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.
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.