My area is probably different than what you trap. As I live in the middle of the one of the biggest corn fields in the world.
Plus no woods or trees around to boot in big lots that is.
I think I became a better coon trapper when I started standing back from the area and taking a good look around at the situation at hand. In my area, the places where coon den are farms with barns or have old groves right up near the house. Or concrete piles or junk piles. Mostly old run down abandon farm places with several building sites and some old cottonwoods. Like 1/2 acre lots.
Most locations have a trail or 2 coming across the road, going toward other shelter or the water source. Or if on the side of the road where they den is surrounded by a bean field, but a corn field on the otherside of the road. Then they travel across the road to get to the corn. Great trail setting locations. The coons in my area don't have to move more than a couple yards to get into the corn, so that's not something I consider, I look where they have to get a drink or lay up for the night.
I would think you could use the same mind set where you're at. You see that stand of cottonwoods, or probable denning areas, and then you start looking around, and, Ok, there's a creek a 1/2 mile away, food source, shelter. Now find the shortest or easiest travel route to the locations from where they den, and I think you'll be on to something. So unless your coons are part camel, they're going to be making almost nightly trips to get a drink.
The water sources don't even have to be a decent sized creek or stream or pond. They are attracted to literally puddles if that's the closest place to get a drink. This past season I did catch some coon off of puddles.
So now when I scout, I look around and think to myself, ok, I know there's gotta be coons there & there, and that crick is 1/4 mile between both spots, and take a look see, and more often then not, that watering hole is loaded with tracks.
And it's also works the opposite. The crick by my house has hardly any coon on it at all. Granted, there's denning locations within a mile. But there's closer places to get a drink for the coon than the water that is provided at my crick, so like people, they're only going to go as far as they need to, to get what they want. But that's not a hard rule, as they're always traveling/wandering coon that will surprise you where you'll catch them.
When I started to think I was the coon, and where I would have to go and how I would get there to survive, I think I became a better coon trapper. But that's just a general mind set, and muddy coon trails and fresh tracks often allow me to break that rule over and over.
Just my 2 cents.
I forgot to add. When I'm scouting, looking at the "Big Picture". I look for the LOW spots between the "connecting points". Like culverts crossing under the roads. Those are coon magnets for traveling coon in my opinion. Same with skunk/opposum, and even fox. But I'm attracted to the low valleys, draws between say the denning area and the watering hole. Or the line of travel between any of the main coon hang outs. But that's not a hard rule either, keep your head on a swivel when setting and you'll find that smoking hot trail and it won't make sense to YOU why it's there, but it doesn't need to. Just set it up and start killing.