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California 'Super Bloom' Wildflower Fields Close After Visitors Trample Poppies

Officials reopened Walker Canyon on Monday, saying it was “not feasible” to keep visitors away indefinitely.

A Southern California town shut access to a popular nature area over the weekend after hordes of visitors descended to view a spectacular wildflower season called a super bloom. 

Officials in Lake Elsinore, in western Riverside County about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, called the influx of tourists to Walker Canyon a “poppy nightmare,” and said living in the town in recent weeks had been “miserable” and “unbearable.”

“The situation has escalated beyond our available resources,” Lake Elsinore’s City Hall Facebook page said. “No additional shuttles or visitors will be allowed into Walker Canyon. This weekend has been unbearable” in Lake Elsinore.

Record-setting rains in recent months have lifted California out of a yearslong drought and have given rise to a spectacular wildflower bloom in parts of the state that botanists call a super bloom. Photos show Lake Elsinore’s rolling hills carpeted with orange poppy flowers.

And people.

Officials say some visitors at popular viewing areas, including Walker Canyon, have walked off trails, climbed over barriers, and picked and trampled on the flowers they had come to behold.

Officials reopened Walker Canyon on Monday, saying in a lengthy Facebook post it was “not feasible” to keep visitors away indefinitely. 

“Lake Elsinore, we truly understand how difficult this natural phenomenon has been on our residents. This is something unlike anything we have ever experienced in our City and may never again,” the post stated. 

“The City continues to evaluate all possible options to reduce the strain on our community, the freeway, and local roadways,” it added.

The phenomenon of overzealous tourists doing damage in pursuit of the perfect Instagram photo has become a disturbing trend at many popular attractions. 

Last year, the owners of a Canadian sunflower farm in Ontario banned visitors for good after they found themselves at the center of an Instagram obsession.

“I can only describe it as like a zombie apocalypse,” one of the owners told The Globe and Mail, describing the sudden flood of visitors after several photos of their farm went viral.

California’s Joshua Tree National Park narrowly avoided closing in January amid the federal government shutdown, in part due to visitors destroying the park’s namesake trees and driving off marked roads.

  • A sign protecting poppy flowers stands at a field during a wildflower super bloom in Lake Elsinore, California, on Saturday,
    Bloomberg via Getty Images
    A sign protecting poppy flowers stands at a field during a wildflower super bloom in Lake Elsinore, California, on Saturday, March 16, 2019. California is free of drought for the first time in more than seven years and only a small amount of its territory remains abnormally dry as a very wet winter winds down, according to The Associated Press.
  • The super bloom creates a traffic jam along the I-15 freeway as wildflower enthusiasts wait to exit toward Walker Canyon in L
    Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times /Getty Images
    The super bloom creates a traffic jam along the I-15 freeway as wildflower enthusiasts wait to exit toward Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California.
  • The super bloom fills the hillsides with orange and purple color along Walker Canyon Road in Lake Elsinore, California. 
    Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times /Getty Images
    The super bloom fills the hillsides with orange and purple color along Walker Canyon Road in Lake Elsinore, California. 
  • A woman views a super bloom of wild poppies blanketing the hills of Walker Canyon  near Lake Elsinore, California.
    Mario Tama via Getty Images
    A woman views a super bloom of wild poppies blanketing the hills of Walker Canyon  near Lake Elsinore, California.
  • California poppies bloom among the charred remains of chaparral brush that was burned away by the Holy Fire, as the so-called
    David McNew via Getty Images
    California poppies bloom among the charred remains of chaparral brush that was burned away by the Holy Fire, as the so-called super bloom spreads across the region in Lake Elsinore, California. 
  • A man photographs a woman painting a super bloom of wild poppies blanketing the hills of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, Ca
    Mario Tama via Getty Images
    A man photographs a woman painting a super bloom of wild poppies blanketing the hills of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, California.
  • Visitors walk through poppy fields during a super bloom in Lake Elsinore, California.
    Kyle Grillot//Bloomberg via Getty Images
    Visitors walk through poppy fields during a super bloom in Lake Elsinore, California.
  • Cars travel on I-15 as a super bloom of wild poppies blankets the hills of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, California.
    Mario Tama via Getty Images
    Cars travel on I-15 as a super bloom of wild poppies blankets the hills of Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore, California.
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