Superbloom at Lake Elsinore - Poppy Apocalypse
Written and Photographed by Mike Lindle
A Superbloom sprouted in Southern California’s Lake Elsinore around March 8th and lasted for about 2 weeks. While it is common that these regions experience a dusting of wildflowers every spring, years can pass without seeing these spectacular Superblooms. The last two Superblooms SoCal experienced happened in Spring 2017 and Spring 2008.
Different regions experience different timing for these blooms, each expected to last only a couple weeks. Factoring in all available areas, Superblooms are predicted to continue to sprout up until about mid-June.
Depending on where you choose to go you will see different types of wildflowers. Lake Elsinore’s Walker Canyon is known to put on a dazzling display of California Poppies (the state flower). Other flowers that are known to pop up include purple lupin, desert pincushion, blue dicks, California aster, blue lupin, milkmaids, and many others.
The Right Conditions
There are 3 factors that contribute to the Superbloom’s success. All three of these conditions in tandem are particularly rare:
Previous years will need to be very dry to kill off any invasive grass species and weeds that would otherwise inhibit the growth of California wildflowers.
Wildfires usually fertilize the soil to provide nutrients to the wildflower seeds.
The current season must have received a lot of rain to appropriately water the plants.
Plan your visit accordingly! We drove from Chatsworth, through Los Angeles to Lake Elsinore. The traffic was dense, especially the closer we got to Lake Elsinore. The local exits were shut down, police were patrolling the roads, all in all it took us about 2 hours to drive to the area and 1 hour sitting in gridlock traffic on the interstate creeping off an exit ramp. We got lucky and found a parking spot miraculously close to Walker Canyon Trailhead.
Poppy Apocalypse of 2019
Many locals have dubbed this Superbloom display as the Poppy Apocalypse of 2019. Lake Elsinore is a town of about 60,000 people. Last weekend, they experienced crowds of what has been estimated at 100,000 tourists. This influx caused a huge slow down and scarcity in the city to the extent that the park employees were working overtime without additional financial or physical support. The town could not accommodate the crowds and had to dial in help at the county and state level. They even deployed shuttle buses to run every 30 minutes to take flower-gazers to and from their outlet mall’s parking lot and the trailhead.
Upon starting the hike, gazing up at this beautiful golden hill full of fresh poppy flowers, there were selfie-hungry tourists veering off the trails and walking on the cliff sides to get the perfect shot in the poppies. This is incredibly heartbreaking to watch. These desert wildflower ecosystems are incredibly fragile. Walking off the path and into these fields not only damages the flower but disrupting the soil decreases the likelihood that they will bloom again in the future. In the wake of the crowds, tourists left behind garbage, off-path footprints, and trampled flowers.
Towards the end of the day, a helicopter passed by every 15 minutes telling people to evacuate before they shut down the park to recoup the damage. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. Places like these should have better infrastructure to accommodate the masses like this, these are the worst crowds this community has ever seen.
Predicted Superbloom Destinations
If you are on the lookout for upcoming Superblooms, please respect the trails and understand that these desert ecosystems are incredibly delicate. Stay on marked pathways, do not pick the wildflowers, and clean up after yourselves.
Joshua Tree National Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Southern San Joaquin Valley