Exploring the Secret Neuse River Sunflower Fields in Raleigh
This blink-and-you-miss-it spot in Raleigh is a summer bucket list must
Photo courtesy of Lauren Bell Isaacs
NOTE: The information below is for summer of 2017. Full details for 2018 are expected to be published below in late June 2018. Thanks!
One of the Triangle's hidden gems — and one of my favorite summer bucket List items in Raleigh — is becoming Instagram's newest darling. Glance at this picture above and you'll know why. It's absolute eye candy.
Tucked between Knightdale and Clayton in Wake County and nestled next to the Neuse River Greenway Trail around mile marker 23 to 25, you'll see a stunning field of sunflowers that typically bloom around Independence Day. Part of the fun of this "pop-up" spot is that the sunflower fields "move" around every year. Last summer, they were at mile marker 25.25 along the trail.
Although the fields are beautiful, these sunflowers have an important, but dirty job. They are maintained by the City of Raleigh and serve as an application site for biosolids — organic matter recycled from sewage — from the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility. Is it any wonder they're located near Brown Field Drive Road? (We have toddlers and preschoolers, have to throw in a little bathroom humor).
The sunflowers are planted to keep the nitrogen-rich soil from washing into nearby streams and rivers in the watershed. It's a symbiotic relationship that we get to enjoy in the form of these gorgeous sunflower blooms. After the blooms have faded, the sunflowers are then harvested and the seeds are used to produce biodiesel. You can read more about this cool biofuel program here and here.
How to View the Sunflowers
To view the sunflowers on foot or bike, you can park your car at the Mial Plantation access point located at 6090 Mial Plantation Rd. Go right on the trail and walk 1 mile along the Neuse River Trail up to the field.
If you prefer a quick drive-by, put 8232 Old Baucom Rd. in your GPS. There is no parking lot but you can pull over on the side of the road to take a quick look.
Although you may see people walking in the fields, we can't recommend doing that. The fields are on City of Raleigh property and they should be enjoyed from behind the white fence. Also, there's that whole the-field-has-been-sprayed-in-recycled-sewage-fertilizer thing. Luckily, we didn't detect an odor associated with that.
What to Bring
The wide trail is paved so it's accessible for bikes and strollers. Wear sunscreen and bring water because it's July in the south, y'all, and there's not much shade. If you or your kids are sensitive about the heat, this might not be the outing for you. Early morning or sunset is a great time for viewing the field to help beat the heat.
The window for viewing the blooming sunflowers is short since the July heat makes them wilt. The peak viewing window is roughly 7-10 days, depending on the heat and summer storms.
And now more 2017 sunflower pictures for your viewing pleasure: