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Saint Francis River, Arkansas
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 42 to Village Creek State Park
~ 32 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Between SH 42 and Village Creek State Park the Saint Francis River continues its twisting and bending character for about 32 miles, passing by Parkin State Park and flowing under US Highway 64 on this Cross County run. The river retains its remote wilderness nature, running through a largely unpopulated area of eastcentral Arkansas. The Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge is situated just a few miles east of this reach, providing a habitat for many species of birds and animals, many of which can often be viewed along the river. This run ends just a few miles due west of Memphis. From around Marked Tree above, and all along this reach, the L'Anguille River flows nearly parallel to the west, and the White and Cache Rivers are not much further away to the west. The Mississippi River is to the east, though a little further away than on reaches above this one. The Mississippi River confluence is a few miles below IH 40, which is just below the end of this reach, and even though paddlers could go all the way to the Mighty Mississippi boating past Village Creek State Park begins to have more limited and difficult access, as well as backflow from the larger Mississippi River causing paddling to become less enjoyable. Along this run, however, the river still maintains adequate flow for enjoyable canoeing, kayaking and perhaps rafting, though this is a relatively long run for rafts.

Parkin State Park, located nearly halfway through this run, affords an excellent locale for overnight camping on downriver trips. Village Creek State Park, where this run ends, offers another great campsite after paddling the river above. All around the river is a very scenic and natural backdrop of trees, flowers, grasses and vegetation in the form of brush and bushes that serve as home to animals and birds that frequent this area. This particular reach is very hospitable for all sorts of outdoors recreation because of the two state parks and their proximity to the river. The only thing missing is river-related services such as rentals and shuttles, so bring your own boats and gear to paddle this section of the Saint, and as above, bring along your camera.


Cross County in eastcentral Arkansas about 35 miles west of Memphis and the Mississippi River. Little Rock is about 2 hours to the southwest.

Distance from major cities

Little Rock 125 miles; Fort Smith 285 miles; Texarkana 269 miles; Kansas City 490 miles; Memphis 35 miles; Oklahoma City 469 miles; Dallas 450 miles; Austin 645 miles; San Antonio 708 miles; Houston 559 miles; Albuquerque 1,006 miles; Phoenix 1,450 miles; Denver 1,066 miles; Salt Lake City 1,563 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 through Arkansas. Adequate flows for paddling can usually be found year-round other than in periods of extended drought.

Best time to go

This reach of the Saint Francis River has a near perpetual flow and can almost always be boated in canoes, kayaks and rafts, though rafting will be slow and uneventful. The optimum seasons for weather and climate conditions are spring and fall months.

Hazards to navigation

There are no major hazards to navigation along this reach of the Saint Francis River, which can be run by just about any able-bodied paddler regardless of skill level. This is a Class I flatwater stream with only occasional riffles.

River Access Points

SH 42 bridge, between Birdeye and Twist, at 0.0 miles; SH 75 crossing near Parkin State Park at about 9.5 miles; Parkin State Park at about 12.0 miles; Village Creek State Park at about 32.0 miles.

Campgrounds and accommodations

Excellent campsites and facilities can be found along the river at Parkin and Village Creek State Parks. Parkin offers intermediate access, and is a great place to start or end trips of a shorter length than the entire 32 mile run. Abundant natural campsites can be found all along the river, but many are on private property where advance permission is necessary before making camp.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known outfitters located along this reach of the Saint Francis River. Bring your own boats and gear, then run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's Comments

This reach of the Saint Francis is different from the others in that it offers two excellent state park campgrounds along the river so that the entire reach can be run with an overnight stop along the way without concerns about trespassing. The river is every bit as beautiful as on reaches above, and shares the same remote wilderness qualities that make paddling this river a true joy for those who love flatwater streams with low-volume traffic and slow currents. Canoes and kayaks can expect to average about 1.5 to 2 mph unless paddling steadily, though a drift current will only carry you at about 1 mph in normal flow conditions. This reach is very near Memphis and only a little over two hours away from Little Rock. IH 40 gets you most of the way here. For those with several days available to paddle, this reach can be combined with some of those above to provide an enjoyable trip of solitude and scenery.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 32 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in SH 42 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Village Creek State Park
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 ] [ Marked Tree to SH 42 ]

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Last updated December 27, 2014

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