On Sunday, a major storm struck across California claiming 4 lives and a world famous Tourist attraction at the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Visitors to the park for the last 120 years have been able to drive or walk through the famous “Tunnel Tree”, But on Sunday as a major storm rolled thought the area, the tree estimated to be over 1000 years old simply could no longer take the strain.
The powerful winter storm in California brought down the ancient tree, which had been carved into a living tunnel in the late 1800’s more than a century ago. The “Tunnel Tree”, also known as the “Pioneer Cabin Tree”, is one of several giant sequoia trees located in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Over the last century, the tree saw both horses and cars pass through its massive shaft. But in recent years, traffic was restricted to foot traffic only out of concerns that the exhaust might damage the tree.
The powerful storm that washed over both California and Nevada, over the weekend, has created flooding conditions complete with major mudslides in some regions. The Associated Press reports it might be the biggest storm to hit the region in more than a decade. On Sunday, a volunteer at the state park reported that Pioneer Cabin had not survived. “The storm was just too much for it,” the Calaveras Big Tree Association wrote.
It’s unclear exactly how old the tree was, but The Los Angeles Times reports that the trees in the state park are estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. Sequoias can live for more than 3,000 years. This iconic tree was one of just a few tunneled-through sequoias in California. The most famous was the Wawona Tree, in Yosemite National Park; it fell during a winter storm in 1969 at an estimated age of 2,100 years. The other remaining sequoia tunnels are dead or consist of logs on their side, the Forest Service says.
But there are still three coastal redwoods which have been tunneled through. They’re all operated by private companies, the Forest Service says, and still allow cars to drive through — one appeared in a recent Geico ad.
The volunteer who reported Pioneer Cabin’s demise. He told the website that the tree “shattered” when it hit the ground on Sunday afternoon, and that people had walked through it as recently as that morning. Local flooding might have been the reason the tree fell, SFGate reports:
” ‘When I went out there [Sunday afternoon], the trail was literally a river, the trail is washed out,’ Allday said. ‘I could see the tree on the ground, it looked like it was laying in a pond or lake with a river running through it.’ “”The tree had been among the most popular features of the state park since the late 1800’s. The tunnel had graffiti dating to the 1800’s, when visitors were encouraged to etch their names into the bark.
“Tunnel trees had their time and place in the early history of our national parks,” the National Park Service has written. “But today sequoias which are standing healthy and whole are worth far more.”
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