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Lake Elsinore’s Walker Canyon Reopens After Super Bloom Attracts ‘Disneyland Size Crowd,’ Creates ‘Poppy Nightmare’

Walker Canyon reopened Monday, one day after Lake Elsinore officials shut down access to the poppy fields as "Disneyland size crowds" descended over the weekend to view the stunning super bloom, creating traffic jams and chaos in the area.

The temporary closure was announced about 5 p.m. Sunday, about roughly 30 minutes before the last shuttle was scheduled to leave for the day.

"The situation has escalated beyond our available resources. No additional shuttles or visitors will be allowed into Walker Canyon," the city announced on Facebook.

"This weekend has been unbearable Lake Elsinore," the post added, calling it a "poppy nightmare."

Although the canyon was open again, parking would be extremely limited, officials warned. Lake Street and Nichols Road have also been reopened.

"The City continues to evaluate all possible options to reduce the strain on our community, the freeway, and local roadways. At this time, it is not feasible for us to keep visitors away from #WalkerCanyon," officials said in a Facebook post.

On Sunday, some visitors lined up as early as 5:30 a.m. to witness the spectacular sight. By 10:30 a.m., the wait time to board the shuttle bus reached 90 minutes.

Traffic issues eventually forced the closure of the Lake Street and Nichols ramps from the 15 Freeway, which was congested south of Corona for at least part of the day.

"The freeway is not moving and Central [Avenue] is a mess," the city tweeted in the afternoon.

Some 50,000 visitors flocked to the brightly-colored poppy fields over the weekend, said Lake Elsinore Mayor Steve Manos. The figure was about twice the number as the previous weekend.

Lake Elsinore had brought out all available resources to deal with the overwhelming number of visitors, even reaching out to neighboring city and county agencies for help with crowd control. Some employees, the city noted, had worked 12 hour days for one week straight.

But even that was not enough.

"Our small City can not sustain crowds of this magnitude - our City is not made for Disneyland size crowds," officials said on Lake Elsinore's Facebook page.

Record-breaking rainfall that has drenched the Southland this winter has led to super blooms in Riverside County and elsewhere, bringing unusually high amounts of traffic to many areas.

The issues facing Walker Canyon will likely persist as long as the poppies cover the hillsides. Now the city is trying to figure out a solution to avoid the problems that plagued the area this past weekend.

"We are working on a new plan and new options for the coming weekend and will be sure to share this with our community as soon as possible," officials said.

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