“The river has great wisdom and whispers its secrets to the hearts of men.”Mark Twain
The St. Francis River is 426 miles long and is located in southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas. It is only floatable in spring or after heavy rains. It passes through Wappapello Lake that was a result of a dam that was constructed in 1941. Anglers can fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass. There are also catfish, bluegill, sunfish, and crappie. The St. Francis is the most diverse Ozark stream.
The Hubb’s, golden and spothanded crayfish make the St. Francis their home and can only be found in the Ozarks of Missouri and northern Arkansas. The St. Francis crayfish is only found here and nowhere else in the world. Six mussel species are also found here.
Two state parks that the St. Francis River meanders through are Silver Mines Recreation Area and Sam A Baker state park and both have camping available. Sam A Baker has a separate equestrian campground. They also have hiking trails and picnic areas. Baker also has equestrian and bicycle trails.
I have many fond memories of the river as an adult and as a child. I don’t know how many pounds of catfish we caught. We used to pay a farmer to cross his field to the St. Francis and we would set up camp. He had an old wooden boat he would also rent us. One night around 11 pm we were tight line fishing for catfish. Our camp was below Wappapello dam and too far away to hear the siren indicating they opened the dam gates. My mom stands up and said here comes a boat. Yep, you guessed it. Sure enough, our boat. We had pulled it up on the sand bar around the bend. The water had come up and set the boat free. We started trying to hook it and my dad finally hooked it and reeled it in.