They don’t call Arkansas “The Natural State” for nothing, and when you visit Mississippi River State Park in Marianna, you will see why. Located in the eastern part of Arkansas in the St. Francis National Forest, this picturesque park not only has access to the Mississippi River, but it also has several lakes and the St. Francis River you can enjoy. From kayaking and boating to fishing and waterskiing, you and your family and friends will find whatever you need at this spacious park. With 536 acres to explore, you can always find something for everyone here, and the roads in the park are easily managed with even the biggest rig.
Mississippi River State Park is on the southern end of Crowley’s Ridge, which is a geological formation that rises about 500 feet above the plains and the river. It was once home to the American Indians who used Crowley’s Ridge as a refuge from the high water of the river and were able to hunt the many different species living in the St. Francis National Forest. By the 1900s, most of the area had been cleared out for grazing and agriculture. However, in the 1930s, the area was bought by the federal government from private owners and they built the ridge road, Storm Creek Lake, and Bear Creek Lake for public usage. The Arkansas State Parks department took over the park in 1973, and has been revamping the area ever since to make it more natural as well as more accessible.
On your way to Mississippi River State Park in your RV, enjoy the scenery of the Great River Road where you can see the tugboats and barges as well as the waterfowl and people enjoying the river. Just off of highway 44 to the east and south, highway 61 to the west, or highway 79 to the north, the park is just minutes from Marianna, Arkansas. Whether you are coming from Little Rock or Memphis, it is only a couple hours to the peace and tranquility of the St. Francis National Forest and nature at its finest in southeastern Arkansas.
Whether you are driving a big rig, campervan, or a trailer, the roads are curvy so be cautious when heading to the park no matter where you are coming from. During the summer, the park is crowded, especially on the weekends so if you don’t like crowds, plan a trip during the week or the off-season, which is Labor Day until Memorial Day. If you cannot wait until the off-season, be sure to reserve a campsite months in advance or head out early to be sure there is a spot for your motorhome or trailer.
This family campground has 14 campsites with full hookups. Two of them are handicapped accessible and they all have 50-amp electricity. The driveway lengths range from 50 to 70 feet; plenty of room for your campervan, rig, trailer, or RV. You will find both tent and RV pads, a picnic table, a fire ring, satellite reception, a lantern hanger, and room for two vehicles at this campground on Bear Creek Lake with two boat docks. Dogs are welcome but they must be on a lead of no longer than six feet.
Lone Pine Campground has 14 natural campsites with no hookups and a vault toilet. This site is on a large peninsula on Bear Creek Lake, so you have access to fishing, swimming, and other water sports within walking distance. So, leave the RV at the campsite and walk a few feet to the lake to enjoy the natural beauty of Arkansas. Each paved site includes a tent pad, a lantern hanger, a grill, and a picnic table. Dogs are welcome but they must be on a lead of no longer than six feet.
Storm Creek Campground has 12 primitive campsites with no hookups and a vault toilet. This campground is located on Storm Creek Lake and includes a swimming area and boat dock. There is also a bath house for your convenience. Each paved site includes a tent pad, a lantern hanger, a grill, and a picnic table. Dogs are welcome but they must be on a lead of no longer than six feet.
This campground is for group camping and does not have any hookups. However, it does have 12 natural campsites and vault toilets. Dogs are welcome but they must be on a lead of no longer than six feet.
There are two swimming beaches in the park on Storm Creek Lake and Bear Creek Lake that are open from Memorial Day until Labor Day. The beaches are sandy and sunny within a section of the lake specifically for swimmers and sunbathers to enjoy. There is no lifeguard so use caution and swim at your own risk. You can also choose to swim in the Mississippi or St. Francis River but remember there is a current, so lifejackets are recommended.
Whether you are looking to catch a huge catfish or a trophy bass, you will be able to catch something in one of the lakes or rivers at Mississippi River State Park. The park boasts flathead, blue, and channel catfish, large and small-mouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, crappie, carp, bream, and walleye. You can fish from the bank, on one of the docks, or in a boat or kayak, whichever you prefer. No matter where you fish, you will surely catch something to take pictures of and share on Facebook. So don't forget to pack your rod and reel in your rig.
Be sure to hook up the trailer for your boat or attach the kayaks to the RV so you can enjoy boating on one of the lakes or either of the rivers. You can find a boat ramp on Bear Creek Lake, Storm Creek Lake, Horner Neck Lake, and one for the St. Francis River. If you do not have a boat, don’t worry because you can rent a kayak at the visitor’s center. They also have live fishing bait so you can catch that trophy bass or catfish.
The Bear Creek Lake Nature Trail at Mississippi River State Park is an easy one-mile loop hike path typically takes about 45 minutes to an hour to hike. You can get up close and personal with the flora and fauna of the St. Francis National Forest and Crowley’s Ridge so be sure to bring a camera. The trail is perfect for both adults and children, and meanders through the native trees, some that have identification markers so you can learn as you explore.
No matter what season it is, be sure to attach your bikes to the camper or trailer so you can take a ride on the trail or one of the many access roads in the park. As long as there is no snow on the ground you can explore the St. Francis National Forest or ride alongside one of the lakes or rivers where you can see any number of wild critters such as whitetail deer, foxes, chipmunks, and dozens of different species of birds and waterfowl.
The visitor center has many fun and educational displays as well as interactive guides with experts familiar with the natural and historical aspects and elements of the area. With many different programs and interpretive tours, you and your family will be able to find the perfect activities to enjoy. In addition, there is a large multipurpose room for group events such as meetings, parties, and family reunions. The staff at the park is knowledgeable, friendly, and can help you with anything you are looking for.