Wildlife Management Area Details 

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NameSt. Francis National Forest WMA
WMA Zone590
County CoverageLee, Phillips
The forest, comprising 20,946 acres, is in east central Arkansas in Lee and Phillips counties, between the towns of Marianna and Helena-West Helena. State highway 44 bisects the forest. It is bounded on the east and south by the L’Anguille, St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers, Wire Road on the west and Jeffersonville Road on the North. It is situated 50 miles southwest of Memphis, TN and 20 miles south of Forest City. 
Seasons and Regulations
Youth Hunt: April 8-9, 2017. Two bearded turkeys, no more than one jake.
Firearms Hunt: April 10-25, 2017. Two bearded turkeys, no jakes (youths may take one jake as part of their statewide seasonal limit).
Deer Archery: Sept. 24, 2016-Feb. 28, 2017.
Deer Muzzleloader (permit hunt): Oct. 15-19 and Oct. 22-26, 2016.
Deer Modern Gun (permit hunt): Nov. 12-16, 2016.
Deer Modern Gun Youth Hunt: Nov. 5-6, 2016.
WMA Deer Bag Limit:
Three deer, no more than two bucks, which may include:
• Two bucks with archery,
• Three does with archery,
• One buck or doe with muzzleloader permit,
• One buck or doe with modern gun permit.
• During youth hunt, youths may take two deer, one buck (no antler restrictions) and one doe.
Deer Notes: 15-inch inside spread or 18-inch main beam rule. No dogs.
Deer Permit:
Deer hunting on this area is restricted to special permit hunts.
Click here for more information and to apply.
Nov. 1, 2016-Feb. 5, 2017. Daily limit - 6, possession limit -12. Bird dogs allowed.
Sept. 1, 2016-Feb. 28, 2017. Daily limit - 8, possession limit - 16. Dogs allowed except during firearms deer hunts.
May 15, 2016-Feb. 28, 2017. Dogs allowed except during firearms deer hunts. Daily limit - 12, possession limit - 48.
Sept. 1, 2016-Feb. 21, 2017. Open Thursdays through Mondays. No limit.
  • Alligator
  • Bear
Area Notes:
  • ATVs/UTVs/OHVs are prohibited entirely on this WMA.
  • No Hunting is allowed within the signed boundaries of the Mississippi River State Park.
  • Refer to USDA Forest Service website for more information.
  • Boat motors over 10 horsepower are not allowed.
  • Waterfowl hunting ends at noon.
Leased Land Permit RequiredNo
About the Name
The area is named for the St. Francis River which is one of the rivers forming the east boundary. It was first named by Congress, the Eastern Arkansas Grazing Recreational Wildlife Area, later transferred to the Soil Conservation Service, and in 1954 it was transferred to the Forest Service. In 1960, by presidential proclamation, it was named the St. Francis National Forest. 
The area is owned by the US Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service with a cooperative agreement with the AGFC for wildlife management. 
It became a National Forest in 1960. 
The area was established as a hardwood forest with objectives to produce quality hardwood sawtimber on a sustained yield basis. Provide minority employment, inform minorities of recreational and income producing opportunities resulting from Forest Service activities. Keep the current regulated acreage on the unit in hardwood. Identify and propose suitable areas for designation as Research Natural Areas. Minimize impacts of special uses on public use, enjoyment and other benefits of the forest. Provide wildlife habitats suitable for diversity of wildlife species. Improve Forest Service identification in the local area. Utilize facilitating services (fire control, lands and engineering) to most effectively meet the resource management objectives. Administer mineral and land-use activities to optimize public benefits, consistent with land suitability and environmental safeguards. Cooperate with federal, state and local agencies to provide needed public services, consistent with jurisdictional responsibilities and authorities. Retain, to the extent possible, viable alternatives for future generations. Manage the unit so as not to disturb archaeological, historical, unique geologic sites or other areas of significance that contribute to a better understanding of the area’s cultural, historical and natural heritage. 
It consists of upland hardwood forests located on the hilly Crowley’s Ridge section, with approximately 2500 acres of bottomland timber adjacent to the St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers. The St. Francis has two man made lakes, Bear Creek and Storm Creek, established in 1938 and opened for fishing in 1940 and 1942 respectively. Both lakes were initially stocked with bass, bream and crappie and are cooperatively managed by the USFS and AGFC fisheries biologist. 

Being situated on Crowley’s Ridge that is a loess (windblown) formation, in itself makes it a unique area to the state. A race of Indians known as the "mound builders’ once inhabited the area. Their dead were placed in mounds, along with their implements considered necessary for existence in another world. In July 1961, archeologists investigated a large mound near Helena. Their findings supported the belief that these people were of a race much older than the American Indian. The lands along the St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers were first settled in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. A French trading post was established above Helena in 1766, which later became Montgomery’s Point, one of the most noted landings on the Mississippi River. The first white settlement was near the mouth of the St. Francis River, which has since been taken by the Mississippi River. It is said that the first white child born at this settlement was supposedly the first white child born in Arkansas.
It is accessible by highway 44 from Marianna and by highway 1 and 242 from Helena-West Helena, with information signs on highway 1 in Marianna and  highway 242 in Helena-West Helena. 
Hunting Opportunities
They are diverse with expanding populations of deer and turkey. Deer, turkey and squirrel hunting are the favorites on the area. Raccoons and other furbearers, cottontails and swamp rabbits, ducks, geese, mourning doves, bobwhite, woodcock, coyote and snipe are hunted and\or trapped on the area. Relative abundance of these animals is subject to seasonal fluctuation, climatic factors, etc. 
Management Practices
They range from prescribed burning to food plot maintenance. Approximately 150 acres per year are mowed, disked, seeded and fertilized on a rotational basis for food plot development providing a well diverse habitat structure. The St. Francis has an extensive food plot program that has greatly enhanced wildlife numbers. Our goal is to manage fish and wildlife populations to maintain viable populations of existing and desirable non-native vertebrate species well distributed throughout the Forest, and to maintain and improve selected management indicator species habitat consistent with overall multiple-use objectives and provide opportunities to restore native species. The reasons are the difference in animal and plant species. Some species of animals must have first year plant succession for food and cover, with others needing old or mature habitat. Timber management practices and the management of permanent wildlife openings help achieve this diversity. 
Recreation Other Than Hunting
Bear Creek and Storm Creek Lakes provide fishing and other water related recreation. Bear Creek Lake is located on the north end of the forest near Marianna. Storm Creek Lake is located on the south end, near Helena. Both lakes have been stocked with bass, bream crappie, catfish and Storm Creek with hybrid Striped bass. Hiking trials have been established near the campgrounds on Bear Creek, where birdwatchers and wildlife photographers have ample opportunities to see and photograph wildlife, songbirds and other non-game species. 

Alligators have been stocked in the Beaver Pond located on the East Side of the area along the St. Francis River accessed by the Lower Road. Eagles have been sighted around Bear Creek as well as along the Mississippi River on the south end of the Forest near Helena. For hikers and history buffs two cemeteries are located in the forest with some stones dating back to the early 1800’s. Indian burial grounds have been located on the area along the St. Frances and Mississippi Rivers but digging in these areas is prohibited.
Camping areas are located around Bear Creek and Storm Creek lakes. The US Forest Service maintains them on a fee basis. These campsites are semi-private, meaning there are restrooms, tent pads, trailer areas, grills, picnic tables and water sources, but no electricity. 
Restaurants and Other Facilities
The nearest are at Marianna and Helena-West Helena. 
Due to the extensive forested, hilly terrain of the St. Francis, one can easily become lost on the area. However, the road system on the forest allows one to walk due east or west and find a road back to their entry point. The St. Francis is long from north to south, but only approximately 5 miles wide at its widest point east to west, so an easterly or westerly direction is the easiest way to regain bearings. The St. Francis has nine private inholdings on or within the boundary. All are clearly marked and should be no problem for visitors. The main roads in the St. Francis are all graveled and well maintained. The use of 4WD in the area is an option but is generally not needed.