Iconic drive-through tree in California destroyed by storm

The giant sequoia tree had stood in Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County since the late 1800s.
The giant sequoia tree had stood in Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County since the late 1800s.PHOTO: AFP

CALIFORNIA - A giant sequoia tree that has stood in Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County since the late 1800s, has finally fallen.

The looming Pioneer Cabin Tree, which cars were allowed to drive through its hollowed trunk, was felled by storms on Sunday (Jan 8), according to San Francisco Chronicle.

The tree had been hollowed out in the 1880s, as part of the Big Trees Trail. Tourists and cars could pass through it, however in recent times, only hikers were allowed.

Park volunteer Jim Allday was on duty when the tree fell at 2pm. He told San Francisco Chronicle that people had been passing under the tree that day itself.

While the cause is unclear, the tree probably fell due to its shallow root system which only sink it about two to four feet, and that the trail around the tree was flooded due to the rain.

"When I went out there, the trail was literally a river, the trail is washed out," said Mr Allday.

"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."

Graffiti in the tree's tunnel dated way back to the 1800s. Back then, visitors were encouraged to etch their names into the bark.

According to San Francisco Chronicle, Mr Allday's wife, Joan, also a park volunteer, said the tree had been leaning heavily to one side for a few years.

"It was barely alive, there was one branch alive at the top," she said. "But it was very brittle and starting to lift."

A Facebook post by the Calaveras Big Trees Association on Sunday has garnered over 2,500 comments, with people expressing sadness and sharing their memories with the tree.