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Saint Francis River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Lake City to Marked Tree
~ 26 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

From Lake City down to Marked Tree the Saint Francis River flows as a Class I, basically flatwater river of about 26 miles bisected by SH 135 about 14 miles below the put-in. This reach shares the same characteristics of scenery and remoteness as the two reaches above, providing an easy river trip for paddlers of all exprience levels. SH 135 access makes possible runs of 14 miles from Lake City to that point, 12 miles from there to Marked Tree or 26 miles from the top to the bottom of the reach, so paddlers can choose the length of trip they want to do according to stamina, time available and personal preference. Though they do not encroach upon the river, several small towns are situated not far away, most along the west side. The tree-lined banks offer a natural backdrop to the river and remind you of the wilderness traits of this gorgeous stream. Starting a few miles west of Jonesboro, this run ends about a half-hour southeast of the city on US Highway 63. As with the reaches above, there are no river-related services available, so come prepared with everything you need, including your camera.


Craighead and Poinsett Counties of northeast Arkansas just a few miles west of the Mississippi River and the Tennessee State Line. Jonesboro is about a half hour away to the northwest and Memphis is less than an hour away from the Marked Tree take-out southeast of the river.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 150 miles; Fort Smith 310 miles; Texarkana 294 miles; Memphis 70 miles; Kansas City 460 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 Lake City and the Town of Marked Tree. 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

SH 18 bridge at Lake City at 0.0 miles; SH 135 bridge about 3 miles northeast of Trumann at about 14.0 miles; SH 14 bridge at Marked Tree at about 26.0 miles.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no known campgrounds located along this reach of the Saint Francis River. Lake Poinsett State Park, on SH 136 about 30 minutes west of Marked Tree, offers excellent camping facilities. 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

Everything about the two reaches above is echoed on the run between Lake City and Marked Tree. This scenic flatwater run can be a one or two day trip for most paddlers, and midpoint access allows paddlers to choose the distance and time they want to be on the river. Casual paddlers can have either 14 or 12 miles trips, depending upon where they start and stop, while marathon paddlers can run the entire 26 miles in a long day. Expect about 2 mph average speed on this river unless you are ready to paddle steadily, in which case you can easily average 3+ mph for an 8-9 hour trip. Remoteness adds to the mystique of paddling the Saint Francis River. Conventional accommodations are available nearby for those who prefer not to tent camp before or after a trip.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 26 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in SH 18 bridge @ Lake City
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out SH 14 bridge @ Marked Tree
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Lake City
Web: Marked Tree
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 ] [ Brighton to Lake City ]
[ Marked Tree to SH 42 ] [ SH 42 to Village Creek State Park ]

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