One of the smallest national forests in the United States, St. Francis covers 22,600 in Phillips and Lee Counties in the Arkansas Delta. It is bordered by both the Mississippi and St. Francis Rivers at various points on the east side, and it includes both bottomlands and the inclines of Crowley's Ridge, a unique geological feature amidst the flat Mississippi Alluvial Plain. Mississippi River State Park, just south of Marianna, AR, marks the northern tip of the forest, while the southern section ends with Storm Creek Lake in Helena, AR.
Mississippi River State Park (MRSP) offers the majority of the organized recreational activities to be found in St. Francis National Forest and is located within it. As MRSP increases in size and crosses into Phillips County, more recreational activities within St. Francis will fall under Arkansas State Park management. Activities include year round camping, hiking, water activities (including swim beaches at Bear Creek Lake and Storm Creek Lake), and regular programing carried out by park rangers. Hunting and fishing are also allowed in certain areas, though there is no hunting within MRSP.
Many people choose to explore the Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway that runs the entire length of the forest and which is the primary artery for accessing different areas of the park. Depending on the season and personal preference, people may drive, bike, or walk the "high road," as locals call it given its location atop Crowley's Ridge. The Crowley's Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway follows much of the same path as the Great River Road through St. Francis. The confluence of the St. Francis River and the Mississippi River is also a popular spot for nature lovers, fishermen, and paddlers. The road to the confluence is accessible by car via the "low road" (Phillips Rd. 239), though it is subject to flooding during rain and high river levels.
Given its location in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway, the forest offers exceptional bird watching opportunities. Hawks, eagles, egrets, herons, pelicans, ducks, geese, and kingfishers are just a few of the birds to be found at different times of year in the area. Seclusion is easily found in St. Francis National Forest. An experience there is frequently free of any human interruption.
FeesNone (check with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission regarding hunting/fishing licenses)
The forest is accessible year-round, though parts of it are on private property. Other parts are subject to flooding, and road conditions may be less than optimal in certain areas after heavy rain. Checking with Mississippi River State Park ahead of time is the safest bet to ensure that specific roads are open.