1000-year-old Californian tree collapses

giant sequoia tunnel tree in california
The tree had graffiti from the 1800s inside the 'tunnel' (Facebook)

A tree which stood for more than1000 years and became an iconic Californian landmark has collapsed. 

The Pioneer cabin tree, known for its hollow centre which allowed visitors to pass through it, collapsed during a heavy storm in California on Monday (NZ time). 

The tree, nicknamed 'The Tunnel', was hollowed out by the land owners in the 1880s, allowing hikers to pass underneath.  It was part of the 'Big Trees Trail' at Calaveras state park, near Sacramento. 

Park volunteer Jim Allday told the San Francisco Gate that the giant sequoia probably fell due to its shallow root system. He said it "shattered on impact". 

The tree had been attracting visitors to the park since the 1880s, when people were encouraged to etch their names into the bark. Several trees in the park are more than 1000 years old.

Fans of 'The Tunnel'  have taken to Facebook today to express their sadness and relive memories. 

One user remembered walking "through it many times in the 50s and 60s", while California man Benjamin Brabon said "we just visited, it's too bad we can't share it with others any more". 

Banjamin Brabon with his family under the tunnel tree
Benjamin Brabon posted a picture on Facebook of his family with tree a few days ago (Facebook)

California has been experiencing unusual wild weather this week, with strong winds, torrential rain and even mountain snow slamming the northern half of the state. 

The heavy rains have led to rising rivers and streams and forced the evacuation of local residents. 

The oldest known giant sequoia tree is more than 3000 years old, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.