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Saint Francis River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Brighton to Lake City
~ 18 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Saint Francis River below Brighton is very similar to the reach above in that it is a beautiful flatwater run, though at only 18 miles is easily runnable in a single day between US Highway 412 south of Brighton and SH 18 east of Jonesboro through Greene and Craighead Counties. The river continues to flow through remote, undeveloped wilderness all along this reach, with no population centers along the way. The SH 139 crossing, about 4.5 miles below the start of this run, offers intermediate access allowing for trips of 4.5, 13.5 or 18 miles, ending at Lake City just east of Jonesboro. This is another easy trip for paddlers of all skill levels. There are no campgrounds located along the river, but the reach is short enough to allow camping away from the river without great inconvenience. Crowley's Ridge and Lake Pierson State Parks, on SH 141 north of Jonesboro, are close enough for using as base camps for running this reach or the one above, and motel accommodations are available in nearby Jonesboro for those whose idea of camping is somewhere with a flush toilet and hot shower in an air-conditioned room.


Greene and Craighead Counties of northeast Arkansas just east of Jonesboro and west of the Missouri State Line.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 150 miles; Fort Smith 280 miles; Texarkana 294 miles; Kansas City 420 miles; Memphis 85 miles; Oklahoma City 494 miles; Dallas 475 miles; Austin 670 miles; San Antonio 733 miles; Houston 584 miles; Albuquerque 1,031 miles; Phoenix 1,475 miles; Denver 1,091 miles; Salt Lake City 1,588 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 Brighton and the Town of Lake City. 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 412 south of Brighton at 0.0 miles; SH 139 bridge at about 4.5 miles; SH 18 bridge at Lake City, just east of Jonesboro, at about 18.0 miles.

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 northeast Arkansas is characterized by flatwater flowing through remote wilderness with limited access and very few signs of development along the way. This reach is very similar to the one above between the Town of St. Francis and the Town of Brighton, where this run begins. The area is quite scenic, so bring your camera. With possible trip lengths of 4.5, 13.5 or 18 miles paddlers have options for short trips or an all day affair depending upon time available and how much paddling they want to do. The area around the river is very natural, and except for the SH 139 crossing just below the top there are no other roads leading to the river. Paddlers will enjoy a quiet, peaceful river without much other traffic because this is not a popular paddling destination due to a lack of river-related services in close proximity. If you are self-sufficient and prefer easy water in a remote setting, then this reach, like the one above, is right up your alley.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 18 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in US Highway 412 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out SH 18 bridge @ Lake City
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: St. Francis
Web: Lake City
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 ] [ St. Francis to Brighton ] [ Lake City to Marked Tree ]
[ Marked Tree to SH 42 ] [ SH 42 to Village Creek State Park ]

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