• California recently emerged from a years-long drought and wildflowers are blossoming throughout the state.
  • Lake Elsinore closed some areas to tourists and police officers patrol the area to prevent them from parking illegally. Those violating the rules are threatened with arrest.
  • Areas such as Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR, Red Rock Canyon, Chino Hills State Parks and Eastern Kern County Onyx Ranch SVRA are ideal places to view the super bloom.
  • AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist David Houk said the super bloom has already started in lower elevation areas and will continue through May.

Phenomenal rain in California since October has led to the return of one of the state’s most beautiful tourist attractions: a super bloom of poppies and other vibrantly colored wildflowers, but viewing them could get you arrested.

California recently emerged from a years-long drought after more than 12 atmospheric rivers dumped torrential rain on the state during its wet season from October through March. The rain filled many of the state’s reservoirs to capacity and as snowpack begins to melt in the mountains, thousands of wildflowers will blossom throughout the state.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist David Houk told Newsweek the super bloom has already started in lower elevation areas and will continue through May in the higher elevations as temperatures warm and snow melts.

The most limiting factor to the super bloom is a lack of moisture in the spring when the wildflower seeds are sprouting, an issue that has plagued California since 2019. However, now the seeds that were laid in past years have an abundance of moisture and are sprouting, growing and blooming.

The beautiful sight hasn’t been widely visible since 2019 when the last super bloom occurred, and tourists are bound to flock to California to see the flowers. However, some areas were desperate to protect the super bloom from tourists, specifically in Lake Elsinore, when gigantic crowds crushed and trampled the flowers.

Flowers are already blooming in the southern California city, which opted to close a popular hiking trail through one of the valleys where the flowers bloomed. Nearby parking areas are also closed to prevent tourists from visiting.

California super bloom
In an aerial view, California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), the official state flower of California, bloom near Steele Peak as the spring wildflower season nears on February 20, 2023 near Perris, California.
David McNew/Getty

The crowds in 2019 caused problems for local tourists and damaged nature when they ventured off-trail and trampled the flowers.

This year, police officers are patrolling the highway to prevent tourists from parking illegally to snag a photo of the flowers. Parking violations in Lake Elsinore could lead to citations, towed vehicles or arrest for the infraction, which is classified as a misdemeanor according to Lake Elsinore Emergency Services Manager Ralph Mesa.

Mesa told Newsweek that no visitors have been arrested yet this season, but numerous citations have been issued and vehicles have been towed for violating the rules.

Mesa said the city was standing its ground in the restrictions to protect local residents and as a public safety measure. In 2019, a trip across the city for local residents to travel to work exceeded three to four hours because of bumper-to-bumper traffic that crawled along the interstate at 5 miles per hour. Visitors also didn’t listen to officials and strayed from the trails. Some suffered snake bites and severe dehydration. Emergency services struggled to transport patients to the hospital quickly because of the extreme traffic.

“We had tons of people parking on the shoulders of the freeway,” Mesa said. “The shoulder on the freeway is for emergency parking, but people were parking and taking pictures, causing accidents.”

Other areas in the state welcome tourists, although have released strict rules advising the tourists against straying off trail or picking the flowers. California Parks and Recreation Department published a list of areas permitting tourists to view the flowers.

The website advised tourists that desert landscapes were expecting a better-than-average super bloom. The website suggested tourists visit Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR, Red Rock Canyon, Chino Hills State Parks and Eastern Kern County Onyx Ranch SVRA as ideal places to see the super bloom, which is so vibrant in some areas it can be visible from space.

Newsweek reached out to the California Parks and Recreation Department by email for comment.

The excessive rain has proved challenging for much of California, with some areas threatened by floods and mudslides. Although the wildflowers need water to bloom, too much water could be a limiting factor, as some lakeshores are much higher than normal and the seeds are buried under water.

“Anywhere where the water is higher than it would normally be, the seed line from previous wildflower blooms is now underwater,” Houk said. “Where those lakes and ponds are above normal, you won’t get as many flowers.”