Highway 3049, between I-49 and the Red River north of Shreveport, is smiling with sunflowers this time of year.
The two-lane farm road is a state designated Scenic Byway. It became a favorite bicycling route of mine shortly after moving to Shreveport 35 years ago.
About 20 years ago, one farmer planted sunflowers along the route. Another followed and then another until Highway 3049 and some connecting roads became part of the Sunflower Trail. That trail shows off its sunflowers each June with a festival. This year’s event is this Saturday, June 17.
That day, Highway 3049 and its side roads will be busy with sightseers, but most other times bicyclists only compete with a few cars, farm vehicles and perhaps a turtle crossing the road. Some of the roads have a bumpy chipseal surface and a few potholes, but those drawbacks are outweighed by a flat terrain throughout the entire country route.
The scenery of sunflowers, lush green pastures and lovely plantation homes is reason enough to ride there, but there’s plenty of history too, It’s all documented on historical markers erected by the Red River Crossroads Historical Association. In between, you’ll find fresh tomatoes and melons at Ryan Farms Produce at Dixie, (return in the car later for those), chicken fried steak and other tasty lunches at Main Street Restaurant in Gilliam and who knows what else along the way.
One of my favorite routes includes the Sentell Road loop off of 3049. Beginning at the Dixie Cotton Gin, the 7-mile horseshoe-shaped loop curves around to hug the Red River levee and passes rich farmland, sunflowers and more history. Here are a few photos from that loop. There’s a huge sunflower field with a walking trail and opportunities to take photos or clip your own sunflower souvenirs. At another nearby field, you can pick a dozen zinnias for $2. (It’s on the honor system. You put your money in a box.)
Click on small pictures to enlarge and read captions
If you go this Saturday, check out the sunflowers, art and food vendors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Gilliam, a lawn and garden tour in Dixie, homemade ice cream at a restored plantation commissary.
If you’re going to bicycle, go on a quieter day. But don’t wait too long. The sunflowers will only be there a few weeks.
Click on any picture to launch gallery and read captions
More information and a great map overview is available at: