Arkansas Rivers

Cossatot River – Rating: II-IV
The Cossatot is probably the premier whitewater run in Arkansas. S1 consists of mostly class II rapids and is suitable for boaters with a little experience on whitewater.

Location: Polk and Howard Co.;
S1: Put in at the Hwy. 246 bridge east of Hwy 71. Take out
is reached by taking Weyerhauser Rd. 52200 south
from Hwy. 246 just east of the put-in. Then take
52000 west to reach the river.
S2: Take out at Ed Banks bridge on Weyerhauser Rd 52600
which runs north from Hwy. 278 (used to be Hwy. 4)
and connects with 52200 coming south from Hwy. 246.
S3: Take out at the low water bridge downstream from the
Hwy. 278 bridge.

Topo Quad(s): Eagle Mountain, Baker Springs

Gradient: 15 to 25 fpm (the Falls area is a major exception)

Length: S1: 3 mi
S2: 1.5 mi
S3: 4.5 mi

Season: RAIN

Gauge: The minimum level on the USGS gauge at Vandervoort is
around 3.2 feet. The Falls can be run down to 3.0 or so, but
the rest of the river starts getting really bony below 3.5. The
river is much pushier and the Falls starts to go into the solid
class IV+ range somewhere above 5.0 feet. The river has been run
by crazed adrenaline junkies up to over 10 feet, but the Falls
is very scary for even the best of boaters at anything over 7 feet!

Hazards: Big, continuous drops in the Falls area, and very heavy water
in S2 and S3 when levels are high.

Description: However, if you don’t have much experience, don’t venture
below S1! The action picks up considerably in S2 with rapids
like ZigZag and The Esses. ZigZag is an easy class III
drop, and enders are possible in the hole below if the water
is high. The Esses is a long, complex class III rapid, and
the penalty for a mistake in this rapid could be a long and
bruising swim! To avoid the big stuff, you can start center-left
and work your way to the right toward several eddies along the
right bank. There are a couple of solid holes in the middle of
the run to pick your way past. A few more good rapids are
encountered before you come to the Sandbar bridge where
the final section of the river begins. Portage the bridge on
the left – don’t get near the middle of the bridge as it is
extremely hazardous. Only a few hundred yards below the Sandbar
bridge, the Cossatot Falls section begins. This is a series of
back-to-back class III-IV rapids that drops around 40 feet in 1/8
of a mile. The first of these is a big class II+ drop followed by
a pool at most levels. The next drop, Eye Opener, presents the
paddler with a horizon line. At lower levels, the hole below this
three foot ledge is not too bad, but at levels of over 5.0 feet,
it can be a keeper! Scout if there is any doubt. Below this
the river is pushed to the left into B.M.F. a tricky class
III drop. This one is generally run angling to the left and
dodging the hidden rock in the middle. Be sure to catch an
eddy below B.M.F. because the Washing Machine is just below.
The Machine is a class IV drop at almost any level. At levels
below 4.5 feet, it must be approached from the right side.
Running almost perpendicular to the streambed, enter the drop,
turn right and hit the middle of the slot to finish. It’s
easy to make the turn too tight and end up on the right
where the Cannonball Rock lurks at low water levels and
where the Washing Machine Hole will take you to the cleaners
at medium flows. At high water, you can approach from the
center or even the left and run straight over the top of
the drop. If you have trouble in the Machine, your troubles
will be compounded by Whiplash, a long class III+ drop right
below the Machine. At high water levels, it’s a great idea
to set some rope support on the left bank at strategic
locations between B.M.F. and Whiplash, since an unassisted
swimmer will get flushed through all of these – a bruising
ride. Needless to say, having a reliable roll is also an
excellent idea. The Falls ends with Shoulderbone, a class II
drop with a pretty good play hole at lower levels. At certain
flows even bigger boats can get enders in the hole here.
Several good rapids are encountered below the Falls, but if
you had a clean run in the Falls only two will give you any
trouble. The first is Deer Camp Rapids, an easy looking
class III that can pin unwary boaters. The other is Devil’s
Hollow Falls. This ugly sheer fall has a nasty landing on
jagged rocks that have taken skin off of more than a few
boaters. Pins and entrapments are a real danger in this
rapid, and some close calls have happened here. Don’t run
the ledge unless you know exactly what you’re doing.
You can walk or sneak around Devil’s Hollow Falls on the
far left. At lower levels, it’s a long, relatively flat,
paddle to the takeout from Devil’s Hollow. If the river
is below 3.5 feet, many boater will run Cossatot Falls
and then carry back up the bank rather than continuing
down to the Hwy. 278 bridge. It’s about an equal effort
either way though – the trek back up the Falls is not for
the meek! The Cossatot is a great whitewater river, but
be sure you’re up to the challenge before you try to boat
down the Falls. A lot of folks, including this author, have
been beaten up by this infamous stretch of river. Only boaters
with solid self rescue skills and experience on pushy class
IV water should attempt the Falls.

Some Other Key Arkansas Rivers
There are really too many creeks and rivers in Arkansas to name all of them, but below is a list of the “classics” and they range in difficulty from class II to class V (depending on water levels)

List of Rivers

Above are the links to the river levels and descriptions of most rivers and creeks in Arkansas. I will tell you that Arkansas paddling is rain dependent and local beta is definitely key, when traveling and paddling in Arkansas.

Buffalo National River
Cossatot River
Little Missouri River
Cadron Creek
Baker Creek
Mulberry River
Lee Creek
Richland Creek
Ouachita River below Remmel Dam (park & play)
Big Piney Creek
Falling Water Creek
Hailstone Creek
East Fork of the Little Buffalo
Bobtail Creek