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Giant Redwoods: Mariposa Grove is a Vacation Destination

Model-T Ford under Wawona Tree
Redwoods Make the Bucket List

Many people have on their bucket list, “Drive Through a Giant Redwood.” Drive through trees were a popular tourist attraction in the late 1800’s, before we knew as much about the ecosystem as we do now, but not many have survived.

In 1881 a tunnel was hacked through the bottom of the then living redwood tree in Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park.  Known as the Wawona Tree, it drew thousands and thousands of visitors to Yosemite for almost 90 years. What a thrill it was back then to drive a horse and buggy, and later an early automobile through that famous man-made tunnel through a giant redwood tree.

Wawona Tree: Last of its Kind

Alas, a combination of factors (including the tunnel itself which weakened the Wawona Drive Through Three  over time) brought the famous giant redwood tree down in the winter of 1968-69.  Heavy snow was blamed, but really the snow alone wasn’t the only culprit in the redwood tree’s demise.  Wawona’s root system had to have been impacted by all the foot and vehicle traffic around the base of the giant redwood tree, as well as losing some of the supporting trees in the surrounding area. We know now that the giant redwood trees tangle their root systems together which helps them withstand wind. Any time a redwood loses its companion trees, it becomes less able to withstand the rigors of extreme weather.  Wawona was no exception.

With the fall of the Wawona Drive Through Tree, there were no longer any tree tunnels through which a car could be driven in the State or National Parks.

This lovely image (above) of a Model-T Ford under Wawona Tree taken in the early 1900’s is one of the very few images available for purchase, and is suitable for framing.

Drive through the Tunnel Tree

There is one drive through attraction about 100 miles as the crow flies south of the National park which housed the Wawona tree, however.  It is a “tunnel tree” that is located in Sequoia National Park.  It has been there since it fell across the road in December of 1937.  The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) cut a tunnel through the fallen giant in order to open up Crescent Meadow Road.  The resulting tunnel is 17 feet wide (to allow for two way traffic) but only 8 feet tall, so there is now a bypass for those vehicles that are too tall to pass through.  Here’s a quick video of what that looks like today:

Walk Through the Tunnel Tree

Visitors to Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove may not be able to drive through the fallen Wawona tree, but there is one walk through passage remaining, called the tunnel Tree.

There are, however, three drive through trees remaining although they are all coastal redwoods and are privately owned. Squidoo lens Drive Through a Giant Redwood does a good job of explaining them, so I won’t repeat that information here.

Decorate with Giant Redwoods and Bring the Outdoors In

Trail, Avenue of the Giants, Founders Grove, California, USA

Trail, Avenue of the Giants, Founders Grove, California, USA

Can’t Get Enough Redwoods Info?

To learn more about the giant redwoods of California, check out these great books:

National Geographic:
Climbing Redwood Giants

The Wild Trees:
A Story of Passion
and Daring

The Ever-Living Tree:
The Life and Times of
a Coast Redwood

From the Redwood Forest
Ancient Trees and
the Bottom Line:
A Headwaters Journey


Did you know you can grow your own Redwood Trees?
Outdoors or an indoor Bonsai.

Nicely started
California redwood tree
21 inches high
Bonsai Boy's Redwood Bonsai Tree
Bonsai Boy’s
Bonsai Tree
Grow a tree kit - Coast Redwood
Grow a tree
Coast Redwood

Whether you walk through a tunnel tree, drive through the fallen tree, or drive up and visit one or all of the Coastal Redwood Drive Through Trees, visiting the Redwoods is an experience you won’t forget. Mariposa Grove in Yosemite and the Avenue of the Giants in northern California await. If you can’t visit right away, thank goodness for books, video, and armchair adventures.

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