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St. Francis National Forest WMA

Zone County
590 Lee, Phillips
2023-24 Closed Seasons
  • Alligator
  • Bear
2023-24 Crow
Sept. 1, 2023-Feb. 19, 2024. Open Thursdays through Mondays only. No limit.
2023-24 Deer
Deer Archery: Sept. 23, 2023-Feb. 29, 2024
Deer Muzzleloader (permit hunt): Oct. 21-25, 2023 and Oct. 28-Nov. 1, 2023
Deer Modern Gun (permit hunt): Nov. 11-15, 2023
Deer Modern Gun Special Youth Hunt: Nov. 4-5, 2023

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.
2023-24 Quail
Nov. 1, 2023-Feb. 5, 2024. Daily limit – 6, possession limit -12.
2023-24 Rabbit
Sept. 1, 2023-Feb. 29, 2024. Daily limit – 8, possession limit – 16.
2024-25 Squirrel
May 15, 2024-Feb. 28, 2025. Dogs allowed. Daily limit – 12, possession limit – 48.
2023-24 Waterfowl

Waterfowl Notes:

  • Waterfowl hunting ends at noon.
  • Boat motors over 10 horsepower are prohibited.
2024 Turkey
Youth Hunt: April 6-7, 2024. One legal turkey.
Firearms Hunt: April 15-23, 2024. One legal turkey.
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.
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.
It became a National Forest in 1960.
Area Notes
Area Type
Camping areas are located around Bear Creek and Storm Creek lakes. The U.S. 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. No electricity is available at Storm Creek Lake campsites, but 14 sites at Beech Point Campground on Bear Creek Lake have electricity, seweage and water hookups.
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 1700s and early 1800s. 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.
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 andor trapped on the area. Relative abundance of these animals is subject to seasonal fluctuation, climatic factors, etc.
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 LêAnguille, 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.
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.
The area is owned by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service with a cooperative agreement with the AGFC for wildlife management.
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 areaês cultural, historical and natural heritage.
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 1800s. Indian burial grounds have been located on the area along the St. Frances and Mississippi Rivers but digging in these areas is prohibited.
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.