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Rating: II-IV Location: Polk and Howard Co.;
Section 1: 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.
Section 2: 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.
Section 3: Take out at the low water bridge downstream from the Hwy. 278 bridge.
Gradient: 15 to 25 fpm (the Falls area is a major exception)
Section 1: 3 mi
Section 2: 1.5 mi
Section 3: 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! LINK TO USGS GAUGE
Hazards: Big, continuous drops in the Falls area, and very heavy water in S2 and S3 when levels are high.
Description: 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. 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.
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