The source of the White River is in the Boston Mountains of northwest Arkansas, in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest southeast of Fayetteville. The river flows northwards from its source in northwest Arkansas, Eureka, Springs, loops up through southwest Missouri near Branson, travels back into Arkansas, and then heads generally southeast to its mouth at the Mississippi River.
On entering the Mississippi River Delta region near Batesville, Arkansas, the river becomes navigable to shallow-draft vessels, and its speed decreases considerably. The final 10 miles of the river serves as the last segment of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System; this part of the channel is deeper than the rest of the river.
Despite being much shorter than the Arkansas River, it carries nearly as much water"?normally over 8,200 cubic feet per second, and as much as 40,000 ft³/s during flooding.