Exploring the St. Francis National Forest
Arkansas’s Lower Delta is home to one of the smallest national forests in the nation, the St. Francis National Forest. Located between Marianna and Helena-West Helena, the St. Francis runs through two counties. The forest derives its name from the St. Francis River, which joins the Mississippi River within the boundaries of the forest in Lee County. Most of the forest is situated on Crowley's Ridge, but some is in the low, flat lands along the Mississippi and St. Francis rivers. The St. Francis National Forest is the only place in the National Forest System where the public can experience the awesome grandeur of the mighty Mississippi River from the shoreline. The forest covers over 22,000 acres and has a variety of the finest bottomland hardwoods in the country.
Located within the St. Francis National Forest, visitors will also find the Mississippi River State Park, the newest member of Arkansas State Parks. The park features campgrounds, day-use areas, swim beaches, group use areas, boat ramps, hiking trails, and scenic views of Crowley’s Ridge and the Mississippi River. Adventure and nature come together at Mississippi River State Park to create a unique family-friendly experience. Seven bodies of water give visitors ample opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and boating. Hikers can explore the many trails and watch for wildlife in the forest.
The St. Francis provides ideal habitat for a large variety of wildlife including whitetail deer, wild turkey, squirrel, raccoon, rabbit and waterfowl. Two of Arkansas’s National Scenic Byways (the Great River Road and Crowley’s Ridge Parkway) run through the forest, providing a great opportunity for those searching for fall color.
For more information on the St. Francis National Forest, visit www.fs.usda/gov/osfnf. To learn more about the Mississippi River State Park, log on to www.arkansasstateparks.com/parks/mississippi-river-state-park.