Spectacular ‘super bloom’ emerges in California canyon — but visitors aren’t welcome

Gregory Bull/Associated Press file

Officials are vowing to prevent a repeat of the havoc wreaked when tens of thousands of visitors descended on a Southern California canyon to view a “super bloom” of poppies in 2019.

Walker Canyon, where weather conditions can produce occasional super blooms of millions of poppies, is off-limits to the public during this year’s bloom, city and county officials announced Tuesday, Feb. 7, at a news briefing.

All public and private trails in the canyon are closed, Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson said, KTLA reported. All parking is closed and an access road to the canyon is closed.

“We know that people want to see a beautiful sea of color,” Johnson said, the Los Angeles Times reported. “We also want the land in our community to thrive. You will not be able to get here.”

The closures follow chaos at past super blooms, particularly in 2019, when throngs of visitors descended on Walker Canyon and nearby Lake Elsinore to view the poppies.

“Tens of thousands of people, as many as 100,000 in a weekend — people of Disneyland-sized crowds — were seeking to experience nature,” Johnson said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They trampled the very habitat that they placed so high in regard and sought to enjoy.”

The mobs of visitors also created enormous traffic jams throughout the region and hindered emergency vehicles, The Desert Sun reported.

“The last time was like out of a movie,” Johnson said, according to the publication. “The flowers were beautiful, but the scene was a nightmare.”

Sgt. Steve Licon of the California Highway Patrol died on April 6, 2019, when he was hit by a vehicle while writing a citation on Interstate 15 while on traffic patrol during the previous super bloom, CHP said.

This year’s bloom is not expected to compare to the 2019 event, but officials wanted to be cautious after the previous havoc, The Desert Sun reported.

“I’m here to tell you that your warning is right now,” said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, KTLA reported. “Will have a zero-tolerance policy for people that are here trespassing and parking on sides of roadways.”

People wanting to view the bloom can access a livestream camera set up by the city, officials said.

Lake Elsinore is a city of 70,000 about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

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