Tunnel Through a Fallen Giant Sequoia in Sequoia National Park

Dec 21, 2011 0 comments

Giant sequoias, also known as giant redwoods, are the largest trees in the world. They grow to an average height of 50–85 meters and have diameters exceeding 6–8 meters, large enough for small driveways to be cut through them.

There are at least three surviving ‘Drive-Through’ trees all located in California, where the trees grow naturally. There is the Leggett's Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree, the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree in Myers Flat and the Klamath Tour Thru Tree located North of Klamath Bridge. Then there is the Tunnel Log along the Crescent Meadow Road in Sequoia National Park.

The fallen Tunnel Log of Sequoia National Park came into being after an unnamed giant sequoia fell across the Crescent Meadow Road in late 1937 as a result of natural causes. The following summer, a tunnel was cut through the fallen log as a visitor attraction. The tunnel, which remains in use today, is 17 feet wide and 8 feet high. There is a bypass for taller vehicles. When the giant sequoia fell, the tree stood 275 feet high (83.8 meters) and was 21 feet in diameter at the base (6.4 meters). The tree's age when it fell has not been determined, but probably exceeded 2,000 years.


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Cutting tunnels through sequoia trees was a way to popularize national parks in the old days. In 1881, a tunnel was cut through Yosemite's famous Wawona Tree as a tourist attraction. It was the second standing sequoia to be tunneled (the first, a dead tree, still stands in the Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite). The Wawona Tree stood for 88 summers before it fell during the severe winter of 1968-69. Factors leading to its failure include heavy snow, wet soil, and, of course, the weakening effect of the tunnel. When it fell, the Wawona Tree was approximately 2,100 years old.

The practice of cutting tunnels through standing giant redwoods has been abandoned in recent times. In early days, national parks usually were managed to protect individual features rather than to protect the integrity of the complete environment. Today, people have realized that national parks represent some of the last primeval landscapes of the country, and the goal in the parks should be to allow nature to run its course with as little interference from humans as possible.


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Root system of the fallen tree. Photo credit

Sources: 1, 2, 3


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