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Saint Francis River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Marked Tree to SH 42
~ 21 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Saint Francis River flows about 21 miles between Marked Tree and SH 42 between Birdeye and Twist. SH 75 closely parallels the river all along this reach from its crossing at the junction of SH 149 just below the US Highway 63 crossing about 3 miles below Marked Tree. This reach of the river is particularly twisting as it winds its way southwest just a few miles west of Memphis ending near the Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge. Like reaches above, this one is very scenic in a remote wilderness where signs of civilization are few and far between. The run begins in Poinsett County and ends in Cross County about a half hour's drive north of IH 40 that runs between Little Rock and Memphis. The tree-lined river has no river-related services available, and as such offers a great deal of solitude for paddlers who will not likely encounter others along the river unless they are fishing from its banks. This is another reach where you will want to have your camera available, especially because of the wide variety of birds and animals to be found here.


Poinsett and Cross Counties of eastcentral Arkansas near the Tennessee and Mississippi State Lines and the Mississippi River. Memphis is less than an hour away to the southeast and Little Rock is less than 3 hours away to the southwest.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 140 miles; Fort Smith 300 miles; Texarkana 284 miles; Kansas City 470 miles; Memphis 35 miles; Oklahoma City 484 miles; Dallas 465 miles; Austin 660 miles; San Antonio 723 miles; Houston 574 miles; Albuquerque 1,021 miles; Phoenix 1,465 miles; Denver 1,081 miles; Salt Lake City 1,578 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 usually good to very good, flowing slow, clean and clear from Missouri down through Arkansas. Adequate flows are nearly always available for paddling.

Best time to go

This reach of the Saint Francis River is generally navigable year-round, weather permitting. Optimum conditions are frequently found in spring and fall months.

Hazards to navigation

There are no major hazards to navigation on this reach of the Saint Francis River at normal flows. At higher flows, however, the river can become more technical due to the tight, twisting turns that can carry a boat into strainers unless control maneuvers are effected to avoid them. Generally speaking, this reach is runnable by almost any able-bodied paddler in normal flow conditions.

River Access Points

SH 14 bridge at Marked Tree at 0.0 miles; SH 75 bridge just below US Highway 63 at about 3.0 miles; SH 42 bridge between Birdeye and Twist at about 21.0 miles. There may be other access points for this reach of the Saint Francis River.

Campgrounds and accommodations

Parkin State Park, near US Highway 64, offers excellent camping facilities on the river just below the end of this reach. Lake Poinsett State Park, on SH 136 about 30 minutes west of Marked Tree, offers excellent camping facilities. Village Creek State Park, along the river off SH 284 between IH 40 and US Highway 64 a little southwest of the end of this reach, 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

The Saint Francis River remains a remote wilderness stream throughout this reach, where few signs of developemnt can be found. Aside from the SH 75 bridge below US Highway 63 just below the put-in at Marked Tree, there are no other known access points until you reach SH 42 about 21 miles below the start of the run. The river has more twists and bends on this reach than on those above, and the tree-lined banks can become obstacles in high-flow conditions. The Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge is located just below and east of this reach, so paddlers can expect to see a wide variety of birds and animals along this run. Memphis is just a few miles to the southeast, and IH 40, leading to Little Rock, is just south of this reach. Campgrounds and river-related services are non-existent, so be sure to pack everything you will need for a trip. Three nearby state parks, two located along the river, offer great camping opportunities just a few miles away from thhis run, and can serve as base camps for those not making extended river runs below SH 42. The river is gentle, with no major hazards other than strainers that may come into play at higher flows, and can usually be paddled by boaters of any skill level provided they have adequate boat control skills to steer around the bends they will encounter. Take your camera, because there is much natural beauty to see along the way.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 21 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in SH 14 bridge at Marked Tree
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out SH 42 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge 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 ]
[ Lake City to Marked Tree ] [ SH 42 to Village Creek State Park ]

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© October 10, 2002. All rights reserved.
Last updated December 27, 2014

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