The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Tunica to Helena

Daytrip: St. Francis to Helena


You can make a simple daytrip from the Mouth of the St. Francis to the Helena Harbor.  This 9 mile section of river is appropriate for any Intermediate Paddlers with the usual Big River precautions because you don’t have to make any open channel crossings or get in the middle of towboat traffic.  You can hug the Arkansas Bank all the way Helena -- with Arkansas Game & Fish Buck Island halfway down for stopping, stretching, hiking, birding, beach combing, picnicking and camping.  Take-out: Helena Harbor RBD 663.  Water Time: 2-3 hours depending on river speed, wind speed, and your paddling ambitions.   Put in at the St. Francis confluence and canoe downstream alongside the variegated woods that parallel Crowley’s Ridge into Helena. Side-channels and secret waterways to explore depending on river level. Great fossil hunting and bird watching from the gravel bars at the top end of Buck Island. Becoming a habitat for Bald Eagle.


St. Francis to Helena:

Points of Interest along the Way

Mile 0 Mouth of the St. Francis River 672 RBD

Mile 1 St. Francis Towhead Island Bar 671 LBD

Mile 2 Helena Islands 671-669 LBD

Mile 3 The Fawns (Prairie Point Dikes) 669-668 RBD

Mile 4 Flower Lake Dikes 669-667 LBD

Mile 4 Entrance to Buck Island Chute 668 RBD

Mile 5 Buck Island 669-664 RBD

Mile 6 Doe Island 666 RBD

Mile 7 Trotter’s Pass 665.5 LBD

Mile 8 Bottom of Buck Island 664 RBD

Mile 9 Helena Harbor 663


St. Francis to Helena: Paddler’s Descriptions:

A) For Intermediate Paddlers: Right Bank Route


The easiest (and safest) daytrip is to enter the main channel and keep a line downstream following the Arkansas shoreline all the way down into Helena.  This is a fairly safe and predictable route because you don’t have to cross the main channel and therefore are not subjected to the dangers of paddling with towboats.  It’s as simple as 1-2-3 “right, right, right!”  i.e.: 1) take a right at the Mississippi and 2) stay right behind the big island, and 3) take a right into the harbor.  However it gets a little more complicated as the river levels change.   For one thing you won’t want to go behind the island if the river is below 25HG.  Stay main channel at low water.  You will have to negotiate a few buoys along the way.