LEGGETT, Calif. — Among the redwoods within Mendocino County’s Avenue of the Giants, there is a turnoff on Highway 101 near Leggett. That turn off will lead people to Underwood Park, a privately owned and protected grove of trees.
At the center of the park is a redwood so big that people can drive a car through it. That redwood is known as the Chandelier Tree, and it’s one of just three living Redwood trees that people can drive a car through.
As for how the giant hole ended up in this giant tree, Pam Linder knows the answer.
“The story I was told was several bottles of beer and a jug of moonshine and that got the job done,” Linder said.
The drive-thru tree is owned by the Underwood family who bought the land back in 1922 as a tourist attraction.
“In 1922, it had a different drive-thru tree on the property called the Coolidge Tree. That one had a crack in it, and they didn’t trust it so they took it down,” Linder said.
Not long after prohibition ended, the Underwoods grabbed that liquor that Linder was talking about and tunneled through the Chandelier Tree in 1937.
“In the 1930s, they charged a quarter to go through,” Linder said.
The price is now $10, an increase that somewhat mirrored the increasing size of cars. Linder says there’s one rule when you enter the park: “Drive-thru the tree at your own risk.” She said it's not uncommon for oversized vehicles to overestimate the size of the hole.
“The Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile came through the park. That was cool! It did not go through,” she said.
It is called the Chandelier Tree because someone thought it looked like an upside-down chandelier. From the ground to its top, the tree is 315 feet tall. Its trunk is 21 feet in diameter and estimated to be 2,400 years old.
You can find the other two drive-thru trees in Klamath and Myers flat, but the Chandelier Tree sees a lot of traffic.
“500-plus on our busiest times,” Linder said.
If you do get stuck in tree traffic, you pull over and explore the 220-acre park and ever growing collection of chainsaw art.