Quick road trips have always been something I love, especially during the summer. There's nothing like packing up the car and heading to a new destination, with all the excitement and anticipation of getting there. I'm always looking for an excuse to get out of town to explore — and for years I've dreamed of visiting a sunflower field to spend the day among the tall stalks and vibrant yellow blooms — there's just something about sunflowers that screams summer in the South.
Somehow, I always miss when they're in bloom or can't find a field that is open to the public in my area — I'm not trying to go to jail for trespassing! Turns out, after doing a lot of research I found there are sunflower fields right across the state line in York County, South Carolina at the Draper Wildlife Management Area — AND they're open to the public.
Every year during the month of April, Draper Wildlife plants several acres of sunflower seeds to prepare for dove hunting season in the fall. Those seeds typically bloom in late-June or early-July and last about 10 days — depending on the weather, which can have a big impact on the crop.
Flowers were in full bloom when I visited on July 4, 2017.
Draper Wildlife is open from dawn until dusk and is located at 1080 Brattonsville Rd., McConnells, SC 29726 — an easy 45 minute drive from Charlotte, straight down 77 South to exit 82. There is no admission. The access road is easy to miss if you don't know what you're looking for — I almost missed it until I saw the small yellow sunflower sign.
Be on the look out for this sign.
Follow the sign to the end of the road until it turns into a parking area. After parking you'll notice a gate that opens to a path in the woods; you'll follow the path for about 100 yards before it opens to a clearing and you'll see sunflower and cornfields.
Tip: Pack sunscreen, bug spray and plenty of water — it gets pretty hot out in the fields and there isn't a lot of shade around. I'd also suggest wearing tennis shoes — the fields are exceptionally dusty or muddy depending on the weather.
Last year's crop was spectacular! You'll find sunflowers of all shapes and sizes — some stalks even reach over 7 ft.
There are several different fields to check out — some are so large, there's yellow as far as the eye can see.
Be aware there are lots of bumble bees flying around — but they never bothered me — and I even got to photograph a few.
If you look closely you'll see a bee landing.
Also caught a few butterflies.
Give yourself plenty of time to wander around — I made myself leave after two hours and over 500 pictures — mainly because I was dying of heatstroke, but could have spent a lot longer exploring and snapping photos.
This year the Wildlife Management Area says the flowers should begin to bloom the first week of July. If you make it out share your pictures with me by using the hashtag #SouthernDeparture.
If you aren't able to make it this year, make sure you mark your calendars for next year — you won't want to miss it. Don't live near York County? Research sunflower fields in your area that are open to the public.
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