- Published in Attractions
This park-natural area stretches for 12 miles along the wild and scenic Cossatot River, Arkansas's premier whitewater experience renowned as the best whitewater float stream in mid-America. Located in southwest Arkansas south of Mena, the Cossatot forms Cossatot Falls, a rugged and rocky canyon that challenges the most experienced canoeists and kayakers with its Class IV and V rapids. When the water is high, the paddlers are here. This National Wild and Scenic River is a watershed basin with flow levels dependent on rainfall. After significant precipitation, the river level rises, allowing experienced paddlers the opportunity to test their skills in challenging whitewater. In the river's Cossatot Falls area with its distinct ledges, the river drops 33 feet in elevation within 1/3 of a mile. Floatable river levels are usually limited to late-fall, winter and spring. Late winter to early spring is peak whitewater paddling season here. Class III-V whitewater is for experts only. For river stage information (in feet) from the Ark. 246 access, call , or visit the U.S. Geological Survey website for Cossatot River real time data at: waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?07340300.
To access National Weather Service NOAA radar for the area, go to: http://radar.weather.gov.
Since flow levels are dependent upon rainfall, no floater services are provided on the Cossatot River.
When the water level is normal, the river's rapids are usually considered Class II-III whitewater. Outdoor enthusiasts can swim, fish and float through riffles and small rapids, from pool to pool, as they relax and enjoy the Cossatot.
The park's Brushy Creek Recreation Area at the Highway 246 bridge offers day-use facilities including picnic sites, a nature trail, restrooms, and river access. A walkway high above the river provides barrier-free access on the west side.
Tent sites (no hookups) are at the Cossatot Falls Area (seven sites), the Sandbar Area (14 sites), and the Ed Banks Area (one site). The cost per site is $14/day. Undeveloped camping space is available at the U.S. 278 Area. Primitive group camping (tents only) is available at the park's River Ridge Group Camp ($75).
For hiking enthusiasts, the park features the 14-mile River Corridor Trail and the 3.5-mile Harris Creek Trail.
The park includes a 15,000-square-foot visitor information/education center on U.S. 278 east of Wickes where the highway crosses the Cossatot. The $2.7 million facility was funded by Amendment 75, Arkansas's Conservation Amendment. The center features a large exhibit gallery, two classroom/lab rooms, a wildlife viewing area, gift shop, and park administrative offices. Explore the interpretive exhibits that share the story of “The Cossatot: A River for All Seasons" and focus is on the river's ecology. Three information kiosks provide information about the Cossatot River, the park-natural area, and other parks and museums in Arkansas's state park system.
Interpretive programs and workshops are offered in the park throughout the year. These tell of the geology, flora, and fauna here in this remote and protected river corridor. Special interpretive programs include guided kayak tours and snorkeling tours.
Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area's 5,401 acres emphasize outdoor recreation, river preservation, and environmental education. The park is managed by Arkansas State Parks and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.
Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area is south of Mena. The northern route to the park is via Ark. 246 between Vandervoort and Athens. The southern route is via U.S. 278 between Wickes and Umpire. Weyerhaeuser Company roads provide river access.
The U.S. Geological Survey offers river flow and level information at their Cossatot River site.
Free stream maps and information are available by calling or visiting www.Arkansas.com.