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St. Francis Sunken Lands WMA

Zone County
600 Clay, Craighead, Greene, Poinsett
2023-24 Closed Seasons
  • Alligator
  • Bear
  • Deer Muzzleloader
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: Closed
Deer Modern Gun: Nov. 11-12, 2023 and Dec. 26-28, 2023. This area has special firearms restrictions; see Area Notes.
Deer Modern Gun Special Youth Hunt: Nov. 4-5, 2023 and Jan. 6-7, 2024. This area has special firearms restrictions; see Area Notes.

WMA Deer Bag Limit: Two deer, no more than one buck, which may include:

  • One buck with archery or modern gun,
  • Two does with archery,
  • One doe with modern gun.
  • During youth hunt, youths may take two deer, one buck (no antler restrictions) and one doe.

Deer Notes:

  • Three-point rule.
  • No dogs.
2023-24 Dove
Sept. 2-Oct. 22, 2023 and Dec. 8, 2023-Jan. 15, 2024

Mourning Dove and White-Winged Dove 
Daily Limit – 15, possession limit – 45

Eurasian Collared-Dove
No daily or possession limit
Eurasian Collared Doves must remain fully feathered in the field and while being transported from the field.

Dove Notes:

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission prepares a few fields each year for the opening weekend of dove season so the public has a place to enjoy this exciting form of wingshooting.

Dove fields on WMAs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. WMA acreage put into dove fields is relatively small because most hunters only pursue doves the first few days of the season. However, after opening weekend of dove season, many wildlife species feed in the fields, particularly those that were topsown with winter wheat.

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:

  • Spinning-wing and mechanically operated decoys not allowed. See Page 43.
  • Waterfowl rest areas located in Sections 8, 9, 16 and 17, Township 11N, Range 6E and Section 17, Township 12N, Range 6E are closed to access Nov. 1-Feb. 15 with one exception: The Snowden Field Waterfowl Rest Area levee is open to foot traffic around the north end of the unit to allow access to public land.
2024 Turkey
Youth Hunt: April 6-7, 2024. One legal turkey.
Firearms Hunt: April 15-23, 2024. One legal turkey.
About the Name
The “Sunken Lands” were created and as a result of the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812. Strung out over about 30 miles through the St. Francis River Flood way, the area became nationally famous as a hunting and fishing area about 100 years ago.
This area can be reached off several state highways from south of Paragould to Marked Tree. A major portion of the area is located east of Trumann in northeastern Poinsett County. Major access points are the Siphons Access off state highway 63 near Marked Tree; Oak Donnick Access, south of Trumann off state highway 63 near Tulot; and Stephens Landing off state highway 69 east of Trumann. The East Side of the area may be reached by either of two county roads off state highway 135 between Caraway and Rivervale. However, the best access to the interior of the area is by boat at ramps provided at Siphons Access, Oak Donnick Access and Stephens Landing, Mangrum Landing, Iron bridge Access and Lake City hwy 18 bridge access. Interior roads are limited to logging trails and are closed to all vehicular traffic, except for designated mobility-impaired access trails for handicapped users. Signs designate these. Internal access requires boating from one of the launching areas or walking in from a vehicular access point. Area maps designating access locations are available at commission regional offices.
Acquisition by the AGFC began on December 6, 1955 and continues through today.
Area Notes
  • A free annual General Use Permit (WMP) is required to hunt or trap on WMAs. Permits are available online by clicking “Buy Licenses” at or by calling 833-345-0325 or any regional office.
  • Waterfowl rest areas located in Sections 8, 9, 16 and 17, Township 11N, Range 6E and Section 17 are closed to access Nov. 1 and will reopen to access Feb. 16. With one exception: The Snowden Field Waterfowl rest Are levee is open to foot traffic only around the north end of the unit to allow access to public land.
  • Only shotguns (.410 and larger) with slugs (no buckshot allowed) or muzzleloading rifles shooting a single projectile are allowed during deer modern gun and deer modern gun special youth hunt.
With the exceptions of a few small tracts, the majority of the area lies within the main levees of the St. Francis River. Bottomland hardwoods make up the primary species of timber types associated with the area and include; White oak, red oak, hickory, locust, cottonwood, Bald cypress, tupelo, elm, sycamore and pecan.
Hunting Opportunities
Waterfowl hunting accounts for the majority of recreational days on the Sunken lands Area, however, small game including squirrel, quail and rabbit are abundant. Deer and turkeys are present in fair numbers and provide good hunting opportunity at times. Like some of the other Delta Region Management areas, uncontrollable flooding of the entire area hampers management efforts for terrestrial wildlife and limits population levels to relatively low numbers. Habitat quality is otherwise favorable and trophy class deer are taken every year, although over all hunter success is low as compared to other regions of the state where forested habitat is more plentiful. Both cottontail and swamp rabbits are present in good numbers and offer excellent hunting opportunity around field edges and along levees and borrow pit right of ways. Fur bearers and non-game mammals as well as neo tropical migrant birds migratory birds species inhabit the hardwood timber forests of the St. Francis River Floodway. The area is vitally important to many migratory bird species, as it represents one of the larger contiguous tracts of bottomland hardwood habitat in Eastern Arkansas. Roads and trails designated for handicapped use with ATVs are marked with signs. Further information and area maps are available from regional offices.
The area is in Greene, Craighead and Poinsett Counties and is made up of scattered tracts of land within the St. Francis floodway, in excess of 30,574 acres.
Management Practices
Extensive agricultural development has occurred outside the levees and land use has been converted from timber to agricultural row crop production making the sunken lands an “island” of remaining bottomland hardwood forest in northeast Arkansas. Again, the disjunct and widely scattered distribution of commission ownership presents some special management problems. These combined with the occurrence of extreme flooding at all times of the year have limited management options. Unfortunately, the flood factor is not controllable and will continue to limit year around habitat availability for terrestrial wildlife species. Selective thinning of timber stands to improve stand quality and promote the growth of healthy food producing trees is a very important management tool. Specialized plantings to provide supplemental food and emergency food sources are carried out open lands where farming practices are possible. Special protective regulations to prevent over harvest during high water conditions have been utilized for years. The St. Francis Flood Prone zone is closed to hunting at any time an emergency exists due to high water conditions. Consult the current regulations guide for updated regulations pertaining to the St. Francis Flood prone Zone. Very limited water level control is possible by utilizing the St. Francis lake Control Structure to raise winter water elevations during waterfowl season. This can be done successfully only if there is adequate in stream flow volumes in the St. Francis River. Every effort is made to hold water elevations at a level suitable for attracting ducks and providing public hunting opportunity. Unfortunately, unlike some other public hunting areas in the northeast region of the state, gravity flow water control systems are not available to ensure there will be ideal water level conditions by the opening of duck season every year. Development of such a system is under study for future development on the Sunken Lands. Fortunately, rainfall is usually adequate to provide natural flood conditions that are favorable for attracting ducks during winter months. Moist soil management is carried out on the 280 acre Payneway Moist Soil Unit which was developed in 1998 as a rest area and winter food supply for ducks and other migrant birds.
It is owned by AGFC. About 10,000 acres is owned by the U.S. Corps of Engineers and is leased by the commission as part of the Management Area.
The size of the area, shortage of commission funds and the unwillingness of some owners to sell their land all combined to preclude the purchase of the entire St. Francis Sunken Lands. The commission therefore focused acquisition efforts in this area toward the mission of purchasing enough land to have a major voice in the management of water levels. Through the ownership of riparian rights the Commission acquired enough land to assure public access and public availability to major portions of the area as a whole. Additional land will be purchased from time to time. Because the land acquisition program is on going, some capital improvements have yet to be made. As the area is further consolidated by future land purchases, it will become more manageable and consequently offer more and better recreational opportunities in the future.
Recreation Other Than Hunting
The lower end of the floodway contains the St. Francis Lake, which is a large open expanse of water. In reality, St. Francis Lake is a wide part of the St. Francis River. While the lake supports good populations of both game fish and rough fish species, and provides a large amount of fishing opportunity, Scientific state of the art management is difficult. This is because the “lake” really represents a riverine fishery as compared to a landlocked lake. Hence, ingress and egress of all kinds of fish to the “lake” are not controllable and cannot be artificially balanced and maintained by the same practices that are used on land locked lakes. The lake is fairly shallow due to accelerated silt deposits over the years, but still provides good catfish, bass, bream and crappie fishing. Access to the lake may be obtained from either the Siphons Access or Oak Donnick Access. Commercial fishing for buffalo, carp, and catfish is also a valuable resource of the lake and river. Some isolated stands of old growth bald cypress still exist on the area, although most were cut for lumber early in the century. Such unique features are protected from cutting and are deferred from any commercial logging activities for any reason. The area offers excellent opportunity for wildlife viewing and bird watching. The Payneway Moist Soil Unit located on the west side of the river, just north of the St. Francis Lake control Structure hosts a variety of shorebirds, eagles and several duck species. The area is flooded in October through February annually to provide wintering habitat for migrant birds and ducks. As many as 50,000 ducks are commonly seen on the area which is protected from hunting as a waterfowl rest area.
Restaurants and Other Facilities
Jonesboro, Trumann and Marked Tree are all within driving distance of the area. Overnight lodging facilities, stores and a variety of restaurants can be found. Motels can be also be found along state highway 63 from Marked Tree to West Memphis and in Paragould. Jonesboro offers the most diversity in lodging and entertainment within a 50-mile radius of the area.
Sportsmen using this area should take precaution against becoming disoriented and lost in the woods. The area is relatively large. Hunters getting lost is a common occurrence. A pocket compass and small survival kit should be carried along any time one enters an unfamiliar area of this size. Snakes are abundant, although as in the Big Lake WMA, Venomous species seem to account for only a small number. Like other bottomland areas, biting flies and mosquitoes are a major nuisance at times. Insect repellent is a must from spring to late fall. The St. Francis River presents boating and water safety hazards whether the river level is low or under extreme flood conditions. Especially treacherous are the waters immediately above and below the St. Francis Lake Control Structures. The importance of strict adherence to boating laws and safety precautions cannot be over emphasized. Topographic maps are: Marked Tree, Hatchie Coon, Lake City, Dixie, Leachville and Rivervale, available from the Arkansas Geological Survey, (501)296-1877. Daily readings for the oak Donnick Gauge on the St. Francis River are available from Drainage District No.17 (870) 358-2462, U.S. corps of Engineers, Memphis District (901) 544-3391 or Jonesboro Regional Office (870) 972-5438. All Gauge readings for the St. Francis River Basin are available on the USCOE web site at:
WMA Master Plan
View the master plan for this WMA.