area, and there is game, ranging from rabbits to antelope to elk. Topography ranges from savannah, to juniper to tall pines, depending on the elevation. You are close enough that you can work/live in Phoenix, if needed, yet have a retreat available less than 200 miles away, just know ALL the ways out of town, and have stuff propositioned. And, if you have the money for $20-40K an acre, there are a few select areas in the 4000-5000 foot elevation that have year round running surface water, good flat ground for crops are isolated, surrounded by high mountains and easily defended, as the only two roads in, can be easily defended, or blocked – AZDoug



Population: 2.67 million.
Population Density: 50.2 per square mile (Rank 5 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 53,187 square miles (rank 27 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $721/yr. (rank 30 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $494/yr. (rank 19 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 8 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 66%.
Per capita income: $21,995 (rank 49 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 23 of 50.
Plusses: Low property taxes.
Minuses: High population density (by western states standards.) Tornado prone (ranked #5 out of top 20 States). Poverty. The Arkansas economy barely scrapes by, even in good times. The state has a fairly large welfare dependent under class. This could prove problematic in the event of TEOTWAWKI. Poorly educated populace. For example: High school graduates, percent of persons age 25+, (2000 stats): 75.3%, versus 80.4% nationwide. Bachelor’s degree or higher, percentage of persons age 25+, (2000 stats): 16.7%, versus 24.4% nationwide. Note: Look for natural gas producing areas so that you can run your pickup on “drip” oil. (See my posts in the Archives on alternate fuels.)
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 16 of 19.

A Recent Relocatee to Arkansas (and Regular SurvivalBlog Contributor) Comments:

I researched for several years and made five trips to Arkansas in 18 months or so and as a “retreat” area North Central Arkansas wins on many levels for my needs. The statistics you quote, I’m sure, are valid as an overall state average, BUT most of the population seems to be in the Southern and West/East portions of the state and that seems to be where most of the tornados occur, and also where welfare recipients live. [JWR adds: This adds credence to my theory that tornadoes are mysteriously guided by some unseen force toward single-wide trailer parks.] There is a very homogenous population in this area with lots of well-attended churches and close family ties. One does not need a Bachelor’s to take over Dad’s logging or sawmill business or river/fishing guide business. Up here in the North Central area in the Ozarks things are really not fitting your averages. My criteria on a new AO was an sparsely populated area, a longer growing season than the maybe 90 days I had [in northern Nevada] for the last 16 years, better/shorter winter season, water availability, less expensive cost of living for basics, and lack of bureaucratic interference. The northern counties of Arkansas seem to fit the criteria perfectly. So far my propane, building supplies, fencing, food costs, and car insurance/license/tags are far less than I had been paying. Yes, the education system is poor and conventional jobs are scarce. However, the folks are friendly to newcomers without being nosey, one does not seem to need a permit for doing any improvements to property, and self-employment (under the table income) is rampant here and the work provided to customers is excellent. Land is, in my opinion, very cheap here to buy compared to lots of other areas in the U.S. – averaging $500-to-$1000 per acre with the higher pricing on lakeside properties. Good fishing, good hunting, good weather, good friends – just what I was looking for. Cities are cities anywhere one goes and that seems to be where the “problems” or potential problems congregate. Rural is rural, by the same token. I know your focus is/has been communities of like-minded folks banded together for safety and survival. I, personally, think that will happen much more shortly after a SHTF scenario than before such an event(s). I, like many others I know, have been laying the groundwork for that latter scenario, but it’s not that comfortable to do it now, in advance. The plans are there, ready to put into action, but in the meantime, we are all working on our own plans for now and in the future and we stay in communication regarding such plans while still maintaining our privacy and property, if that makes sense to you. We, amongst my friends, know who will/can do what and provide what in most any disaster and we keep those plans in mind while we develop our individual projects.



Population: 34 million+.
Population Density: 214 per square mile (Rank 1 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 158,706 square miles (rank 3 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $765/yr. (rank 23 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $592/yr. (rank 9 of 50),
Crime Safety Ranking: 39 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 30%.
Per capita income: $32,149 (rank 8 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 37 of 50.
Plusses: Mild climate and a long growing seasons in most parts of the state. High wages.
Minuses: Excessive population density, high crime rate, copious smog, high cost of living, aggravating traffic, earthquake prone, over-inflated real estate prices, expensive building permits, restrictive zoning, high sales tax (as much as 8.5% in some counties!), draconian gun control laws, MTBE-tainted municipal and well water, high income and property taxes, multiple terrorist and WWIII targets, mediocre public schools, a cluttered radio spectrum, a state budget crisis that has reduced the state’s bonds to junk bond status, a proliferation of anti-small business and environmental regulations, exploding illegal immigration, anti-home schooling legislators, expensive car registration, high car insurance rates, the highest worker’s compensation insurance cost in the nation ($5.23 per $100 in payroll!), high health insurance rates, a very litigious and biased court system, and an ever-expanding socialistic Nanny State. California K-to-12 students ranks 48th of the 50 states in academics. California is definitely not recommended, except perhaps for those committed to the anti-gun pacifist school of survivalism and willing to home school their kids, and then only if you live in the most remote portions of the state–far northern California. (Such as Humboldt, Modoc, or Trinity County) or perhaps the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.(Such as the Bishop or Lone Pine areas.)
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 19 of 19.

JWR adds: I included California in my rankings of 19 states partly to show some contrasts to the other states listed. Because so many SurvivalBlog readers live in California, I hope that this serves as encouragement for them to “vote with their feet.”

Three Letters from SurvivalBlog Readers About California

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I’m a CA resident and a CA high school history teacher, and just read your retreat observations regarding my state. My experience with out-of-state critics of CA is that they often exaggerate wildly about conditions here as well as frequently blame voters here for the conditions we have (I’ve
voted against all aspects of the present socialist nightmare but look what we have). In your case, however, I can honestly say that your analysis and summary are 100% accurate and spot-on. I regret only that your summary isn’t printed in the Op-Ed section of the Los Angeles Times and circulated.

FWIW, I am looking for a teaching job elsewhere so I can get the heck out [of California] before TSHTF. When it happens here, it will make Katrina’s aftermath look like a kindergarten dance. Take care and keep up the great work, – S.

Mr. Rawles,
I love your site. It is the first thing that I read in the morning now. I just wanted to point out Alameda County [California] sales tax is now 8.75%, the highest in the state except for Catalina Island! I drive to Monterey (the nearest county with the state minimum 7.25% sales tax) for any decent sized purchase, except autos because the DMV charges you by the county of residence. BTW, the county listed on the registration determines your insurance and whether or not you need a smog inspection. (yes some counties don’t require smog tests or not as stringent tests) if you have property or a friend with an address you can use. Modoc County car insurance will be much cheaper than Alameda County, I guarantee you.
Since the hurricane, I have doubled my efforts and consolidated down my BOB, working on one for my wife’s car. I picked up three times the amount of canned goods this last weekend at our regular shopping trip (stuff we actually eat on a regular basis). I sold a few more of my excess firearms, put the funds towards supplies and hard money investments (no debts except mortgage) one benefit of CA gun laws is that no ‘out of production’ guns can legally be brought into the state for sale This includes vintage Smiths and Colts and even recent stuff like Colt Delta Elites. So the price of these in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia (PRK) is way out of whack compared to the rest of the country, as seen by prices on the firearm auction sites. I sold a few old S&Ws that I was into for $200 and $300 for $650 and $750.. just because you can’t ‘legally’ get them here! After I move to free America, I can repurchase at lower prices if I want. Acreage properties in Modoc, Plumas and Trinity or Sierra counties up in extreme northern CA as you suggest are way too expensive (relative to acreage on the Oregon or Nevada side of the line) now, There is little to NO industry or jobs up there and logging is being legislated out of existence. Unless you have money or have a home-based job that you can do from your computer, good luck up there. Possibly as a retreat location but you are still sometimes 4-8 hours drive to some of those places on Friday night from the [San Francisco] Bay area. Double or triple that time in Katrina like escape traffic on I-5 or I-80. Though fishing and hunting up there is second to none!
BTW some of your profiles are awesome. If I had even 1/100 of Bill Gates’ budget mine would be even better. – T.L.

You sure hit the nail on the head when you wrote about California, and the northern counties of Humboldt and Trinity. Life is different up here, but you still have to contend with the lunatics down south, and the stupid laws they make. (Not to mention that some parts of Humboldt (Arcata) are just full of “hippy” types….Yes, there are many left, and this is where they pooled.) Many people up here just do not seem to understand that they are subject to these laws. I have been told not to worry so much about certain things, because even the cops (up here), just don’t care. But the bottom line is the fact that this creates a huge “if they want ya, they got ya” type situation. Now most people already live with this to some extent, but it is far worse out here. Then there is the fact that the people that were born and raised out here, if they are under 30, just have no idea what it’s like to live in a semi free state. Some just cannot believe it when I tell them what is still legal in a state like Florida or Wyoming. It is very sad. This is a beautiful part of the country, with a great climate…but I know I will not be able to stand it long. – Gung-Ho



Population: 4.3 million.
Population Density: 41.3 per square mile (Rank 8 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 104,000 square miles (rank 8 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $881/yr. (rank 11 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $571/yr. (rank 12 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 26 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 74%.
Per capita income: $32,434 (rank 7 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 15 of 50.
Plusses: A low “total tax burden” of 8.4%. Has a high rating in “education freedom” for home schooling (ranked #8 of 50).
Minuses: Fairly high population density (by western U.S. standards.) The emerging Nanny State mentality is also troubling.
Parts of the state are recommended.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 10 of 19.



Population: 1.3 million (and about 2.1 million cattle.)
Population Density: 15.5 per square mile (Rank 15 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 83,437 square miles (rank 13 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $608/yr. (rank 48 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $326/yr. (rank 50 of 50).
Average Home Price in Clearwater County: $112,725
Average Home Price in Idaho County: $109,500
Average Home Price in Kootenai County: $112,849
Average Home Price in Latah County: $118,325 (skewed because of the large number of 120+ acre farms and ranches)
Crime Safety Ranking: 9 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 97%.
Per capita income: $23,727 (rank 41 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 15 of 50.

Plusses: Low Very low crime rate. (For example, it ranks second from the bottom in car thefts of the 50 states.) Low property taxes. Inexpensive building permits. Minimally intrusive government. Inexpensive car registration ($20 to $50 per year, plus a one-time-only $15 plate fee.) Low car insurance rates. Low health insurance rates. Extremely low home insurance rates. (An average of $326 per year. Ranks #50 in the country!) The most wilderness area in any of the 48 Continental United States. (Only Alaska has more.) 21.6 million forested acres. Minimal gun laws. Class 3 guns (machineguns short barreled rifles and shotguns, and suppressors) are legal to own after the $200 Federal tax and background check. Open carry of handguns is legal and fairly commonplace. CCW permits must be issued unless someone has a prior criminal record. (“Non-discretionary.”) No CCW permit is required for concealed carry outside of city limits. Vehicular carry of loaded guns is legal and very common. Automatic knives are legal to own and carry. Minimally regulated home schooling. Low population density. Low elevation portions of the state have a fairly mild climate. Hunting and fishing are excellent in many parts of the state, so there will be no shortage of protein WTSHTF. High ratio of horse ownership, so I anticipate that transportation will be available in the event of a long term TEOTWAWKI. By 2025, Idaho is projected to be the 40th most populous with 1.7 million people. (It is currently the 39th most populous state.) Affordable property: The median home price for all of Idaho is $105,403. One useful web site: Idaho Department of Commerce Community Profiles.

Minuses: Has a relatively high state income tax. Sadly, 63.7% of Idaho’s lands are owned by federal government. (Mostly National Forest and BLM land.) But at least that provides a “really big back yard” for hunting and cutting firewood. Cold winters at the higher elevations. (Look for property in the low river valleys if you can’t stand snow!) Low wages compared to most coastal states.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 1 of 19. (JWR’s top choice!)



Population: 2.6 million.
Population Density: 31.7 per square mile (Rank 10 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 82,000 square miles (rank 14 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $688/yr. (rank 36 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $593/yr. (rank 8 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 23 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 68%.
Per capita income: $27,374 (rank 27 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 4 of 50.
Minuses: Little crop diversity. Few local firewood sources. Tornado prone (ranked #2 out of top 20 States). High car insurance rates. High home insurance rates. The flat terrain is difficult to defend. (Because there are too many avenues of approach.)
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 12 of 19.



Population: 4.5 million.
Population Density: 94.2 per square mile (Rank 2 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 47,751 square miles (rank 8 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $928/yr. (rank 30 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $721/yr. (rank 2 of 50)
Crime Safety Ranking: 50 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 94%.
Per capita income: $23,090 (rank 45 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 34 of 50.
Plusses: Mild climate. Low property taxes. Firearms freedom.
Minuses: Coastal Louisiana and +/- 50 miles inland is in the hurricane zone.
Very high population density (by western U.S. standards.) Louisiana has the lowest crime safety ranking the U.S.! (New Orleans is ranked one of the least safe cities in the country: It is ranked #13 in the “Top 20 Most Dangerous Metropolitan Areas.) The second least well-educated population of any state–ranked 49 of 50. Very high car insurance rates. Extremely high home insurance rates. (Average of $721 per year. Ranks #2 in the country!) In a true TEOTWAWKI situation, folks in some rural areas may see non-Cajuns as expendable “outsiders.” High humidity (over 60% in the southern half of the state.) Low wages.
Some northern portions of the state are recommended, with strong reservations.
Note: I probably should have given Louisiana higher ranking, due to its favorable gun and tax laws and favorable climate–at least in the northern half of the state. However, its extremely high crime rate and high insurance costs pushed it far down the list.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 18 of 19.

JWR Adds: Note that I wrote the following long before Hurricane Katrina arrived in September of ’05. I certainly was right when I warned “Coastal Louisiana and +/- 50 miles inland is in the hurricane zone”–but I didn’t need to be any sort of sage with arcane knowledge to figure that out…




Population: 903,000.
Population Density: 6.1 per square mile (Rank 18 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 147,000 square miles (rank 4 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $671/yr. (rank 38 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $451/yr. (rank 26 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 10 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 92%.
Per capita income: $22,518 (rank 46 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 8 of 50.
Montana Agriculture reference:
Montana Crops: Potatoes, sugar beats, sorghum, alfalfa, grass hay, and grains.
Plusses: Very low crime rate! Very low population density. Minimal gun laws. Good schools. A very non-intrusive government. (For example, in the 1990s there were a few years with no daylight speed limit on most of Montana’s highways outside of city limits.) Low car insurance rates.
Minuses: Very cold winters, especially east of the Great Divide, and a short growing season. (The number of frost free days range from 139 days in Glendive to just 39 days in Ovando!) Insufficient crop diversity. Low wages. Montana’s missile fields are still in the Russian target structure.
Lower elevation areas west of the Great Divide (and upwind of the missile fields) are recommended.
Note: I probably should have given Montana a lower ranking, due to its cold climate and short growing season. However, because of Montana’s favorable gun laws, low crime rate, and light population density, I bumped it up the list.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 2 of 19.

A Recent Relocatee to Montana Adds The Following:
Jim: I am not a religious nut when I tell you the Holy Spirit impressed my entire family we were all to leave where we lived and head to Montana. So I started visiting
the real estate web sites searching for homes that might fit our particular requirements. We arrived with a list of 46 homes in a binder sorted by area/city etc. After
spending seven days working out of the Flathead Lake / Kalispell area and looking at 28 homes we were discouraged. We looked at properties up to $450,000. Price was not the issue. The issue was being at peace with our purchase. After seven days my son in law called to say we should go up to Eureka and look at the houses we had printed out for that area. So I called a realtor’s agent and gave her a list of eighteen properties with the liberty to weed out those that she thought would not fit. We looked at eight properties and one twice.
All of the properties appeared to belong to Christians of one flavor or another. Some we met just outright stated they were believers. After leaving the realtor we discussed the merits of one property some more. It had all the things we require: five bedrooms, two for offices, 2 plus acres, multiple bug out routes, two tillable acres, about two feet of snow per year, plenty of wood nearby, a lake filled with ducks and geese. Plus we have plenty deer, elk, bears, game birds, chickens in the spring, and more available land in the general area. The growing season is 158 days. The land is sub irrigated and we have a deep thirty gallon per minute well. Water is just seven feet down. After several hours of contemplation, some prayer the Holy Spirit simply said you will be safe here. After purchasing we learned the seller failed to disclose the presence of a questionable unrecorded easement and spring. These undisclosed issues will work themselves out in time. We are about 20 miles from the Canadian Border. I am an American, so I will stay here regardless of what happens. This is a very nice home, but it may just prove to be our base camp while establishing something more remote. In the coming times of confusion, I believe that boldness, good planning, stealth and mobility will be key to retaking our nation. The wind currents are favorable to protect us from most fallout. We are situated on the edge of a valley between two mountains. I can close the roads with chain saws and some old vehicles stored nearby without trouble. The hillside provides three good LP/OP positions with places for many spider holes. Bug out into the National Forest is behind the home or down the road. The plus side of living here is that most of the people profess to be Believers without ever asking them. There are the drug pushers and users in the high school and we will gather their names for future reference. Everybody works hard at whatever they do. The down side of moving to a non-affluent area is that the people do not have the wherewithal to prepare for what is coming. Some are on welfare. So if they do not leave they will eventually become part of the problem. The only thing I will be able to help them with is seed and prayer. Unless we get a windfall my family of twelve is all I can prepare for.
I am 64 years old and splitting six cords of wood. We have sufficient food to carry us for a good while plus seed, game, and fish. We will be putting in a garden and canning vegetables and storing, smoked meats (am building a smoke house in the spring). We are putting up enough fuel to last us for at least two years. My priorities are water, food and seeds, fuel, fire heat, natural medicine, clothing, shoes, trade goods, tools, trade coins etc. We have sufficient weapons and supplies. Our choice of weapons are .45 ACP, .22, .223, .308, plus other hunting calibers. We would like to see things remain stable for two more years so I can pay this place off, but can get by if things crash ten minutes from now. All of us need to remember if we have a real financial crash as the result of any disaster, all of us will be in the same boat. This includes the bankers as well. The crash will be worldwide. We who survive the crash, food riots, anarchy, civil war and the attack on America that follows can purchase property for reasonable prices with real money. My home insurance is about $1,000 per year but my rural auto insurance just went down. License plates for vehicles twelve years and older are a onetime $76. Food costs are not too bad yet. We make a weekly trip to the larger stores in Kalispell to buy in bulk. We are filling our fuel tanks quietly. I recently learned that before 911 there were sixteen Border Patrol in the area. Now there are about seventy. They appear to have police powers twenty five miles south of the Canadian border and they act like we Americas were the enemy. Something to remember when you move close to the Canadian border.
Lord bless you and your family with happiness and joy. – M. in Montana.


Population: 1.7 million.
Population Density: 21.9 per square mile (Rank 12 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 77,355 square miles (rank 15 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $649/yr. (rank 42 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $499/yr. (rank 18 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 12 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 64%.
Per capita income: $27,630 (rank 26 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 5 of 50.
Plusses: Low crime rate.
Minuses: Tornado prone (ranked #4 out of top 20 States).There are missile fields (see map) Few local firewood sources.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 11 of 19.



Population: 2 million.
Population Density: 18 per square mile (Rank 13 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 110,561 square miles (rank 7 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $937/yr. (rank 7 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $479/yr. (rank 21 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 49 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 76%.
Per capita income: $29,506 (15 rank of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 25 of 50.
Comments: One editor listed in the acknowledgements stubbornly insists
that my ranking below is unfair to parts of Nevada. Nevada is really “a tale of two states”: Las Vegas and then all the rest. Las Vegas has the same urban problems as Los Angeles, which affects the insurance and crime numbers above. Las Vegas has a severe desert climate that is hostile to agriculture, and most residents are dependent on water from elsewhere. Las Vegas is not worth of consideration, and its influence on the state’s statistics conceals a very viable and potentially desirable relocation alternative in Northern Nevada.
Plusses: No income tax, relatively pro-gun ownership, except for Clark County’s (Las Vegas) handgun registration laws. Northern Nevada, particularly Reno and the Carson Valley (which will be listed second tier relocation region in my subsequent posts) have mild summers not requiring air-conditioning, ample water from snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountain range, widespread ranching and hay production, better schools than Las Vegas, and solidly conservative political demographics (except for inner Reno). Healthy economy with many companies relocating from California. Northern Nevada is considered an ideal off-the-grid solar power location, with plenty of sun during the moderately chilly winters.

Nevada is not recommended for a survivalist with a small to moderate budget. However, for someone who is wealthy and who can stand the climate, Nevada should be bumped up a notch or two. Taxes will be a big issue for you—and Nevada has no income tax. As someone “of means” you will be able to afford lots of food storage, voluminous fuel storage, and a large greenhouse to make up for the hot summers/cold winters climate of the Nevada high country. (See my posts in a week or two for specific recommendations within Nevada.)
Minuses: Expensive land in the more desirable areas with plentiful water. May suffer from the “Golden Horde” effect–a huge wave of refugees and looters pouring in from more populous California in in the event of an abrupt TEOTWAWKI. Water is scarce in Nevada, at least south and east of the Sierras.Also consider: extremely high crime rate (Las Vegas severely skews this statistic), minimal agriculture (except for some hay growing and ranching in the northern portions of the state), high sales tax, expensive car registration for newer cars (but a friend in Nevada reports that a 10-year-old vehicle that was originally purchased for $50,000 costs only $68 per year to register), exploding population growth (the fastest in the U.S. due primarily to Las Vegas), the lowest church attendance rate in the country (ranked 50 of 50 – the state is more libertarian than conservative), and heavy dependence on gambling for tax revenue. Has a low rating in “education freedom” (ranked #47 of 50). While Nevada’s calculated per capita “tax burden” is 12% higher than the national average for all 50 states, much of this comes from tourist gambling revenues, so those non-gamblers in their prime earning years may still find Nevada to be a relatively low tax haven. Nevada has refreshingly lax incorporation laws. There is a risk that statewide political control could shift to the pro-tax liberals of Las Vegas (although the state Constitution requires a 2/3 majority to create an income tax). Some central and northern regions of the state with plentiful surface water are recommended—but with provisos.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 14 of 19 (Note: I’d probably rank it at 7 or 8 if it weren’t for Las Vegas.)


New Mexico

Population: 1.8 million.
Population Density: 14.8 per square mile (Rank 15 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 121,593 square miles (rank 5 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $828/yr. (rank 14 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $450/yr. (rank 27 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 44 of 50.
Per capita income: $21,931 (rank 48 of 50).
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 87%.
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 30 of 50.
Plusses: Low population density. Minimal gun laws. People in New Mexico’s rural areas are already highly self-sufficient, out of economic necessity.
Minuses: Proximity to Mexican border. Water is scarce in much of the state. (Many families haul all of their drinking water from town and store it in large cisterns. That would have dubious utility in a TEOTWAWKI-style collapse.) Economically, New Mexico is essentially like a Third World country within the U.S. The least well-educated population of any state. Expensive car insurance rates. Unfortunately the most mild climate zone in New Mexico (the southwest corner) is also very close to the Mexican border. Low wages. High crime rate. Note: Look for natural gas producing areas so that you can run your pickup on “drip” oil. (See my posts in the Archives on alternate fuels.) Some portions of the state with low population density are recommended.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 15 of 19.


North Dakota

Population: 642,200.
Population Density: 9 per square mile (Rank 17 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 70,700 square miles (rank 17 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $601/yr. (rank 49 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $426/yr. (rank 33 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 2 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 61%.
Per capita income: $24,708 (rank 38 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 6 of 50.
Plusses: very low population density. Extremely low crime rate. Extremely low car insurance rates. With the decline in family farming, the state has actually de-populated, leaving real estate prices low. In eastern North Dakota, in-town lots can be had literally for free–to encourage re-settlement. For various economic and demographic data, see:
Minuses: Brutally cold winters. Short growing season.With the de-population, crop diversity has decreased. (Practically a monoculture.) Many small towns in North Dakota now lack key commerce such as grocery stores, hardware stores, and so forth. (People in many small towns are now forced to drive long distances to do their weekly shopping.) Some small towns in the de-populated regions are verging on desperation, hence the aforementioned “free lots”offers. (Some schools are being closed for want of pupils.)

Although the last of the ICBMs in North Dakota were removed in 1998, much of North Dakota is downwind form the missile fields in Montana and Wyoming, with the prevailing winds. That makes the statet less than inviting in a nuclear war scenario. North Dakota also has highly regulated home schooling.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 8 of 19.

In 2009, A reader had the following commentary to add on North Dakota:
I have read for quite awhile of these folks that write with their questions and concerns for a survival retreat and where to locate and many have substantial resources to do so and yet many others (like myself ) didn’t/don’t have those resources. This is why I choose North Dakota which is notably in your top 18 states for retreat areas and I want to tell you why.

I have traveled extensively over the years to every state in the US and lived in several. I spent many years in the North Georgia mountains until it got to crowded like most areas there such as Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Not to mention that they expensive as well.

I spent a summer in Alaska, and loved it there but that state as beautiful and less populated and with the bounty it offers, still lacks many staples needed and which as you have noted, has to be trucked,shipped or flown in and is very expensive.

Idaho, Montana,and Wyoming are beautiful and also less populated but through my travels over the years, I’ve found property far too expensive for the average working “Joe” with limited funds.

I could go on in reference to other states,but those I have listed were always what I thought to be a safe bet,but there came the money issue again.
I didn’t want a loan or mortgage on a “survival retreat” that might possibly end up in foreclosure if and after TSHTF, so I kept looking.

And through those travels I started taking a closer look at North Dakota. [Some information that has since become obsolete removed.] So, what I did was to buy a very small home in a very small rural area of north central North Dakota, kinda up wind of the “sites” for the most part yet very, very affordable.
I bought this place to “try out” North Dakota and see if it offered what my bank account could stand.
Could I live here for limited funds and use the balance to “stock up” for the future?
Could I pay cash for the place so I would never have to worry about loosing it if and when TSHTF and money would become scarce,if there even was any money anywhere?.
Could this piece of property sustain me and my wife in the interim through a garden,chickens etc?.
And was there a possibility of making an income in the area or a population source near enough to get to that I could?.

What I found was nearly an acre with a small well kept home on the edge of a very,very small town for just $11,000 with all the amenities of the big city like Internet, cable, satellite television, water, sewer, garbage, phone and electric and my very own cistern for a backup. And my annual property taxes are less than most people spend for a night out– under $75 per year.

That small place was a great starting place and allowed us to venture and learn about North Dakota and all it offers.
I will add as well that North Dakota is a major Beef producing state and I have never had trouble finding hamburger for far less than grocery store prices and farm raised,not to mention unlimited hunting and fishing.

What few realize is that most of North Dakotas small rural towns are experiencing a decline at about 10% over the past 10 years due to the older folks passing on and the younger ones moving on and the small farms giving way to huge 3,000 to 5,000 acre spreads and the cold winters all add up to smaller towns.

But we found it perfect and the cold is usually the worst the end of January through the first two weeks of February and then it gets down right cold-d-d. The beautiful spring,summer and fall make up for it though, in our opinion.

But we still wanted to be a little farther out with a little more acreage and fewer people.
After nearly two years we found a seven-acre farmstead.
This place has a nice home with basement walls from stone that are 24 inches think.Two garages and a granary make up the buildings.
With this prized piece we can grow more food,have more chickens and raise some beef and pork.
Our closest neighbor is 1-1/2 miles away and the closest larger town is 28 miles with smaller towns in the 17 to 18 mile range.
We did lose a few things by moving here: No unlimited long distance, no cable television (only satellite) and we had to get a new cellular provider. No town water or sewer. We have our own here with a well and septic and we lost our garbage pickup so we burn and recycle and/or haul to the landfill.

We can see anyone coming a mile before they get here yet we are still on a main road for winter snow plows.
And all of this was under $20K, that’s right, under $20,000 so that was again, well within our means to pay for and use that money we would have spent on a mortgage or loan to invest in our future,so it is possible and we are living proof of this and we have seen many deals such as this in North Dakota.

So we offer that North Dakota is a beautiful place and affordable for those that (like us) don’t have unlimited funds,or don’t want to spend all they do have for a survival retreat. A place that is peaceful ,quiet and far enough from everyone, yet close enough for a day trip to any big city and still only has 650,000 people in the entire state.
A state where there is presently a budget surplus and the lowest unemployment rate in the USA. – Fred


Population: 3.4 million.
Population Density: 48.5 per square mile (Rank 6 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 70,000 square miles (rank 18 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $736/yr. (rank 26 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $612/yr. (rank 5 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 33 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 80%.
Per capita income: $23,650 (rank 42 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 23 of 50.
Plusses: Minimally regulated home schooling.
Minuses: Fairly high population density (by western U.S. standards.) Fairly high crime rate. Tornado prone (ranked #3 out of top 20 States) High home insurance rates. (Average of $612 per year. Ranked #5 in the country!) Low wages. High car insurance rates. High population density (by western U.S. standards.) Low wages. Tribal governments create an extra layer of bureaucracy within the Indian reservation boundaries.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 17 of 19.



Population: 3.4 million.
Population Density: 35 per square mile (Rank 9 of JWR’s top 19 states) (The highest density is in the northwest part of the state. It is much lower elsewhere, particular eastern 2/3rds of the state.)
Area: 97,000 square miles (rank 10 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $704/yr. (rank 35 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $343/yr. (rank 47 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 18 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 65%.
Per capita income: $27,660 (rank 25 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 10 of 50 (tied with Washington).
Plusses: No sales tax. Very low home insurance rates. (Average of $343 per year. Ranks #47 in the country!) Has a high rating in “education freedom” (ranked #5 of 50), since Oregon has relaxed home schooling laws. Relatively low car insurance rates.
Note: In the late 1970s, the much-respected survival writer Mel Tappan touted southwestern Oregon–particularly the Rogue River Valley–as a survival haven. But that was back when California had a population of only around 20 million people. Today, I’m not sure that southwestern Oregon will have sufficient geographic isolation to be immune from California’s “Golden Horde” in the event of an abrupt TEOTWAWKI. Presently, I recommend the Grande Ronde Valley of eastern Oregon. I will have more on specifically recommended Oregon locales in subsequent posts.
Minuses: High property taxes. Creeping Californication. Second lowest church attendance rate in the country. Restrictive zoning and expensive building permits in many western counties. Private party gun sales at gun shows were recently banned. All transactions involving modern (post-1898) gun at gun shows must now be processed through a FFL -licensed dealer, with the requisite paperwork. Sadly, since gun shows are the best place to find a decent selection of used guns, and since many metropolitan newspapers now refuse to run gun ads in their classified sections, I consider this change in the Oregon law a significant hit against firearms freedom.
Parts of the state are recommended, (with reservations).
Note: I probably should have given Oregon a lower ranking, due to its mediocre gun and tax laws. However, its favorable climate and long growing season pushed it up the list slightly.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 3 of 19.


South Dakota

South Dakota: Population: 754,800.
Population Density: 9.78 per square mile (Rank 16 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 77,100 square miles (rank 16 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $618/yr. (rank 46 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $380/yr. (rank 42 of 50. )
Crime Safety Ranking: 4 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 69%.
Per capita income: $25,958 (rank 34 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 12 of 50.
Plusses: Very low population density and crime rate! A low “total tax burden” of 8.9%. Low car insurance rates.
Minuses: Cold winters and a short growing season. Like its northern sibling, South Dakota has major nuclear targets, so I only recommend that you look west (upwind) of the missile fields.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 7 of 19.

A SurvivalBlog Reader Adds:
Having just left South Dakota after 16 years there, I might add concerning the cold and short growing season: 20 below for weeks on end, pretty hefty wind on top of that, and a 90 day growing season if you are lucky. One year I had to replant beans 3 times, the last after they were snow killed in June. Another drawback for the state is lack of potable water. My well put out 5 GPM and that was considered a good well and at it was 300 feet deep, to boot. The majority of the water there is very alkaline, or from natural hot water underground sources and extremely heavy on the minerals. That really plays havoc with water faucets and water heater elements. Lastly, there is no wood in the state to speak of for heating purposes either except pine, in the very western part of the state. Best, – “Mrs. Golf”

Another SurvivalBlog Reader Adds:
South Dakota can be seen having two distinct climate regions: West River (west of the Missouri), and “East River”. East River has a steady population growth, especially south of Sioux Falls. This is mostly due to the explosive growth of the medical industry. Much of it is zone 5 for growing, with some zone 6 (and zone 4) microclimates. They have excellent rainfall, lesser amounts of snow and more moderate seasons. Winter nights rarely reach -20 F. There is a cold period usually in January that lasts about three weeks. At this time, temps can reach the -20 F range for a few days, and highs can be 0 to 10 above. This is usually mitigated quickly by southern air flow. Some of the smaller, family-held farms grow peaches and even a cold-hardy variety of almonds. There is abundant game, due in part to the large tracts of corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

East River has more tornadoes than West River, on average, but all South Dakota tornadoes tend to be smaller (EF3 or less) and shorter-lived than those further south in Tornado Alley. As a storm chaser myself, South Dakota is rarely in my prime target area during chase season.

West River is quite a bit drier and has a much lower water table. However, south central South Dakota is on the northern edge of the Oglala Aquifer, which has excellent water at around 180 feet (or less, depending on the lay of the land). Again, smaller ranches have grown and managed tree rows, not only for protection from winter winds but also as a continual source of firewood.

Game is abundant in West River areas, too. Turkey, mule deer, whitetail deer, pheasants, and even elk are found on the plains. There are cougars, coyotes and lynx too, so it is prudent to guard livestock.

There is a big difference in various areas of South Dakota, and it is worth checking out places south of I-90 and west of the Missouri River. North of I-90 is cold and dry, and some areas have problems with shifting topsoil, especially around the Pierre area. However, a well-managed retreat could easily and comfortably farm small areas to produce enough food for their group and still have leftovers to barter. Numerous windmills make irrigation of small areas simple. The water does contain a lot of minerals, but this is a plus. It dramatically reduces the mineral requirements (vitamin supplements) for livestock and humans. And the extremely low human population makes it very attractive.

There are numerous small “canyons” and buttes in which to create housing that commands a view of the area, but is hidden to all but the most astute observers. People are courteous and helpful to their neighbors, but will close ranks on obnoxious “outsiders” and tourists. Most are competent with firearms, many are veterans, and virtually all ascribe to basic Christian values. There is also a huge homeschooling base and an availability of competent midwives (although their practice is still illegal in the state).

I’d say South Dakota should be a tad higher on the list. – Bobbi from South Dakota


Population: 20.8 million.
Population Density: 77.9 per square mile (Rank 4 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 266,800 square miles (rank 2 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $759/yr. (rank 25 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $880/yr. (rank 1 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 41 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 82%.
Per capita income: $27,752 (rank 24 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 47 of 50.
Plusses: Has a high rating in “education freedom” (ranked #6 of 50), since Texas has relaxed home schooling laws, but the public schools are far below average. Texas is just plain huge. The population density figure cited above is skewed by the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston metro areas. A lot of Texas out in the hinterboonies is very lightly populated.
Minuses: High population density (by western U.S. standards.) Major population centers. Very high crime rate. Hurricane prone (ranked #1 of the coastal states.) Coastal Texas and +/- 50 miles inland is in the hurricane zone. Extremely high home insurance rates. (Average of $880 per year–ranked #1 in the country for 2005–but probably soon to be surpassed by Louisiana.) High ratio of illegal aliens. Some rural parts of the state are recommended, with reservations.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 13 of 19.



Population: 2.23 million.
Population Density: 26.2 per square mile (Rank 11 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 84,900 square miles (rank 11 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $718/yr. (rank 32 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $378/yr. (rank 43 of 50.)
Crime Safety Ranking: 14 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 76%.
Per capita income: $23,436 (rank 44 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 7 of 50.
Plusses: A great state to live in if you are a LDS (Mormon) Church member. On average Utah has the best prepared families in America. (By church doctrine, one year of food storage is recommended.) That is commendable. The norm for home construction in the state is to include an extra large pantry to accommodate storage food. (Commonly called a “fruit room” in LDS parlance.) Nearly every LDS ward has its own food storage cannery. Fairly low crime rate. (Utah has two of the safest metropolitan areas in the country: Orem, ranked #7, and Provo, ranked #9.) The only significant street crime is on the west side of Salt Lake City. Low car insurance rates.
Minuses: Ground water is scarce in parts of the state, so check on well water before buying. Utah might be a poor retreat/relocation choice if you are not a LDS Church member. Non-LDS members of any religious persuasion are still derisively called “gentiles” by some LDS members. In practice, many LDS families do not have a true full year of storage food. Highly regulated home schooling.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 6 of 19.



Population: 5.9 million.
Population Density: 86.6 per square mile (Far less in the eastern half of the state!) Very high population density (by western U.S. standards.) (Rank 3 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 68,100 square miles (rank 20 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $803/yr. (rank 19 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $428/yr. (rank 31 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 30 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 57%.
Per capita income: $31,230 (rank 11 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 10 of 50 (tied with Oregon).
Plusses: Low property taxes in some of the eastern counties. (But rising!)
Whitman county Washington taxes rose 80% from 1988 to 1995. In 2002,
the annual tax bill was $3,047 on a $200,000 home. (Second highest in the state.)
The median home value in 2000 for Washington was $168,300, up 38 percent
since 1990, adjusted for inflation. The average statewide property tax rate in Washington is $13.53 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Minuses: Creeping Californication. Highly regulated home schooling. Fairly high crime rates in the Western counties and in the larger cities in the eastern half of the state—such as Spokane, Yakima, and the Tri-Cities (Richland/Pasco/Kennewick) region. A draconian business gross receipts tax of 1.5%-to-3%. Marginal gun laws. Very high sales tax. (8.8%)
Parts of the state are recommended. (See my detailed retreat locale recommendations posted starting September 24, 2005.)
Note: I probably should have given Washington a lower ranking, due to its mediocre tax and gun laws. However, like Oregon, its favorable climate and growing season pushed it up the list.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 4 of 19.

A Reader in Washington Adds:
Sales taxes vary per county over a very wide range.
Gas tax is $0.28 per gallon.
Just for fun, check out this link for “major” taxes in the Evergreen state. Yikes.
There are also more than a few badges (not obvious, but there nonetheless if you know what to look for) at our local gun shows at the County fairgrounds. Keeping an eye on who, what, and how much. Not particularly comfortable about that one. Best Regards, and keep up the good work. – T.S.



Population: 493,780.
Population Density: 5 per square mile (Rank 19 of JWR’s top 19 states).
Area: 97,800 square miles (rank 9 of 50).
Average car insurance cost: $646/yr. (rank 44 of 50).
Average home insurance cost: $484/yr. (rank 20 of 50).
Crime Safety Ranking: 7 of 50.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 93%.
Per capita income: $27,372 (rank 28 of 50).
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: 16 of 50.
Plusses: Low population density, very low crime rate, no income tax. Open carry is legal is fairly commonplace. “No-permit required” concealed carry was enacted in 2011.
Low car insurance rates.
Minuses: Brutally cold winters, especially at higher elevations. Minimal growing season. (Snow has been reported in every month of the year in every county in Wyoming!) There are missile fields (see map) in the southeast corner of the state. (Part of the large array of missile sites that overlaps into northern Colorado and parts of Nebraska.) These ICBM missile silos would be primary targets in the event of a full scale nuclear exchange.

Wyoming is not recommended for a survivalist with a small to moderate budget. However, if you are someone who is wealthy and who can stand the cold, Wyoming should be bumped up to your top choice. Taxes will be a big issue for you—and Wyoming has no income tax. As someone “of means” you will be able to afford lots of food storage, voluminous fuel storage, and a large greenhouse to make up for the severe climate. Look for natural gas producing areas so that you can run your vehicles on “drip oil.” Anyone considering relocating to Wyoming should read Boston T. Party’s novel Molon Labe, which depicts a Libertarian political coup in the state, as part of the nascent “Free States” migration movement. Two related groups are currently encouraging libertarians to move to New Hampshire and Wyoming to create a political sea change. See: and
Note: I probably should have given Wyoming a higher ranking, due to its favorable gun and tax laws. However, its severe climate and minimal growing season pushed it down the list. If you can stand hard winters, by all means consider Wyoming a top choice.
JWR’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 5 of 19.


Detailed Retreat Locale Data

For detailed recommendations within the aforementioned 19 states, see my book Rawles on Retreat and Relocation .



Available Retreat Properties

Some worthy properties are listed at our spin-off web site,