The river was so named because its lower reaches were said to remind early French explorers of the Missouri River.
The river is dammed by Narrows Dam and forms Lake Greeson. The upper stretches of the river above Lake Greeson descend 1035 feet in 29 miles for an average drop of 35 feet per mile. This makes the upper waters of the river excellent for experienced canoers. There is a 4.4-mile long segment that has been designated as a wild river. This segment contains the Winding Stair Rapid which is classified as a Class IV rapid on the International Scale of River Difficulty. Another attraction on the upper river is Little Missouri Falls, a stair-step fall that attracts photographers and visitors. The upper reaches of the Little Missouri were considered so scenic that the area was once approved by Congress to become Ouachita National Park, until this action was vetoed by President Herbert Hoover. The watershed of the Little Missouri is quite small, which means that its upper reaches ordinarily contain little water during the dry summer months.
The Little Missouri is a superior fishing stream for rainbow trout, green sunfish, longear sunfish, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and other species. The area below the dam at Lake Greeson is most popular for trout fishermen.
Portions of the Little Missouri flow through the Ouachita National Forest, and the lower segment flows past the Crater of Diamonds State Park. The Albert Pike Campground provides camping facilities for visitors to the area.
The Little Missouri is listed as a "Wild and Scenic River" by the United States Forest Service. The upper reaches of the river are designated as an "Arkansas Natural and Scenic River" by the state.