- The National Park Service describes Cossatot River as "probably the most challenging" whitewater float in Arkansas. Early Indians simply called it Cossatot, their word for "skull crusher." Today the Cossatot River is still crushing things, but they're mostly canoes, ice chests, and egos of overconfident paddlers. The Cossatot is one of Arkansas' most scenic rivers, although this fact is not always appreciated by paddlers who spend most of their time trying to stay afloat.
Basic supplies can be obtained in the nearby communities of Atens, Langley, and Wickes, as well as Daisy and Queen Wilhelmina state parks. Campsites are available in the Ouachita National Forest and at Gillham Lake.
Recreation - The Cossatot River offers excellent floating including canoeing and kayaking, hiking, and fishing opportunities. The river has class I through class V rating of rapids. Therefore, much of the river's whitewater is not recommended for casual paddlers. Helmets, personal floatation devices (PFDs), and proper clothing to guard against hypothermia are essential during the prime floating season. Floating is a wet weather phenomenon on the Cossatot, requiring a minimum stream depth of three feet. The best months for the preferred floating levels are December through April. Experienced river runners should always check water levels in advance. For daily readings, call the river stream gauge modem at 501-387-3141.
Smallmouth and spotted bass are the noteworthy inhabitants of the Cossatot River. The quiet streamside hiker may find good bass fishing around boulders that break the current in deep pools and chutes.
Climate - Arkansas has a temperate climate with the coldest temperatures near freezing during December, January and February. Daytime highs for these months usually reach 55 degrees F. Spring and fall temperatures are very mild with lows dipping to 44 degrees F and highs reaching 70 degrees F. July and August are the hottest months of the year with average temperatures reaching 90 degrees F. June and September average temperatures usually reach into the mid-eighties. Spring and winter months are the wettest of the year.
The Cossatot River begins in rugged Ouachita mountain country just southeast of Mena. It flows in a southerly direction for about 26 miles before its current ceases at Gillham Lake. Along the way the Cossatot travels through the Ouachita National Forest, alongside a wilderness area, and over and around upended layers of jagged bedrock.
The river may be reached via state highways 4 and 246, Forest Service Road 31, and Weyerhaeuser road #52000 which leads to Ed Banks Bridge or #52600 which goes to the Sandbar low-water bridge above Cossatot Falls.