The Ozark National Forest covers more than one million acres, located mostly in northwestern Arkansas. The southern portion of the Forest runs along the Arkansas River Valley south to the Ouachita Mountains. The Ozark Mountains are actually plateaus, uplifted as a unit, with few folds or faults. The ruggedness of these mountains is due to erosion of the plateaus by swift rivers rising in them.
"Ozark," the Anglicized version of "Aux Arcs," meaning "with bows," was the name reportedly used by the early French explorer, deTiene, to designate the Bow Indians, a tribe native to the region.
The "Ozarks" are really part of the Boston Mountains and the southern end of the Springfield Plateau. The Boston Mountains are characterized by narrow V-shaped valleys that are bordered by a combination of steep-sided slopes and vertical bluffs of sandstone and limestone soaring beside clear streams. The vegetative cover is upland hardwood of oak-hickory with scattered pine and a brushy undergrowth, dominated by such species as dogwood, maple, redbud, serviceberry and witch-hazel. This makes the Ozark National Forest one of the favorite places for visitors in the spring when the dogwood and redbuds are in bloom, and in the fall when the Forest turns into a brilliant display of oranges, reds, yellows and greens.
The St. Francis National Forest, located on the east central edge of the state, derives its name from the St. Francis River. Most of the Forest is situated on Crowley's Ridge, but some is in the low, flat lands along the Mississippi and St. Francis Rivers. The St. Francis National Forest is the only place in the National Forest System where the public can experience the awesome grandeur of the "Father of Waters," the mighty Misssissippi River, from the shoreline.
The forest covers over 20,000 acres and has a variety of the finest bottom-land hardwoods in the country. The St. Francis provides ideal habitat for a large variety of wildlife including whitetail deer, wild turkey, squirrel, raccoon, rabbit and waterfowl. Storm Creek and Bear Creek Lakes, along with the St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers, attract large numbers of anglers to the area. Popular game fish include: striped bass, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and bream. All recreation areas on the St. Francis National Forest are currently managed by the the Mississippi River State Park. Please call the Mississippi River State Park - Marianna Office for any questions at 870-295-4040.
A variety of special-use permits are in effect on the St. Francis including pasture haycutting, cultivation, grazing, and cabin sites around Bear Creek Lake.
There are many landowners within the National Forest boundary. These include Arkansas State lands, utility lands and timber producers, as well as individual landowners. Some landowners prohibit certain activities or require permission before you enter their property. Please respect the rights of these private individuals by not trespassing. Maps and information on ownership may be obtained from the Forest Service or local town offices.