Description - St. Francis National Forest lies in the Delta region of northwestern Arkansas with its land divided between fertile bottom lands along the rivers and Crowley's Ridge. Crowley's Ridge runs north and south for 200 miles from southern Missouri down to the Mississippi River at Helena. It is one of the State's most unusual features with an irregular surface of broad valleys, narrow gullies, steep slopes and hills.
The ridge rises more than 200 feet above the surrounding delta farm lands. "Loess," or wind blown soils blanket the ridge and are almost 60 feet deep in some areas. Dominating the ridge is a White Oak/Red Oak-Hickory forest . The understory is comprised of lush growth of Pawpaw, Ironwood, Wild Hydrangea, Spicebush, Dogwood, Redbud, ferns and Carolina Magnolia Vine.
The Scenic Byway passes two lakes. Significant landmarks along this road include views of the Mississippi and St. Francis River valleys, and Bear Creek and Storm Creek Lakes. Both Marianna and Helena / West Helena were centers of commerce in the last century and contain many historical attractions and structures.
- Bear Creek Lake at 625 acres, provides 41 recreational vehicle and tent camping sites, running water, restrooms, 17 picnic tables, a launch ramp, hiking, fishing and swimming.
Storm Creek Lake provides 12 recreational vehicle / tent camping sites, water, restrooms, swimming and change house, and a boat ramp. Existing support facilities adjacent to the proposed scenic byway include Marianna and Helena / West Helena. These cities can provide food service, overnight accommodations, gasoline and automotive services and a variety of other visitor needs.
Helena / West Helena is located on the south end of the scenic byway. It is the site of the Delta Cultural Center, a state tourist attraction centered around the theme of early Mississippi River life. The Center features an historic setting with crafts, music and cultural demonstrations. The State will provide much of the economic and planning support to establish this Center.
The St. Francis Scenic Byway is located in eastern Arkansas. This scenic byway, an existing State Scenic Highway and popular forest road, is located on the St. Francis National Forest between the cities of Marianna and Helena / West Helena. It follows Arkansas Highway 44 and Forest Service Road 1900. This winding route is located atop Crowley's Ridge for more than 21 miles and is the designated Great River Road.
Both ends of the byway are paved and the middle is gravel. The Arkansas Highway Transportation Department is studying the possibility of paving the entire route. Currently, this route is very suitable for passenger car travel.