400-Year-Old Tree Falls in a ‘Thunderous Collapse’ at Yosemite National Park: PHOTO

by Amy Myers
Photo by: Ron Reznick/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Earlier this week, Yosemite National Park announced the loss of an old friend that finally succumbed to illness – the 400-year-old sugar pine in Yosemite Valley. Naturally, because of its great size, the tree that helped name the historic Sugar Pine Bridge met its demise with an earth-shaking collapse, proving that it was just as mighty in death as it was in its long life.

Following the fall, Yosemite National Park shared just how special this native organism was to both wild residents and visitors. Apparently, the sugar pine had fallen last month as “a consequence of its failing health in recent years.” Though the park is admittedly sad to see the tree’s life cycle end, officials expressed their gratitude that the pine spared the historic bridge which stands just a few feet from where the tree hit the water.

Even in its death, the centuries-old pine continues to bring park lovers together. In the comments of the post, one viewer, @mollyapatten, claimed that the park ranger featured in one of the photos was her grandfather, Bob Fry, who Yosemite described as “one of the most popular, recognizable rangers” in the national park.

“He passed away in 2010 and it was such a joy to see him in this post,” the user said. “He loved leading tourists on these nature walks and teaching them all about the park.”

Yosemite National Park’s Restoration Project Mimics Death of Sugar Pine

Even more beautifully, the tree will continue to provide for surrounding organisms as it begins to deteriorate.

“While we lament the loss of such a beautiful, long-lived tree, its fractured form will now serve a new purpose in its afterlife. Large wood, like our pine, that falls into rivers provides critical structure and habitat to a healthy river’s ecosystem,” Yosemite National Park shared on Instagram. “The stream’s current tosses about the wooden fragments, often lodging pieces into the banks and thereby slowing the flow of the river. At this slower pace, water can then to jump up into the adjacent floodplain to nourish riparian plant species.”

As it turns out, Yosemite National Park tries to mimic the decay of a fallen tree trunk for its river restoration projects. Once fallen, the submerged portion of the sugar pine’s trunk will provide a shelter and nursery for fish that thrive along the banks. Additionally, “the accumulation of trapped leaves and other woody debris fosters smaller aquatic insect populations that form the base of the food chain for all other river dwellers.”

This large wood ends up encouraging the growth and reproduction of other species, like a beacon for new life.

“You can find examples of this type of riverbank restoration project along the Merced River just downstream of the Ahwahnee Bridge and Stoneman Bridge in Yosemite Valley,” the national park shared.