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Saint Francis River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

St. Francis to Brighton
~ 31 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Saint Francis River flows down from Missouri entering Arkansas near the town of St. Francis on the state line, then closely parallels the border between the states for about 31 miles down to US Highway 412 near Brighton as a flatwater stream on its way to the Mississippi River confluence in Lee County southeast of Marianna. The river is particularly gorgeous as it flows through the rural and undeveloped northeast corner of Arkansas as a flatwater stream that can be enjoyed by almost any able-bodied paddler. While there are a few small towns near the river, most are not directly along it, so the environment is one of serene and peaceful paddling just a few miles from the Mississippi River, which parallels the Saint along most of its journey through Arkansas. SH 1 crosses the river about 3.5 miles below the town of St. Francis, and SH 90 crosses it about 15 miles below St. Francis, just west of Kennett offering intermediate access between the St. Francis put-in and the Brighton take-out, giving paddlers options for trip lengths.

There are no known campgrounds or outfitters located along the Saint, but abundant natural campsites can be found for those wanting to take two or three days to paddle the entire 31 miles of this reach. The Black, Current, Eleven Point and Cache Rivers flow from Missouri into Arkansas just a few miles to the west, so paddlers have other options for places to paddle when visiting the Saint. Crowley's Rdge and Lake Pierson State Parks are located along SH 141 less than an hour's drive to the west of Brighton, both offering excellent camping facilities for those wanting to set up a base camp, or have a place to camp before and/or after running the Saint Francis River.


Clay and Greene Counties of far northeastern Arkansas, along the Missouri border. Poplar Bluff, Missouri is just a few miles to the north and Jonesboro, Arkansas is about an hour to the southwest.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 193 miles; Fort Smith 321 miles; Texarkana 337 miles; Kansas City 392 miles; Memphis 70 miles; Oklahoma City 537 miles; Dallas 518 miles; Austin 713 miles; San Antonio 776 miles; Houston 626 miles; Albuquerque 1,074 miles; Phoenix 1,518 miles; Denver 1,134 miles; Salt Lake City 1,631 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generally good to very good, flowing clean, clean and cool through undeveloped land from Missouri into Arkansas. Flows are almost always adequate for paddling.

Best time to go

Almost anytime of the year is good for paddling the Saint Francis River provided boaters are prepared for weather and climate conditions. Winters can be very cold and summers can be very warm to hot and humid.

Hazards to navigation

There are no major hazards to navigation on the Saint Francis River between the Town of St. Francis and the Town of Brighton. This is a reach that can be paddled by just about any able-bodied person in canoes, kayaks or rafts, though rafting will be slow and uneventful.

River Access Points

US Highway 62 bridge in the Town of St. Francis at 0.0 miles; SH 7 bridge at about 3.5 miles; SH 90 bridge between Recton, Arkansas and Kennett, Missouri at about 15.0 miles; US Highway 412 bridge just south of Brighton at about 31.0 miles. There may be other intermediate access points for this reach of the Saint Francis River.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no known campgrounds located along this reach of the Saint Francis River. Crowley's Ridge and Lake Pierson State Parks offer excellent camping facilities along SH 141 about 45 minutes west of Brighton. Abundant natural campsites can be found all along the river, though most are on private property where advance permission should be obtained before making camp.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known outfitters located along this reach of the Saint Francis River. Bring everything you will need and run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's Comments

The Saint Francis River in Arkansas is a continuation of the gorgeous and natural river that flows in Missouri to the north. This is not a wildly popular paddling destination, so paddlers can expect solitude in a remote wilderness area with very few signs of civilization along the way. This flatwater river is well suited for those with less experience, and can be boated in canoes, kayaks and rafts, though rafting will be slow and unexciting, as well as perhaps a lot more work than many people want to do on a river. This is a great stretch of river to get away from it all and just relax. Just be sure to pack everyhting you will need for paddling and camping, because local services are virtually non-existent. Be sure to bring your camera.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 31 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in US Highway 62 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out US Highway 412 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: St. Francis
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Arkansas Canoe Club - Promoting the sport of paddling

Lone Star Paddler - the paddlesports web site of Marc W. McCord

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the St. Francis River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Saint Francis River Homepage ] [ Brighton to Lake City ] [ Lake City to Marked Tree ]
[ Marked Tree to SH 42 ] [ SH 42 to Village Creek State Park ]

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Last updated December 27, 2014

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