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Iconic ‘Pioneer Cabin’ Tunnel Tree in Northern California State Park Collapses Amid Powerful Storm

A powerful winter storm system that battered Northern California over the weekend toppled the historic Pioneer Cabin Tree, one of the most famous "drive-through" trees in the state.

The Pioneer Cabin Tree is shown in an undated photo from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The Pioneer Cabin Tree is shown in an undated photo from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

“The Pioneer Cabin tree has fallen! This iconic and still living tree - the tunnel tree - enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it,” a Facebook post from the Calaveras Big Trees Association stated on Sunday.

The post included photos of taken by Jim Allday that showed the tree trunk’s heavily splintered base.
The giant sequoia collapsed around 2 p.m. Sunday as a storm barreled through the region, park rangers told television station KOVR in Sacramento.

The tree, which shattered on impact, likely fell over because of a shallow root system, the station reported.

The Pioneer Cabin Tree was known for a hole that had been cut into the trunk so visitors could walk or drive through it. More recently, however, only hikers were allowed through it, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The tunnel had been cut in the 1880s to compete with hollowed-out trees in Yosemite National Park.

Pioneer Cabin Tree was located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, which was created to protect two groves of giant sequoias, according to California State Parks. The park is about 70 miles east-southeast of Sacramento in the western Sierra Nevada.

The tree could be accessed along the approximately 1.7-mile North Grove Trail, in the North Calaveras Grove.

The age of the historic tree was unknown, but other trees in the area are estimated to be at least 1,000 years old, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Native to the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, giant sequoias are considered the world’s largest trees by volume, according to the National Park Service. The Pioneer Cabin Tree was not among the 30 largest sequoias in the state. The tallest tree in the state park reaches a height of roughly 250 feet.

Sunday’s wet weather, the strongest in a series of winter storms, brought heavy rains and powerful winds to the area, causing widespread flooding and mudslides in parts of the state.