History Of The Pioneer Cabin Tree As Powerful Storm Topples Sequoia ‘Tunnel Tree’

The Pioneer Cabin Tree, more popularly known as the Tunnel Tree and located in the Sierra Nevada region of California, has toppled over during a storm on Sunday. The Pioneer Cabin Tree is thought to have been at least 1,000-years-old and was in the Calaveras County area of California. The Tunnel Tree was a very special attraction at the Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

On Sunday, the Calaveras Big Trees Association posted on Facebook that the recent storm had been too much for the Tunnel Tree.

“This iconic and still living tree, the tunnel tree, enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it.”

Giant sequoias are the world’s largest trees, according to Buzzfeed, and are only found on in the Sierra Nevada Mountains along the western slopes. These sequoias can reach 325 feet high and can live for 3,000 years, as NPR reports.

The Pioneer Cabin Tree was hollowed in the 1880s so that at one point cars were able to drive through it, but most recently you could only access the Tunnel Tree by traveling along a hiking trail.

The Tunnel Tree, also known as the Pioneer Cabin Tree, has fallen, but the plaque remains.

The Tunnel Tree is reported to have fallen on Sunday at 2 p.m. Jim Allday, a volunteer in the area, was busy working on Sunday afternoon when he noticed that the trail leading to the Pioneer Cabin Tree had been washed out and that was when he spotted the tree lying on the ground.

“When I went out there Sunday afternoon, the trail was literally a river, the trail is washed out. 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. People are in absolute shock. The shame of it is that the history of the park is tied into this tree quite a bit. The inside of the Cabin Tree was covered with etchings from the 1800s. Those are lost now.”

The tree fell as an extremely powerful storm struck Northern California with both rain and snow and forecasters were warning residents to expect the worst flooding that had been seen in over a decade. Yosemite National Park was also closed, as winds approaching 100 mph were being reported in the region near the crest of the mountains.

The Tunnel Tree was one of several sequoia trees with tunnels through them. Yosemite National Park’s Wawona Tree may have been one of the most famous of these, but toppled over during a winter storm in 1969 after having stood for 88 summers. The Wawona Tree was estimated to have been 2,100-years-old.

The National Park Service states that the tunnel was created through the Wawona Tree in 1881 as a local tourist attraction and that it was was the second sequoia to be tunneled through. They also say, however, that tunnel trees were once a popular part of national parks in the early days, but that natural sequoias standing tall and healthy are more valuable to the world now.

“Tunnel trees had their time and place in the early history of our national parks. But today sequoias which are standing healthy and whole are worth far more.”

Sailors visit the Wawona Tunnel Tree in Yosemite National Park on August 13, 1943.

After the Tunnel Tree’s death was announced on the Facebook post by the Calaveras Big Trees Association, scores of people turned the page into a memorial, with photographs and memorable stories about the Pioneer Cabin Tree. One poster wrote, “A sad day! There is nothing more impressive on this earth than nature and we lost a long standing reminder of this. I visited the Sequoia trees a couple of years ago and still am overwhelmed when I think of them.”

Another poster showed readers a photograph of the Tunnel Tree which was taken between 1864-1874 before the tree had been tunneled through.

Have you visited the Pioneer Cabin Tree before and what memories do you have of the Tunnel Tree?

[Featured Image by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Images]