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Daily Revolution News Service

13 viii 2001

Tunnel trees had their time and place in the early history of our national parks.

Today sequoias which are standing healthy and whole are worth far more.

Click HERE to learn more.

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  • Tunnel Tree
  • Wawowa Tree-Stereoviews
  • Wawowa Tree History
  • More Stories

    The tunnel through Yosemite's famous Wawona Tree was cut in 1881 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 lived to be about 2500 years old.

    It stood unchallenged as the most photographed tree in the world.

    It lived only 88 more years after it was tunneled through.



    Fallen Tunnel Tree
    Edited by Charmian
    By Dave Brower

       One day, about two and a half milleniums ago, when things were just right for it, a small seed began the process of putting together the exact amounts of air, water, soil, and solar energy to form what would be the Wawona Tree.

       Most of the seed was a wing, to carry it far in the wind. Within the seed itself was a wealth of vital, unique, secret information, packed with great efficiency in very little space.

       The seed would inform the tree and all its parts, specifying the thickness of bark near the base and the thinness near the top, the number of branches, the density of foliage, the suppleness in wind, the process of pumping water nearly three hundred feet above the ground, the insulation against heat and cold, the resistance to fire and disease and drouth, and placing and depth of roots, with notes about which food they were to select, the adaptability to varying sites - a long list of things a tree ought to know, each essential, none superfluous.

       And the seed was also told how to produce a cone with seeds in it, each of them containing life directly descended from the first life on earth, some to germinate quickly and some slowly, and very few to succeed fully.

       By the time of the first Christmas, the tree was a handsome young giant, perhaps fifteen feet through and two hundred feet tall. Nearly nineteen hundred years later (in 1864) President Lincoln signed the bill including the tree and its grove in the nation's first park.

       People journeyed to the grove from all over the world to marvel at the tree. As more and more people came, it was inevitable that some would wonder what to do with it, and one visitor advocated cutting a tunnel through it to demonstrate how big it was.

      The tunnel was cut four decades ago, and horse-drawn stages and internal-combustion-driven vehicles passed through it, as everyone who has read a geography book knows quite well. Thanks to man, the tree became the most famous of all.

       Then somehow cars became longer and wider, with more space inside and less space outside - so much less that there was often not enough room for the tunnel. What with its imminent obsolescence, the National Park Service built a new road right over the downhill roots of the tree so that wide-car drivers could see it and pass it by.

       Sometime in the big-snow winter of 1968-69 - the kind that the tree had often weathered and had withstood even after the tunnel was cut - the big tree fell and shattered. Its fragments blocked the tunnel road but not the side road over the roots. So many people wanted to stop to see the fallen tree, however, that even that road had to be blocked off.

       Last summer people by the thousands parked their cars and walked half a mile to see the tree that fell because the seed it came from did not tell it how to cope with the automobile.

       Editors's note: "This story and a seed shaken from a cone lying among the fragments of the Wawona Tree's fallen remains was presented to the first thousand people to join Friends of the Earth.

    A message to those Friends hunorously pointed out that 'the seed could produce a tree that will live beautifully for three thousand years or so...if it fails to do so, please return it!' "

    Reprinted from