Town forced to close hillside after being overrun by tourists taking photos with ‘super bloom’

If anyone searches “poppies” on Instagram there is a pretty good chance that some stunning pictures of the latest super poppy bloom in a small city in Southern California might have popped up.

The city of Lake Elsinore was recently forced to shut down its public viewing after being overrun by flocks of people coming down to try and get the best Instagramable photos. Authorities had to close down the access to Walker Canyon on Sunday after “Disneyland-sized crowds caused major traffic jams on the nearby highways.

The super bloom of the wild flowers was a direct result of recently heavy rainfall. And thus the hillside has been a burst of orange color over the past two weeks, attracting scores of tourists. The color of the poppies is so vivid that they can be spotted from the nearby mountaintops.

A “super bloom” is an occurrence when warm temperatures follow winter rain and cause an explosion of flowers which exceeds the average spring-time rate of bloom. The Lake Elsinore community, which totals about 66,000 and is a 90-minute drive from both LA and San Diego, was initially excited about the bloom. However, after traffic problems began to arise and tourists began leaving trails and trampling the flowers, the hastags #poppyshutdown and #poppyapocalypse began trending on Twitter, as locals quickly got over it.

The city had initially tried to manage the crowds, tweeting that roads were jammed and traffic on Interstate 15 had stopped moving, as well as requesting law enforcement assistance from neighboring jurisdictions, however it got to be too much. So the city was forced to shut down the access at the weekend, saying the crowds were too unbearable and they couldn’t manage the “Disneyland-sized crowds”.

It was estimated that there were 50,000 visitors on Saturday alone, and people began lining up as early as 5:30 am to get a chance to take pictures with the flowers.

“The situation has escalated beyond our available resources. No additional shuttles or visitors will be allowed into Walker Canyon. This weekend has been unbearable Lake Elsinore,” city officials posted to Facebook. “We know it has been miserable and has caused unnecessary hardships for our entire community.”

Residents of the city had extreme difficulties getting to and from their homes because of the widespread road closures. The Mayor of Lake Elsinore, Steve Manos, even said that in the ensuing weekend chaos one city employee was hit by a care, while another visitor was bit by a snake.

Initially, the city had certain measures to try to ease the congestion, such as free shuttle buses, but it was all too overwhelming, so on Sunday, officials posted a photo of a flyer which read, “No more shuttles or entrance” and “No viewing or visiting.” It also featured the hashtags #PoppyNightmare and #IsItOver.

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