Cotter, Arkansas -- Trout Capital U.S.A. Cotter, Arkansas - Trout Capital U.S.A.

Cotter 2025

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Cotter, Arkansas
Trout Capital USA:
A Sociological Profile

Upon first look, Cotter seems to be a town that has little to offer. The old streets, the dilapidated buildings, and a few businesses, all make Cotter seem to be nearing the status of a ghost town. However, there is more to Cotter than meets the eye. If one focuses solely upon what they see, then they only get half the picture.

The focus of this profile is to give you a more in-depth understanding of the people that presently inhabit Cotter. In this report, I will present a general historical background of the town itself, specific data obtained from the 1990 census, giving a profile of the people that live in Cotter, and finally, projections of Cotter's future.

A Brief History of Cotter, Arkansas

Originally an Indian town, Cotter soon became dominated by whites. Beginning in 1868, whites gradually came to inhabit the area, buying land and settling in Cotter. It didn't take long for Cotter to become a popular place to live. Its scenic location on the White River, its richness in minerals, and its potential for forest products all made Cotter a desirable area to not only live but to prosper.

As the town became increasingly populated, much planning was done by local officials. Railroads, bridges, ferry service, residential districts, and a business district were in the making. The streets were laid out and named as well. By 1903, Cotter had a post office, a general store, and a newspaper running, the Cotter Courier (later the Cotter Record). Each of these establishments was set up in tents, for no buildings had been constructed yet. The official opening of the town was on November 23, 1905. Hundreds of people who had come from all over by horse and buggy were camped out near the bluffs. Property was not chosen freely. Its distribution was based upon a drawing of names. Fourteen hundred lots were chosen at $25.00 each.

The Railroad bridge was built in 1904, tracks finished by December, 1905, and the first train passed through Cotter on January 1st, 1906. Cotter's population at this time was around 600 people. At the height of Cotter's growth, there were six general stores, two drug stores, two grocery stores, one furniture store, one bank, two meat markets, one jewelry store, two real estate offices, one blacksmith shop, one telephone exchange, three barber shops, two pool halls, three doctors offices, one livery barn, six hotels and boarding houses, two photograph galleries, one laundry, one paint shop, one carpenter shop, and one shoe shop and one school (which was held in a tent).

In 1927, Cotter had a flood, wiping out nearly all of it's businesses. Only the oil company and the bottling company rebuilt. In the same year, Cotter's first electrical system was installed and the municipal waterworks in 1935. Among all the businesses that Cotter had, it never had a saloon. To this day, Cotter has still never had a bar, even though it is in a wet county.

In 1930, Cotter unveiled it's greatest pride and joy, the Rainbow Bridge. This is the bridge that cross over the White River. It was constructed at a cost of $500,000 and is 1,850 feet long. It's rainbow arch design is recognized as one of the most beautiful of all architectural designs.

When the Bank of Cotter failed in the early 30's, during the Great Depression, businesses began to decline. With the introduction of Social Security, steadily, retired couples began to move to Cotter. To this day, Cotter remains a town that consists of primarily retirees.

Cotter City Government

Currently, Cotter has an incorporated municipal government. The following list is of the current office positions and the people who hold those offices:

Town Mayor

J.D. Pratt


Betty A. Anglin

City Attorney

Roger Morgan


John Adams

Phillip Anglin

Wanda Davidson

Wanda Fielding

Lynn Hutchinson

Steven Leisey

Cotter's town officials are located in City Hall, which also acts as a Fire Department and a Police Station. Cotter also has one Post Office.

Community Churches and Clubs

Cotter has a number of churches spread out over the town. The following is a list of these churches:

     Wesley United Methodist
     Calvary Temple Assembly of God
     First Baptist Church of Cotter
     Cotter Church of Christ

Cotter also has a few clubs that aim to meet the needs of the local people and surrounding areas:

Glad Garden Club
Heart of the Hills Chorus
(practice takes place at Cotter Elementary School)

Local Businesses and Industries

Two Liquor Stores 
One Boat Mfg. Shop
Cotter Apartment Complex 
White Sands Motel
One Antique Shop 
Train Station (raw material)
One Take-Out Food Place (rarely in operation) 
One Gas Station (transportation)

Demographic Statistics

Cotter has been evaluated by Claritas as a poor, family oriented community with an aging population (55+), and most dwellings are family dwelling units. Although this gives us a general concept of Cotter, it is not specific enough. I use Social Characteristics collected from 1990 Census data in the following pages to give a better profile of the inhabitants of Cotter. I provide charts and graphs and a discussion of each.

Median Household Income
City, County and State

From this graph, it becomes clear that Cotter's economy is following neither county nor state trends. Cotter's Median Household Income has been on a steady decline before 1990. It is argued that this is in part due to the installation of Highway 62 that replaced the former route to Mountain Home, a route that required drivers to go directly through Cotter. Local businesses that used to have a steady income no longer exist in Cotter.

Sales Tax Income 
Cotter, AR

Sales Tax Income Graph, Cotter, Arkansas

Although town Liquor Stores continue to provide a large proportion of the Sales Tax Revenue for Cotter, since 1994, Cotter's Sales Tax Revenue has been on a near steady decline. Notice that the sharpest decline was in 1994. This was the year that Hwy 62 was first opened.

Population is another factor that we looked at, and it seemed to follow the trends of the previous data. In the following chart, I compare the population trends for Cotter, Baxter County, and Arkansas.


Baxter County










2002 (Projections)




The Census Data show that Cotter drops in population in 1997 and then boosts back up in 2002. State and County populations, however, are on a steady increase. This gives us a general picture of the populations. I now want to turn to more specific characteristics of these populations.

Median Age

In this graph, we can see that not only does Cotter have a higher median age than the state of Arkansas, but so does Baxter County. Cotter has a high median age because it is a retirement community.

The interesting thing is that not only is Cotter a retirement community, but it is also a poor one. Cotter's percent of poor is greatly above the county percentage and significantly above the state percentage of poor. This fact was also represented by the earlier graph portraying median household incomes. Cotter's was much lower than the state's or the county's median household income.

Now that we've looked at Cotter in comparison to county and state data, let's look strictly at Cotter's characteristics.

Characteristics of Cotter

I have chosen a few characteristics of Cotter that will give you a good grasp of what kind of people are living there. Each of these characteristics is reflective of Cotter's geographic location in Arkansas.

Housing Units



Owner Occupied


Renter Occupied




Immediately, we can see that the majority (57%) of the houses are owner occupied. The rest of the houses are either renter occupied or vacant. This seems to reflect that most of the people who live in Cotter are very likely to remain in Cotter. In a later graph, we will see that this is also reflective of the large portion of the population that is over age 55. Many of the inhabitants have retired or are on their way, and they are most likely to be the owners of these houses, not the younger, more mobile individuals or families.

Race Distribution

There are only two races in Cotter. These races are not only reflective of Cotter's location, but also of its history.



American Indian


Education: Cotter
(based upon persons 25 years and older)

High school degree or lower: 534
Above a High school degree: 193

This pie graph shows that nearly seventy-five percent of the population over 25 years old has a high school degree or less education. The rest of this population, near 25 percent, has higher than a high school degree.

Age Distribution: Cotter

Age Under 1 to 19 -  265
Age 20 - 54  - 425
Age 55+- 351

This pie graph shows that one third of the population is over fifty-five and another quarter of the population is nineteen or younger. This is nearly 60% of the population that is dependent. The portion of the population that is working is less than half.

Occupations and Travel Time to Work

Our question now becomes: "If only half of the population is working, then what kind of occupations do they hold and where are their workplaces?" The following chart shows this information.

Mean Travel Time: State, County, and CotterCotter, Arkansas, Mean Travel Time: State, County and Cotter

The mean travel time for Cotter is 17.1 minutes. For Baxter County, it is 16.2 minutes, and for Arkansas it is 19 minutes. What is of importance here is that there are two cities, Flippin and Gassville, which are only 5 minutes from Cotter. Yet, the travel time averages at 17 minutes. Mountain Home, on the other hand, is about 20 minutes from Cotter. It seems that many people are commuting to Mountain Home. This speaks to the fact that there are few jobs in the surrounding nearby cities, and that Cotter has even fewer jobs to offer.

Labor Force Distribution: Cotter, AR

Finally, we look at the type of jobs that the people of Cotter tend to hold. This pie chart shows the distribution of white-collar workers (service, government, and administrative/professional, and blue-collar workers. It takes into consideration all jobs types listed on the 1990 Census.

What we find is that the majority of workers are blue-collar. To name a few, this category includes jobs like fanning, mining, construction, fisheries, machine operators, and production or craft. This is what we would expect for Cotter's location. As we saw earlier, however, the average commute time is 17 minutes. Even though the residents of Cotter have various occupations, mostly blue-collar, they tend to hold these jobs outside of Cotter city limits. The city's sales tax revenue continues to drop, as seen earlier, because the residents of Cotter continue to find work and set up businesses elsewhere. It is this process that needs to be reversed.


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Last updated: 02.03.2004