In 1873, the first mail was delivered to the newly named Corning by train, following completion of the Iron Mountain Railroad between St. Louis and Little Rock. The name honored a railroad official, though stories differ on his relationship to the completed tracks. Once regular rail service was provided, the town began to grow by shipping wood products and lumber, and Corning was incorporated in 1877. It is the first of two government seats for Clay County, the other being at Piggott. 

Corning is in northeast Arkansas, less than ten miles from the Missouri-Arkansas state line and 50 miles north of Jonesboro. Visitors coming into Arkansas via U. S. 67 from Missouri get their first taste of Arkansas hospitality at the Arkansas Welcome Center in Corning. The center offers information on attractions in northeast Arkansas and around the state, along with access to computer kiosks, Wi-Fi, and fresh coffee.

A unique stop is the William H. Donham State Fish Hatchery, which produces largemouth bass, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, bluegill sunfish, red ear sunfish, black crappie, channel catfish, walleye, sauger, and saugeye. The hatchery ponds were completely renovated, and the facilities modernized in 2006-2007.

The county’s only lakes are around Corning, along with the Black, Cache, and Current rivers, and in the winter the area attracts a large number of migratory waterfowl, making it a popular area for duck hunters.