The Dyerville Giant, an ancient redwood tree, apparently toppled in a rainstorm during the weekend. It was thought to be the third-tallest tree in the world.

Last measured in 1972 at 362 feet, the tree once stood as the tallest along Northern California's famous Avenue of the Giants on U.S. Highway 101. Earlier this century it was struck by lightning, which removed about 18 feet off its top."It's as impressive on the ground as it was standing," said Don Hoyle, superintendent of Humboldt Redwoods State Park where the redwood stood, about 235 miles north of San Francisco. "We're quite saddened by this. It was a beautiful tree."

A park visitor found and reported the fallen tree Monday morning. Although no one has yet counted rings on the tree, Hoyle said he estimates its age at between 1,200 years and 1,600 years. The oldest tree ever counted was 2,200 years, he said.

Park records indicate the Dyerville Giant was the third-tallest redwood in the world, said supervising ranger Tim Young, adding that some Humboldt County residents believe a nearby redwood is actually taller but has not yet been measured and verified by the American Forestry Association.

The Dyerville Giant, named for a nearby town that was washed away by floods in the middle of the century, was the third major tree to fall within a week, Hoyle said.