Meet Mike Farringer: the new park superintendent at Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area


Mike Farringer at work with a sidekick opossum.

Mike Farringer is the new park superintendent at Cossatot River State Park – Natural Area.  He is taking the reins from Stan Speight, who retired from the role after 37 years of service with Arkansas State Parks.

Farringer comes to Cossatot from Cane Creek State Park where he served as park superintendent since January 2010. Before that, Farringer began his career as a seasonal park ranger at CRSPNA in 1999. He was promoted to park ranger and later assistant superintendent both at CRSPNA.

As to a bit about the park, CRSPNA extends for 12 miles along one of the most rugged river corridors in the central U.S. The state park-natural area includes rugged wooded slopes, geological features and clear waters of the river. Class III and Class IV rapids attract experienced floaters during the season. The river, the word “Cossatot” is an Indian word meaning “skull-crusher”- ouch!, was designated a National Wild and Scenic River by Congress in 1992.

Preserved within the park are the Cossatot Falls, where the river snakes over and between upturned Ouachitas strata to create challenging stretches of whitewater. The area’s rocks are polished smooth by the river and are among the state’s most scenic geological creations.

Two species of fish, the Ouachita Mountain shiner and the leopard darter, have been found nowhere on earth except in streams of the Ouachita Mountains. The darter has been found in only three of those. Like many minnow-like species, they are susceptible to changes in their habitat and both require the kind of clean, moving water found in the upper stretch of the river. Waterfall’s sedge and Ouachita Mountain twistflower, found only in a few counties in the Ouachita Mountains, and a number of other sensitive plant species, thrive within the park’s five natural plant communities.

Farringer in the field.

Farringer  will be in transition between the two parts over the next few weeks and will start his new role on January 2. We caught up with him to ask him a few quick questions about his new venture. What are your thoughts on your new role at Cossatot?

Farringer: I am very excited about being the next Superintendent at Cossatot River State Park Natural Area.  The Cossatot is a special place and I look forward to starting work there. What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect at CRSPNA?

Farringer: Great Question, I think the experience of actually standing along the banks of this great river may be one of the most misunderstood aspects.  It is one of those things that you just have to experience yourself, it is hard to explain.  Whether the water is a raging Class IV rapids at the Cossatot Falls or it is a peaceful stream during a late summer evening there is just no way to describe it unless you are there in person. Are you planning to make any programming changes at the park?

Farringer: I am not planning on making in major changes to the programming at CRSPNA.  The programming at the Cossatot is geared towards environmental education and resource management.  This brings people out into this wonderful resource to learn not only about the Cossatot watershed, but also about the Ouachita Mountains the importance it plays in people’s lives in this part of the state. What are you most excited about in your new role?

Farringer: I think it is the opportunity to affect people’s lives in a positive way. Whether it is a group of second graders who have come to our Education Center for a field trip or a family who is camping along the banks of the Cossatot. Being part of great staff who is charged with providing opportunities and memories to the citizens and guests of Arkansas about the Cossatot is very exciting. You started your career as a seasonal park ranger at the park. Do you feel that you are coming full circle now that you are the park superintendent there?

Farringer: Good question, and of course the answer is yes.  I started my career in 1999 with ADPT as a seasonal ranger with Arkansas State Parks at the Cossatot with former Supt. Stan Speight and learned a lot about what it means to truly care about the resource and protect it for future generations.  It is a great privilege for me to come back to CRSPNA in this stage in my career and continue enhance and protect CRSPNA and the environmental education and recreational opportunities that are there. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the new role or Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area?

Farringer: I look forward to working with everyone and hope to see you at the “Tot” soon!


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