Fake news superbloom crisis managment

Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and many many other news outlets are currently reporting that one can see a “superbloom” at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, the Northern California park where I work.

The problem with this is that there is no superbloom, and none of these news outlets have ever contacted us or visited. I honestly do not know where they got this idea.

We had, for coastal California, an extraordinarily cold wet winter and early spring, and the wildflowers are just getting going. We have a few dozen species of wildflowers blooming at the moment, some of them in dense patches. But the family from Utah that drove 1000 miles today were not glad to hear that our flowers will likely be a hundred times as dense a month from now, and even then won’t match the absurd orangeness the superblooms in Southern California deserts produce. The family from Portland Oregon were glad they called ahead when I told them not to believe the hype.

We’ve made repeated social media posts trying to clarify the situation. We’ve emailed some of the very many news organizations parroting each other. We’ve left comments on online news stories spreading the fake news. And yet hundreds of people are making the drive and unhappily finding no more flowers than they’d see at many parks much closer to home. Hundreds of people, just today, called to ask about it, but based on past experience most will simply show up tomorrow.

Making matters worse, the park would be packed this weekend anyway. We have several large events in the park, a full campground, and many locals finally enjoying the warm dry weather. People will be driving from out of state and won’t even be able to get into the park to find out that there is no superbloom.

So, what can we do about it? Is there any way to reach all, or many, of the people who will just see the headline and jump in the car without calling ahead? Put out a billion origami poppies?


Yikes, I’m sorry to hear that @dlevitis . Sounds like you’re doing everything you can, best you can do for the people that do show up is have a list of places that have nice natural features nearby in several cardinal directions so they are in the direction of home for people, and maybe have the names of a few spots with decent flower shows right now for those that are willing to drive a distance to see them.


Someone tripped over an undated reshare of a superbloom. A WOW picture. And didn’t bother to check WHEN!

Poor trampled park and emerging flowers.


Misinformation is all the hype these day, and unfortunately, people are gobbling them up without fact. until there are consequences to spreading falsehood online or otherwise, I am afraid it is going to get worse. Really sorry you have to deal with such a nonsense.


That sucks, and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. I don’t have any very constructive suggestions, but it would be an amazing opportunity to educate people about “fake news”, misinformation, and why they might want to double check any information coming from sources like Fox News.

Also, all the CO2 being created for these trips…:(


Just another case of lazy journalism. Like a rumor, a story gets passed around and no one checks the facts. The internet has made this all too frequent and easy. I’ve seen similar stories about alleged strange animals that no one can identify — but the writer of the article never bothered to consult the local wildlife experts.


I don’t know what to tell you except that Spring won’t last forever. The people will leave eventually and there will be some restoration work that needs to be done afterward. California has crowding issues in so many places, short of implementing timed entry and reservations during the busy season like Yosemite did to limit the number of people allowed in each day, there’s not much you can do.

Edit: I guess the kind of measures I mentioned above are addressing the symptoms (the overabundance of visitors) rather then the cause (superbloom misinformation). If you want to address the root, you’d have to ask every site sharing it to take it down, which seems like a losing battle (It’s a ‘train’s already left the station’ sort of situation). Prebunking might be in order for next year or years with similar Winter and Spring rain events: Release a statement before flower season next year to say you don’t normally expect flowers until mid-June and to call the park for conditions beforehand. For this year, I’d just have plenty of suggestions for alternatives when visitors find out the flowers aren’t there.


Your post here is a step in the right direction. Perhaps you could get your website updated to advise the public about the lack of a super bloom in your park. Perhaps, your publicist could send out better information about current conditions in the park. Perhaps you could contact some prominent bloggers and ask for help publicizing this story?


I could do the drive in my sleep! But I do it awake, and it’s a beautiful drive. You see lots of beautiful stuff. Maybe they forgot it’s about the journey


I noticed my closest park has had repeat social media posts saying “there is no super bloom here” so I suspect something similar happened to them. Curiously when I checked Facebook for Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, they seemed to be supporting the rumor.

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Good point, that post does seem to be quite positive on the article. Might be good to change.

Oh! Perhaps start with changing the picture for a - this was taken today - ‘superbloom’ coming in June. Skimming social media that vivid orange picture will stick, but they might not get to the words, beyond - which park? Let’s go!


You are certainly correct that some of the organization’s older social posts were easily misinterpreted and unhelpful. I had asked for that to more clearly make the point that we don’t have many wildflowers yet, and to have a photo that more accurately communicates current conditions. But even in its current form it does state that we might have a lot of flowers by mid-June, which doesn’t support the idea that people should be driving down from Canada (we had some today).

It is a good point. I have requested that the post be changed, as most social media viewers are not going to read the post carefully enough to notice the details. That said, none of the visitors I’ve talked to so far have mentioned our social media as a source of their information.

Even if your visitor doesn’t use social media - when they tell friend / neighbour / family Going to the Superbloom someone will say, wait, deep fake!

When I go somewhere to see a specific natural event that takes several hours of driving, I call ahead to verify that it is indeed happening and to ask when and where best to park etc. Sounds like I’m an outlier there though. It boggles my mind that people will drive a thousand miles just based on a news story without doing some additional research and confirming with local rangers.


Big article in NY Times this morning about the California superbloom (probably behind a pay wall):

Here is a gifted link for that story:


I think, generally, people have a perception of a super bloom whenever there are heavier than normal rains.

One preserve staffer I spoke with explained that it’s more complicated than that. In 2020, we were admiring a local preserve’s massive display of lupin, which I knew was not typical for that meadow. That year, there was a period of heavy rains early in the rainy season that triggered the lupin, then we had two months with no rain, followed by another deluge. The dry period resulted in less grass growth, which allowed the lupin to grow abundantly that year.


After 2023’s steady round of soakers, that same meadow (on 4/10/23) was largely grasses with some fiddle necks peeping up over the 2’ tall grass. I hope there are flowers lurking below the grass tops, which will display later.

If I get a chance to get out there again in later April, I will add a comparable 2023 picture to see the effect of this year’s extraordinary rain on the same meadow, same time of year


Annoyingly, a good number of the flowers in those photos, like the mustards and the cape marigold, are introduced and invasive.