Sand Bar Access on the Cossatot River…

Next stop was the Sand Bar Access and Campground. With it being after 4pm we opted to grab a campsite. There was only 2 other sites taken when we arrived so we grabbed one that was away from everyone else. Again, no running water and only pit toilets for $15 per night. The campsites were spacious but poison ivy was everywhere.

This area also has a Day Use Only Area and it was packed! Apparently it is a favorite swimming hole for the locals and they were everywhere on both sides of the river. With it being our last day, we opted to hang out in camp, cook dinner and get organized for the trip home. We would have preferred fishing this section but there was just too many people around.

It didn’t take long for the campground to fill up with all sorts of people. I’ll never understand why people have to drive through a forest and into a campground with their stereos maxed out. Campground etiquette was out the window! Some guy decided to start chopping wood at 10:30 pm. It literally sounded like he was building a log cabin.

We slept fitfully until 1:30am when some locals in a truck showed up, again with their stereo blasting and were trying to party at the river. Someone at the other end of the campground got up and started screaming at them at which point they promptly turned the stereo off and left. Finally we could get some sleep. NOPE!

From two tent sites away a little girl woke up screaming that she was afraid of the dark! And I do mean SCREAMING! Her mother ended up packing up and leaving.

We slept till 5:30 and packed up and headed home. If I ever camp there again it won’t be during summer. Probably early Spring or Fall.

Again, sticking to our original tenet of exploring new roads and areas, we chose a route home that was off the beaten path. We gathered a lot of new information on this river and thoroughly enjoyed fishing it. We became familiar with the GaiaGPS app which was a definite asset to the trip, especially since we didn’t have cell service for most of our trip. We consider the cost of the upgraded app money well spent. I’m sure we will be back.

I hope you enjoyed this series of blog posts. There will be a few additional “addendum” blog posts to cover some of the gear we used and why. Thanks for reading!

Ed Banks Access Area on the Cossatot River…

With this trip being our first to this river it was tough to fish as much as we wanted to. I’m sure that sounds odd but we wanted to explore as much as we could and considered this trip more of a reconnaissance run than anything. All told, we only covered about 6-7 miles of river. We wanted to get a feel for the place, to see what kind and size of fish we might encounter and to scout out access and camping spots.

The forest roads to the Cossatot River weren’t too bad.

We drove through sections of clear-cut areas and since this is logging country it was to be expected. It was nice to see large swaths had been replanted and were doing well.

Upstream from the Ed Banks Access was a “snot rock boulder fest” and wasn’t a lot of fun. I’m not a fan of snakes and we had seen our fair share. Thankfully none of the ones we encountered were venomous. But where I was, I was on constant alert.

She wanted no part of the upstream side and opted to head downstream. Wiser choice I will admit. After about an hour I joined her on that side and it is much easier. We caught a ton of perch and little Velox. All told we caught 27 fish with one being a nicer smallmouth bass.

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After several hours of fishing some local kids showed up in trucks and on ATV’s. There must’ve been 20 of them and they were rowdy. We decided to move on to another access point we had seen on the map.

Brushy Creek Access on the Cossatot River…

We pulled into the Brushy Creek Access Area at the northern end of the park area and noticed it was Day Use Only. No water and pit toilets but they were nicer than the others we had encountered.

Since we had left before dawn, we pulled out the camp kitchen and stove and made coffee. We talked and decided on which gear to use for fishing this area and suited up.

This is a really nice area as the stream flows through a mountain pass here. I opted to use my fly rod for this section since there was no wind and the river just screamed “FLY ROD.” I used my Loop Evotec Cast 390-4MF and the Hardy Ultraclick fly reel.

In short order I hooked 5 fish and had a blast with the 3wt. Upstream the river changed into a mine field of boulders, slippery rocks and trees, so I broke down the fly rod and strapped it to the Yeti Panga 28 and continued fishing with my baitcast setup. 4ft 6in rods are easier to maneuver with than 9ft rods lol.

We traveled upstream quite a ways until we came to a spot where we would have to swim across to continue. There is a lot of boulder hopping to get to certain fishing spots so if this is not your thing keep that in mind. My fishing backpack is waterproof so swimming/floating across wasn’t a big deal for me but her pack is only water resistant and she didn’t want to attempt the crossing.

A big shout out to the wife here…I get so focused on fishing that I rarely take pictures. If it wasn’t for her…this series would be really short!

After hitting the obstacle, we decided to head back to the car and try another section of the river. On the way back we ran into some locals who were cooling off in the river. We chatted for a bit and continued on our way.

Looking over the map, we opted to drive to the Ed Banks Access Area.

Trials and Tribulations…

We were up before dawn and camp was taken down and loaded into the vehicle in 10 minutes. Off we went.

We drove out of the forest and back to a highway and pointed the car West towards Oklahoma. We enjoy driving the backroads and seeing new scenery so we took a meandering route to get to Pine Creek Lake.

We even found a McDonalds and bought two coffees and a quick breakfast since we left without making either. Gotta have coffee!

We had never been to this part of southeast Oklahoma so were looking forward to seeing what we could. We drove over the Glover River and were stunned to see that the river was bank-to-bank and flowing fast. Really fast! Something wasn’t adding up.

After a long and winding route we finally arrived at the campground only to find the gate locked and a CLOSED sign in front of us. We looked on GaiaGPS and headed for another campground on the lake with similar results. When we drove over the dam we saw that ALL of the gates were open and discharging as much water as possible. Looking around we noticed about 2 feet of telephone poles sticking out of the “lake” with the power lines themselves being underwater. Holy crap! This lake was flooded…the campgrounds were underwater as well.

The Glover River was out of the question at this point. We quickly decided on a Plan B and started driving north towards Talihina Oklahoma. The Talimena Scenic Drive runs from Talihina OK to Mena AR and follows the mountain tops the whole way. We had never done the complete route so decided to do it today.

As we were driving by the Queen Wilhelmina State Park we noticed the campground was pretty empty. And with it being later in the day, we stopped and got a camping spot. The price was $19.89 per night. The real motivator was not time, but the showers we both needed and wanted.

When we checked into the campground, you have to go into the main lobby of the hotel. I guess we smelled really bad because they rushed us through and told us our campsite was #36…all the way at the end of the road LOL.

The plus side to camping here was the altitude. It was roughly 2600 feet so it was 10 degrees cooler. 85F is better than 98F back home! This mountain chain is the first significant barrier to any weather coming up from the Gulf through Texas. We could hear thunder in the valley below and saw dark clouds approaching so we rigged for rain. It never happened. The low that night was 70F so it wasn’t too bad. But it wasn’t the low-60’s like we had at Cossatot.

Needless to say, we were up early and on the road by 6am. We headed to Mena to complete the Scenic Drive and decided to head back to the Cossatot River.

More Exploration..

We are not anti-social per se, but when you have an idea in your head, you try to see it through. We were trying to escape people as much as possible and when fishing the river we were completely alone. Camping was another matter.

There are 6 camping sites at Cossatot River State Park and we had grabbed #5. There were 2 other families camped there when we arrived but when we came off the river after fishing all day, we were the only ones camped there. We were stoked!

For dinner we switched to freeze dried meals to conserve water. We had Pad Thai and used our 2 long handled spoons to share the meal so clean up was simple. While relaxing after dinner and making plans for the next day, two vehicles drove up and parked at #6…RIGHT NEXT TO US. It kind of took the wind out of our sails.

Out hops a family with kids and chaos ensued until they decided to go for an evening swim. I don’t own this campground, I get that, but come on! Spread out a bit…we were the only two groups there. After listening to the vehicle running while inflating air mattresses for over an hour and the other assorted noises of camp setup as well as the evening quiet being shattered by 4-5 kids playing in the river, we pulled the maps out again.

I had always wanted to check out the Glover River in Oklahoma. It is the last un-dammed river the state has left and from what few reports I have been able to find on it…it’s chock full of smallmouth. We each had to buy a $40 Land Access Permit to even go there since the surrounding land is owned by Weyerhauser. With that permit we could camp anywhere.

Reports stated that during summer the river is really low and kayaking/canoeing is almost impossible. To me it sounded perfect for wade fishing. I had dropped pins on GaiaGPS beforehand knowing that we wouldn’t have cell reception or internet access.

We decided to head to Pine Creek Lake Campground to set up a base camp so we could explore the Glover River area.

Cossatot River…

This river was awesome! The more we journeyed upstream, the more it reminded me of Colorado. The river rock and the smell of pine was a nice change of pace.

Wading was a challenge. The rocks were slippery and you had to place your feet on pockets of gravel nestled in the nooks and crannies of the boulders. It was doable but required constant focus to keep from falling. This was the only time I have ever wished for felt soled wading boots and studs.

We had great luck here and were finally catching decent sized smallmouth bass.

This fish made her day!
The little Walmart rod did just fine!

I normally keep detailed records but on this day, we were catching so many fish I lost count. This is a river I would have to spend a lot of time on to fully understand the fishing. We could see schools of smallmouth of decent size swimming circuits but they were never enticed by anything we threw at them.

And I can tell you…it was really nice to just submerge yourself in a pool of cool water during the heat of the day to cool off.

We are making plans to go back to this river for further exploration and fishing.

Cossatot River State Park, Arkansas…

Before we got to the actual river we stopped in Mena Arkansas at an old Walmart. I perused through the meager fishing section there and ended up finding a rod. It was a Shakespeare Micro Series Blue BMG2SC 4’6″ single piece rod that had the action I was looking for. So, $25 and 2 bags of ice and we were on our way.

We drove through Wickes Arkansas until we found the forest road that would take is to the Cossatot River State Park ( South End ) and had a “fun” drive to the river. When we arrived, we instantly bailed out of the vehicle and started scouting out the river before deciding to grab a campsite.

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The tent sites were nice and spacious. They are built on an elevated platform with a railing on the front and steps leading up.

If you go, remember that there are no other amenities. No water and they only have pit toilets. Fees were $15 per night. We carry a 6 gallon water jug and have a pump filter to resupply our water as needed. During summer, A LOT of people show up to the swimming holes during the day. We only encountered one other fisherman during our entire trip. The rest of the people we met were trying to escape the heat.

Staying in a place like this during summer is a trade-off. We had lots of shade to get out of the direct sun, but there wasn’t much of a breeze to speak of. I rarely use insect repellant but the biting flies were a nuisance so I applied some. We encountered a few mosquitoes and never saw a tick on our entire trip.

Rest Day at Devil’s Den State Park…

I needed to find a baitcast rod and we were about out of adult beverages, so we decided to find a place to get both. Sounded easy enough until you factor in the lack of cell reception and a dry county!

We hunted high and low for a tackle shop or even a WalMart but there wasn’t one close by. I’ll have to wait til later on the rod. Next mission was for cold beer. When we stopped for ice, that’s when we were informed that it was a dry county. Well S#!%, now what? 60 some odd miles later, we had beer in the cooler! It probably would’ve been faster to drive back over to Oklahoma to get beer at a gas station lol.

Upon arrival back at our campsite, we noticed the campground was filling up fast. We prefer to camp off by ourselves to enjoy the peace and quiet. Out came the maps and a plan was laid to head to the Cossatot River a day early. Of course I was more interested in finding a replacement rod so we decided to hit a WalMart in Mena. I’m sure I could have found one in Ft. Smith, but we would be going through there during the morning commute so we nixed that idea.

We killed some time around camp and decided to go for a hike up to the caves. I’m not one for the heat and was sweating like a goat on the hike up but I remembered the cool air blowing out of the caves so I soldiered on.

At camp, getting the maps out.
Climbing down to the cool air, err, I mean cave opening.

The main cave is still closed and probably will be for a long time to come. The White Nosed Bat Disease or something like that. Anyway, the air was cool and I liked it.

Waterfalls provided some nice relief to the heat so I stood under it and got soaked. I’ll save you from viewing the pictures by leaving them out. Nobody wants to see a wet goat!

After that little jaunt, we headed back to camp so I could cook dinner. We eat well when camping and the nights dinner menu consisted of grilled shrimp on a bed of rice with garlic bread….AND cold adult beverages.

After dinner, we went into “Tick Mode” and just sat there, not moving and trying to stay cool.

Up next…the Cossatot River

An Evening on Lee Creek…

After lunch and a few hours whiling away the time and the heat, we headed back to Lee Creek to push upstream further than the previous day.

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As you can see from some of these images, the water is not very deep so wading is not an issue. Certain sections had a lot of rock that had to be traversed carefully but it was still a fun section to fish.

Think that’s the smallest fish I’ve ever caught.
Certain sections opened up but the pools were never more than a few feet deep.

We both love exploring and covering new waters. The end result on this foray was 37 fish caught (6 Velox and 31 perch).

On a side note, I had started this section with my Shimano Calcutta Conquest BFS reel and my Majorcraft Finetail Area Stage FAX-B6242UL rod. First cast and the rod broke into 3 pieces! Apparently it had been stepped on in the tent the night before and I didn’t notice. Needless to say, I raced back to camp and grabbed another rod to continue fishing. I was bummed out but in my head was making plans to find something of a replacement since it was the only baitcast rod I brought with me. After the days fishing was over, we headed back to camp for dinner…

A nice Steak dinner and cold adult beverage!

Ellis Creek @ Devil’s Den State Park Arkansas…

Stepping into Ellis Creek early in the morning looked promising. The previous evening, we had noticed that our lures of choice (Gamakatsu Round 211 1/8th ounce jig and a Bobby Garland 2.5 inch Stroll’r in Tadpole) seemed to spook a lot of the fish. We decided to downsize to the Owner Cultiva JH-85 2.2 gram jighead and the EuroTackle B-Vibe grub in Green Pumpkin and that was the ticket! We managed to catch and release 15 more fish (12 perch and 3 Velox) before coming to the junction of Ellis Creek with Lee Creek.

We had a great time on this short section before heading back to camp for lunch.

Lee Creek @ Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas…

We had seen Lee Creek in previous visits to this park but had never fished it. We were wondering if the Velox could be found here. Velox=Neosho Strain Smallmouth Bass. In previous posts I covered some of the habitat and trials and tribulations this species of fish endures.

Armed with our Majorcraft Finetail Trekking and Travel Switch Style 5-pc rods and 1000 size spinning reels, we stepped off into the creek to find out.

After catching numerous perch, we each were able to hook our first Arkansas Velox!

Our first evening foray was productive! In spite of full sun and 90+F heat, we managed to land 21 fish. Although none of them were big, it was a lot of fun.

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As you can see, this creek is small and narrow in sections but it does have a few pools.

So Where Have I Been?

This will be a brief overview, followed by more in-depth blog posts…

We had planned a two week trip for the latter part of June, but neither one of us could get away for a full two weeks. So we made it happen in one week instead.

I did a blog post awhile back on “The Thin Blue Line”, and that came to fruition for the most part. Our initial plan was to camp for a few days at Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas and explore/fish Lee Creek. Next up was to head south and check out the Cossatot River, then head over to Pine Creek Lake Campground in southeastern Oklahoma to use as a base camp to explore the Glover River.

We stayed three nights at Devil’s Den but it was way too crowded for our taste so we left. We fished Lee Creek and Ennis Creek but just couldn’t find anything of decent size.

We got up early and headed to the Cossatot River to fish and look around. We had heard of this place from a fellow traveler and were curious to go there. The fishing was good to say the least. The Cossatot River State Park Campground had decent tent sites, but there was no running water and only pit toilets.

Up early the next morning we headed to Pine Creek Lake Campground across the border in Oklahoma. When we arrived, we were met by locked gates and CLOSED signs due to flooding. Once we backtracked and drove across the dam we could make out the tops of power poles with the power lines being underwater. The other campsite we picked was closed too. We drove across the Glover River and it was bank to bank! Usually, this time of year, its low and you could wade fish it. Needless to say we hit the road again.

We managed to find a campsite at Queen Wilhelmina State Park and stayed one night there before deciding to head back to the Cossatot River for further exploration. We spent our last night at the Cossatot River State Park Sand Bar Campground and headed home the next morning.

All in all, we had a great trip even though we had some “bummer” moments. We fished new waters and explored a lot of new roads.

Stay tuned for more fishing pictures…