Wickes is a small town in Polk County and is located around 20 miles north of De Queen in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. The county was named for President James K. Polk.
Arthur E. Stilwell founded the Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad, now the Kansas City Southern. He chose a site for a new town called Mena. Stilwell founded other towns along his railroad, naming them for friends and investors. He became friends with George Pullman, of the Pullman sleeping train car. The second vice president in Pullman’s company was Thomas Wickes. The town of Wickes was also established by the railroad.
Five rivers—the Kaimichi, Ouachita, Cossatot, Poteau, and Little Missouri—originate in Polk County. The Cossatot begins in the Ouachita Mountains southeast of Mena and flows south for about 26 miles to Gillham Lake.
The Cossatot is considered to be the toughest river in Arkansas to navigate and is famous for its Class IV and V rapids. The word "Cossatot" is an Indian word meaning "skull-crusher."