By Lynn Venhaus
If you grow it, they will come. But the sunflowers dotting our regional landscape have a brief life in the summer. Now is the absolute peak time, so don’t wait to make plans.
The Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is 4,300-acres located south of the Missouri River in Spanish Lake. For years, the Missouri Department of Conservation has planted fields of sunflowers. It’s a couple miles’ drive from the entrance gate, which is located a few miles north of Interstate 270 on Riverview Drive. Take that exit, and then travel north about three miles. Follow the sign.
The location in North St. Louis County is at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and.Columbia Bottom has wetlands, forests, prairies and croplands. The area encompasses the 110-acre Duck Island on the Mississippi River as well as more than six miles of river frontage.
The Missouri Department of Conservation reports that visitors can see sunflowers in the area from early July through the middle of August — depending on weather conditions. There is no charge.
The area is closed from one-half hour after sunset until one half-hour before sunrise, except for authorized hunting, fishing and boat ramp use.
The confluence is the fourth largest river system in the world — and can be observed from the site’s Confluence Viewing Platform, which is located at the end of the road.
The road that runs through the area has eight exploration stations along the way. It is a self-guided learning experience, and visitors can view surrounding habitats. The area offers hiking, biking and river access.
There is a visitor center with educational displays that will help guests become acquainted with the site. For educational programs that are offered to the general public, call ahead, as most require advanced registration.
I ventured there on July 30. These are my photos.
Eckert’s Belleville Farm
The two-acre field has gorgeous photo opportunities. The Sunflower Trail opened last weekend and runs through Aug. 7.
You must register online for a time and a date to visit. The cost is $5 plus field access admission for $6.50. Besides the field, the adventure includes one sunflower to cut and take home, a sunflower cookie from the bakery and a sunflower sticker. For more information, visit www.eckerts.com.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.