Cossatot River Corridor Trail, Wickes AR
NEW: A weatherproof version of the Cossatot River Corridor Trail map set is now available at the Cossatot River State Park office.
The Cossatot River Corridor Trail is a new trail that follows the Cossatot River between Arkansas Highway 246 and US Highway 278. The 12.4 mile trail is well blazed in blue and features 37 bridges across numerous creeks and the Cossatot River. For kayakers and expert-level canoeists, the river is considered one of the best whitewater rivers in the state.
These maps and this web page are a cooperative effort. Stan Speight, Park Superintendent, and Davy Ashcroft, provided tracks, park boundaries and insights about the area. Tom Trigg (Ouachita Hiker) brought the parties together for this effort, wrote the trail narrative and supplied most of the pictures. Mike Reynolds, Ouachita Baptist University, also supplied track and waypoint data. Cowper Chadbourn provided information on the whitewater.
Trail Narrative by Tom Trigg
Background: The Cossatot River Corridor Trail (CRCT) just like the title indicates is in a corridor that was created when the Cossatot River State Park was formed. On either side of the corridor is timber land owned by the Weyerhaeuser Company. Land on both sides of the corridor has been logged for years. The timber within the corridor is protected from logging.
The main tree that you will find within the corridor is the cedar. There are cedars everywhere! If you are like me you will love the many old growth trees that have survived the timber man's saw. Along with the cedars you will find pines. There are some hardwoods but the main tree is the cedar. In the springtime you will find redbuds, wild plum, and dogwood.
Tom's Narrative: My hike began on late Thursday morning on March 24, 2011 at the Brushy Creek Day Use Area off Hwy 246. The trail begins by crossing a long bridge over a ravine. This trail has lots of bridges spanning some tough areas. As soon as you cross the bridge you will start climbing. You will soon notice that the trail is over blazed. The reason for the excess blazing is that after the trail had been flagged the trail was opened but it didn’t have a tread. Now the bridges are all finished and there is trail tread all the way. (The park Superintendent expects to have this addressed by fall). About a half mile later is the next bridge which crosses over a nice little stream.
Although the trail stays high above the Cossatot over this next section, the river can be seen below through the trees. The redbuds were prolific all along this first section of the trail from Brushy Creek to Ed Banks bridge. In fact, one area held the largest stand of redbuds that I have ever seen. This stand was on the east side of the river. In addition, wild plum was everywhere and the odor was nothing short of fantastic! There were also many large rocks where thrust faulted blocks of Mississippian sediments of the Stanley Formation are exposed in the forest. One large rock outcrop had a large cedar growing beside it.
There are thirteen foot bridges between Brushy and Ed Banks, some of which are very elaborate. Others, though minor in stature, speak to the attempt to minimize erosion and the detrimental effect it would have on the water quality of the Cossatot. For the hiker it means little chance of getting your feet wet!
At about 4.4 miles you come out of the woods to the picnic table and fire pit that mark the Ed Banks area. Here you have nice views up and down stream and access to the Cossatot River to fill your water bottle. Drink up, the water is crystal clear. You will intersect Road 82000 at 4.5 miles and follow it to the Ed Banks bridge, at 4.7 miles.
Before beginning your hike you should check the river gauge for the Cossatot River at Vandervoot. If the gauge shows that the river is four feet or more the bridge will look like this or worse (photo credit: Leigh Baker). If you find the bridge in that condition, don’t attempt to cross! You could get knocked off your feet and swept into the downstream turbulence. It would be like getting caught in a washing machine and the results would be disastrous. It isn’t worth the risk.
The next section is 2 miles, from Ed Banks bridge to Sand Bar Campground. After crossing the bridge, Road 82000 becomes Road 52000. The trail leaves the road and passes through an area that parallels an old road to the river. If you are one of those hikers that don’t like to “go in the woods” you will love this spot because you will find one of three restroom facilities on the trail. These have solar lighting at night and are nice to have available. The other facilities are at Sand Bar Campground and at Cossatot Falls.
Leaving the Ed Banks area the trail starts to climb and you go thru lots of cedar. Below are lots of good of views of the Cossatot River. The trail continues high above the stream through lots of rock and plenty of redbuds. The river, even when low, has lots of interesting features that provide a hint of what attracts the whitewater enthusiasts.
Not too far from where the trail comes out on Road 52600, there is a bridge that crosses the outcrop of a near vertical bedding plane. In wet weather it should create a nice pore off into a beautiful pool of water.
At Road 52600 the trail goes straight. To get to Sand Bar Campground, turn right, walk about a half mile to the Sand Bar bridge and cross the Cossatot. This bridge is higher than Ed Banks so it is less likely to flood. Looking downstream from the bridge you have a nice pool, upstream it is a bit shallower. The Sand Bar Campground is a developed campground with 14 tent sites. As with the other campgrounds it is on a first come basis with a self-pay box. There isn’t any running water at any of these campgrounds so figure on filtering river water. There are plenty of big trees in the campground, just perfect for my DIY hammock system. There was not another sole in the campground and that was nice!
The next morning, I hike back to the where the trail crosses Rd 52600, took a right and headed on down the trail. Not too far down the trail I found evidence of a buck rub. About 0.6 miles from the road and one bridge later is the Cossatot Falls Campground. This is a nice little campground with seven elevated tent pads and a access to the falls. In low water, the falls don't appear to be much. At plus 6 on the gauge, it is a different story (this is a random youtube video linked without permission of the owner).
The trail leaves the Cossatot Falls area by crossing two long bridges. After the second bridge the trail leaves the path to the falls and takes a left up the side of the hill. The trail is more challenging through here. Soon bridge #24 spans a v shaped creek bed that flows on the bedding plane of what appears to be a medium bedded quartz sandstone. As with many parts of the trails there are plenty of good views of the river below. The next bridge, #25, was made out of split cedar, the only one made of that material. After some uphill on a single track trail, the trail tops out on top of a wide ridge. The trail follows a double track logging road for a while and then reverts to single track, again. The most rugged part of the trail is after the trail leaves the ridge and follows the steep hill sides in and out of five hollows on the way to bridge #32. Again, more scenic views of the river, below. Just before bridge #29 is a unique stopping place where there is an old tree stump that the construction crew saw fit to leave in the middle of the trail. The trail splits around the moss padded stump and it can be a very nice place to stop and “take a load off”.
At about mile 9.2 the trail crosses Rd 52212, a well used gravel road that goes to the Deer Camp area. The road is gated at Rd 52200. After crossing the road the trail goes through some bottom land. Here you will find a the bridge #33 and #34 complex. It begins with bridge #33 crossing the main creek. Then there is a long walk way to limit erosion in a low, potentially boggy area, followed by bridge #34.
Most of the last 2.6 miles follows the top of some long ridges. There are a few more creek crossings but even in the rockiest areas, the bridge construction has made the hiking much easier. There are many rocky ledges and rock formations and, if you are alert you might see a tree pocked with woodpecker cavities. As you approach the last wooden bridge you will be within site of the Hwy. 278 bridge. After you go under the Hwy. 278 bridge, the trail follows the bank of the Cossatot a little ways further until you come to the last bridge. This low water bridge is only open to foot traffic. Once across, you will have officially finished the trail. Continue up the gravel road to the Cossatot Visitors Center.
One final note: This is a very nice, albeit short trail. I feel like it will be one of the most traveled trails for its length in the state. The park is studying the possibilities of possible backcountry camping areas, but for now camping is restricted to Ed Banks, Sand Bar bridge, Cossatot Falls, and two sites on the river at the end of the trail.
Helpful coordinates for hikers:
General whitewater overview:
Helpful coordinates for floaters:
Info: Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area, Wickes Ar, 870-385-2201.
To Buy the Topo Maps: These maps are FREE to download. Click on images of the North and South maps to access full size maps and download them. Alternatively, the North and South maps are available as a two-map color set on weatherproof, Rite-in-the-Rain paper (11x17). The maps are $5/sheet ($10 for the set) plus S&H by emailing email@example.com. The set is also available at the Cossatot River State Park (870-385-2201).
Weatherproof Topographic Maps at
OuachitaMaps.com - Hiking Trails of the Ouachitas and Ozarks