Cossatot River, Arkansas

Cossatot River, Arkansas

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided here is factual and accurate. However, errors are possible and natural changes to streambeds do occur. The author of this document assumes no responsibility for difficulties encountered due to reader's sole reliance on this document. Any recreational use of waterways involves some risk, and readers are advised to take proper precautions and follow all safety rules. Please respect private property and do not trespass where signs are posted.

General Description

"Cossatot" was derived from the French words casse "crush" and tete "head" for "skull crusher", an appropriate name, indeed. The Cossatot River originates in the Ouachita National Forest in Polk County in the area of Shady, Arkansas. At high water it becomes arguably the most challenging section of whitewater between the Smokies and the Rockies in northwest Howard County between Hwy. 246 and Hwy. 4. Always check the Hwy. 246 gage or call (870)387-3141 first. For descriptions of various gage levels, click here. The area immediately surrounding the river corridor has been designated as the Cossatot River State Park and Natural Area, managed by the State Parks department. The Cossatot River and the Natural Area surrounding it have been recognized nationally, and in 1992 Congress designated it a National Wild and Scenic River. For further information on park hours or programs, contact (501)385-2201. Click here for a general map of the area. Click here for photographs of Cossatot Falls.

Section 1: State Highway 246 to Ed Banks Road low water bridge.
Difficulty: Class II-II+; Distance: 3 miles.
This section is characterized by many rock gardens and is the recommended warm up run before attempting the next section. If you had trouble on this section, DO NOT attempt Section 2! Take a throwbag down to Cossatot Falls and enjoy the spectacular beauty there.
Section 2: Ed Banks Road low water bridge to Sandy Bar low water bridge or above Cossatot Falls.
Difficulty: Class III-IV; Distance: 2.3 miles.
A few hundred yards below the put-in is "Zig Zag". Run it with an approach to river left. Either eddy out in the small pool above the drop or make a quick 90 degree right turn and over the 3-4 foot drop between boulders. Good surfing and pop-up spot.
One hundred yards below, the river bears left into a tight channel called the "Esses". Enter left and work right. Take advantage of the many small eddies. A swim here often results in a pinned boat at the 4 foot drop past midway. Run the drop left at low to medium levels.
Another hundred yards or so below is a Class III with several ledges and boulders strewn about. Work right to left to avoid the big rock. Beware of some sticky hydraulics here.
Another half mile or so below is a Class III double ledge affair. Enter left of center and eddy out below first ledge for a good play spot before dropping over second ledge.
Take out at the Sandy Bar low water bridge or on river left above Cossatot Falls. If you had trouble on this section, DO NOT run The Falls!
Section 3: Cossatot Falls to Hwy. 4 high bridge
Difficulty: Class III-V (Experienced kayakers with good rolls and open canoeists with adequate flotation only); Distance: 4 miles (However, a Class V haul from "Last One" back to the top is not uncommon).
The river drops 33 feet in six major drops over 1/3 mile at Cossatot Falls. It is a spectacular sight, even for non-boaters.
1) "Cossatosser" - A good drop bearing right. Eddy out on river left to scout the remaining rapids.
2)"Eye Opener" - A five foot drop with a big pop-up/ender hole at the bottom. Ferry left for approach to next rapid.
3)"BMF" - A diagonal approach with radical right turn at the bottom. Eddy out fast to avoid "Washing Machine" below.
4)"Washing Machine" - A 7-8 foot drop with diagonal approach from right to left. The current wants to push you into a large boulder but a little right draw will help you avoid the boulder and the "Agitator", an awesome hole you don't want to swim in. Throwlines are strongly recommended here.
5)"Whiplash" - Immediately below "Washing Machine", a quick two stage drop. Eddy out on river right below first drop. Can be very rocky.
6)"Last One" - Best ender hole on the river on river right. Another great hole on river left at high levels. Gravel bar on river left is the perfect lunch stop. Haul your boat back to the top if you can, and run it again!
"Deer Camp or Cow Creek Rapid" - A rock garden a mile or so below "Last One".
"Devil's Hollow Rapid" - A half mile or so below "DCR". You can eddy left and scout. Run right to left and surf waves at the bottom.
Devil's Hollow Falls" - Just downstream from "DHR". Run the 6-8 foot drop on river right just to the left of the big boulder. Warning! The run on river left may look easier, but the rocks at bottom are nasty.
Take-out on river left under the high bridge before approaching the old low water bridge structure.

The "upper-upper 'Tot" is a beautiful, pristine section of Class II-II+ water between one of the first three FSR #31 low water bridges and Hwy 246 (approx. 3, 8, or 10 miles). It's runnable when the 246 gage is at 3.8, but ideal at 4.9 and higher. Not too pushy, it's a great section for less experienced boaters or for overnight canoe camping. The USGS topo map is the Umpire Quadrangle.

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Last updated November 21, 1999