A small Southern California town is experiencing an extraordinary poppy super bloom, thanks to an unusually wet and cold winter. The hills surrounding Lake Elsinore are blanketed in golden poppies, visible from the highly trafficked Interstate 15. City officials have stated that this is the most massive bloom they have seen in 30 years.
In addition to Lake Elsinore, wildflower super blooms are currently occurring nearby in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Park. Heavy fall and winter rains combined with colder than usual temperatures created perfect conditions for wildflower seeds to sprout, leading to this massive super bloom. Desert super blooms typically occur every few years and are more common after several years of drought conditions. Against usually dull desert backgrounds, wildflower colors are strikingly vivid and make for excellent photo opportunities.
This past weekend, social media and local news buzz attracted nearly 100,000 visitors to the small canyon region in Lake Elsinore, leading to chaotic conditions. Limited parking and access to the canyon caused traffic backups for hours, while fights erupted over parking spaces. Residents of the area were outraged at the traffic conditions in their hometown. One visitor was even bitten by a rattlesnake.
The desire for the perfect photo opportunity also led to considerable poppy damage by visitors. Poppies were getting trampled by those walking through the canyon and others using tripods to set up their shot. Flowers were picked for souvenirs and photo props.
Due to concerns over the safety of the visitors and the poppies, Lake Elsinore officials were forced to shut down access to the fields temporarily. Access reopened this week, and local officials are devising a plan to handle another influx of sightseers this coming weekend.