Wildflower super bloom sparks big tourist boom
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Walker Canyon, like rocky regions all across California, has flourished with wildflowers of all different colors for the past two weeks. Annual blooms are common, but the recent fires and floods, combined with the abnormally frigid winter, which locked water in the soil, laid the groundwork for an unprecedented bloom. Reports suggest this is the biggest bloom seen since 2005, and people are desperate to document the action. Places like Anza-Borrego State Park are packed with wildflowers and people. However, Walker Canyon is set apart from other blooms for abundance of the California state flower, the golden poppy.
According to residents of the city of Lake Elsinore located just south of Los Angeles, for the past two weeks hundreds of thousands of tourists flooded Walker Canyon to see the flower fields and their city has been pushed to its limits.
“The blooming poppies may be fun to look at, but the traffic problems they’ve created are unmatched in the country,” resident Jeffries told CBS. “We’re seeing 40,000 to 50,000 people going down there on a given day. It has done irreparable harm to our local residents. People in Temescal Valley have been unable to get in or out of their homes and businesses.”
The Associated Press reported that the crowds didn’t fare much better than the local residents. People fainted from heat and exhaustion. Several hikers attempting to blaze a trail for a better landscape view fell into Walker Canyon. A dog running through the flowers was bitten by a rattlesnake.
Last week, by March 18, the city attempted to close Walker Canyon to the public by limiting visitor numbers and parking. However, this did little to stop the flow of people into the Canyon, and the next day the city reopened the mountain and canyon to the public.
“We don’t have the resources to close an entire mountain” said Mayor Steve Manos on National Public Radio. “It’s an
entire mountain.” The city is now trying new methods to implementing other plans to keep tourists from swamping their town. The prices for shuttles has been doubled to ten dollars per person, and there are other plans in the works to restrict visitors to the town.
Despite the excitement, some people are not very impressed. “This year is actually a normal year for the wildflowers. It has been rainy, cold, snowy and icy and the flowers during a normal year get started later,” said one park ranger. Antelope Canyon Poppy Reserve, a two hour drive north from Westmont, has fields of flowers of all colors. Southwest, it’s a five hour drive to Anza Borrego Desert Park, a state park currently covered in flowers.
Santa Barbara is also experiencing the effects of the super bloom. Clusters of wildflowers are sprouting along highways and interstates and can be found in grassy patches all across the county. According to noozhawk, Romero Canyon, Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve, Arroyo Hondo, and Oso Flaco Lake are all excellent places for flower hunting.