Sunflower season

Listen, want to know a secret?

Some 30 acres of sunflowers are blooming bright down near Historic Brattonsville, and you can walk right through them on public trails.

Bluebirds and goldfinches and cardinals are enjoying them. You can, too.

The sunflowers are part of the Draper Wildlife Management Area, on Brattonsville Road near McConnells.

"I feel selfish that I get to enjoy them and not that many people come out," said Ken Fleming, a wildlife technician with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

The York County legislative delegation helped buy the 800-acre property from the estate of Brattonsville neighbor R.F. Draper in the mid-1990s. It's a hidden treasure with more than 10 miles of trails and two stocked fishing ponds.

Fleming sows the sunflower seeds and tends all of York County's wildlife management areas, land where residents can come to hunt, fish and walk around.

He loves sunflower season, and watching the deer, birds and other wildlife.

"A lot of days I'll bring my lunch out on the tractor, eat it and just get back to work," Fleming said. "I won't even come back till late afternoon."

The sunflowers are at their peak now and will last another week or two. The Draper Wildlife Management Area is open to the public from dawn to dusk, but the best time to see the flowers is in the morning. In the afternoon, they may be droopier from the heat.

To get there from Rock Hill, take S.C. 322 (McConnells Highway) about 10 miles until you see the left turn for Historic Brattonsville. Turn left and the Draper property is one of the first turns on the right. Drive down the road and keep right. From the parking lot, get to the sunflower fields by taking the trail with the gate on the left, or crossing the dam next to the pond on the right.