A railroad boom town that sprang up in the early 20th century, Cotter was once the largest town in North Arkansas. Today it is a well-known river town offering excellent trout fishing amid incredible scenery. The clear cold waters flowing along the banks of Cotter attract anglers in search of trophy trout. Fly fishermen, spin casters, experts and novices visit from around the world to cast into the White River for rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout. The town bills itself as the “Trout Capital of the USA.” America's best trout fishing in terms of the number and size of trout it produces is quite possibly the upper White River. Three to five pound brown trout are common. Rainbows of 11 to 16 inches are plentiful. With a mild climate in all four seasons, Arkansas has year-round fishing. There's plenty of public access available, and excellent shore or wade fishing depending on water levels. Excellent guide services abound as well.
The White River flows past limestone bluffs and woodland areas where wildlife abounds. A significant attraction along the water is Big Spring Park. It contains a two-mile walking trail that follows the river upstream to the Denton Ferry site, which is a part of the Trail of Tears. Or head downstream across the walking bridge. The park contains picnic areas, a playground, swimming hole, boat ramp and more. Also at the park is the Anglin-Tinnon Railroad Workers' Memorial, an impressive array of displays to honor the men who worked on the White River route of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern railroads, which later became the Missouri Pacific. It contains two cabooses, a conductor's statue, a history of the town and the names of railroaders engraved in stone.
In addition to the sparkling water, another visible charm is the R. M. Ruthven Rainbow Arch Bridge, originally dedicated in 1930 and renovated in 2004. The largest Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge known to exist today, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. The reinforced-concrete rainbow arch design was patented by James Marsh in 1912. This five-arch span was a major factor in the development of transportation in north-central Arkansas.
Hiking, shopping, festivals, canoeing, and kayaking are other popular pastimes. Cotter's historic downtown area contains restored buildings, and gift and antique shops. The city has 31 historical markers on its buildings and landmarks. Cotter Trout Fest is held annually the first weekend in May, along the White River at Big Spring Park. The area is filled with vendors, exhibitors, food, live music and treats for the kids. The day starts off with a country breakfast, a grand parade, followed by the kid's fishing hole and the Cotter Lion's Club charity car show. On Friday afternoon, the White River Artist's Annual Plein Air on the River, Quick Draw Competition is held followed by a community-wide barbecue dinner, live music, and mingling on the river.