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Famous Sequoia "Tunnel Tree" Toppled

The tree in 1899


The Pioneer Cabin Tree, a historic tourist attraction carved out of a giant sequoia in the 1880s, was felled by a winter storm in Northern California this week. 

The 150-foot-tall tree, a part of Calaveras State Park's "Big Tree Trail" near Arnold, California, had been leaning badly over the past few years. For some of its history, cars were permitted to drive through it, although in recent years, only hikers were permitted to pass through the hollowed-out trunk, where graffiti from the late 19th century was still visible.

No one heard it fall, but it definitely happened. The tree, which is thought to have toppled mid-day on Sunday, shattered when it hit the raid-sodden forest floor.

The tree was part of a grove of sequoias estimated to be over 1,000 years old. Who would have thought that carving a vehicle-sized passageway through a living thing would weaken it?

A similar tree, the Wawona Tunnel Tree in Yosemite National Park (to the south of the Pioneer Cabin Tree), still stands, as does the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree in Underwood Park, north of San Francisco.


Photo credit: Singley, B. L. (Benjamin Lloyd), The New York Public Library