Tag Archives: Clark Dam

Revisiting Butlers Gorge for missing photos – posting 4 of 5

 

Long term blog followers will remember how impressed I have been with the engineering feats that have created the hydro electric power stations and the huge dam structures. Most particularly I love their large scale geometric shapes.The following photos show close ups of Clark Dam and the Butlers Gorge Power Station, neither of which are accessible to the public.  20160425_113937.jpg

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And let us not forget the Derwent River flowing ever so slightly way down below in the following images.

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10/2/17

Revisiting Butlers Gorge for missing photos – posting 1 of 5

After I walked from the Lyell Highway at the Butlers Gorge junction and then proceeded to follow Tarraleah Canal No 1 (which contained the bulk of Derwent River water) to Clark Dam holding back the waters of Lake King William, I returned home and checked my photos.  I found some key photos were absent.

I realised that my feet must have been exceptionally painful and my sore knees crumbling so that I was unable to remember to keep taking photos in that last kilometre of the walk.  I had made no record of those last few hundred metres.  Thanks to blog reader Jeanette I returned to the spot one gorgeous morning, walked up and down the area and clicked lots of photos.

At one place we crossed the aqueduct and looked at the serene and clear Derwent River.   20160425_112018.jpg

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The rush of the water through the Canal was recorded.  Watch this video.

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I loved the views looking along the two strands of the river; the water in the original river bed, and the water in Tarraleah Canal No 1.

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The rocky edges of the river shown above indicate that water is released from Clark Dam from time to time making the river wider.

Visualising each walk in advance – towards Wayatinah post 1 of 9

The further I travelled inland towards central Tasmania, the less guidance and direction was available. This meant that I needed to scrutinise every piece of available information more intensely because the challenges of the terrain increased and therefore the dangers of walking alone multiplied.  My friends and relatives feared the worst and hoped for the best and we have all been thankful that my walks and returns home have been safe. Apart from the occasional bruise and scratch or two, no physical harm has befallen me.

During my first walks along the Derwent River, I gradually increased the volume of research I conducted in advance, so that I could make the most of each opportunity.  As the project lengthened, I spent more time visualising the walks so that I could be sure my pack contained the appropriate provisions. In addition, I wanted to be sure that I could achieve my goal.

In particular, I invested a huge amount of time imagining a couple of the walks. These were walks about which I knew very little and which I anticipated would be the trickiest.  One was the walk along the river starting near the junction of the Lyell Highway and Butlers Gorge Road close to Tarraleah, and extending to the bridge over the river at Wayatinah.

Using knowledge from my walk along Tarraleah Canal No 1 and from walking beside the Derwent River near the Wayatinah bridge,  I had some understanding of the challenges. My intention was always to start at the Tarraleah end and work my way downstream along the River bed.

The first obstacle was the dense bush between the Canal and the river bed down an exceptionally steep incline. From what I could see at the top, the rainforest was a tightly packed mangle of massive tree ferns with their fronds at face level and above, amidst all manner of eucalypts, myrtles,  celery-top-pines, sassafras trees and laurels.  If I was very unlucky intermingled with these wonderful but tightly packed specimens, I suspected the tree known as Horizontal (Anodopetalum biglandulous), the anathema to bushwalkers, could be a major impediment.

Photos near my imagined starting point show the beautiful but almost impenetrable bush facing the start of my walk along this section.

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I believed I had two options; one was to walk along the plush mossy flat Canal verge until I could spot a ‘gap’ and then plunge into the thicket.  The second option was to walk on the track beside the Canal until I reached the first Hydro Tasmania crossing located about a kilometre westwards along the track,  cross over, and hope there was some sort of clearing through the bush down to the bottom of the hill.  If not, then I would have to make my own way until I reached the Derwent River bed.   The first crossing, in the photo below, shows no sign of tracks extending further.

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From that crossing down to the river, I anticipated the distance would be approximately  one and a quarter kilometres on a slope that dropped around 210 metres.  Unless I was fortunate to find a clearing that Hydro Tasmania had made, something like the following example spotted closer to Clark Dam, I expected to be in for a hard time.

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I knew this was the side of the river that received minimal direct daily sunlight compared to the bush on the other side. I imagined a wet slippery bush environment, that would be dark amidst the undergrowth ( I am short and I realised much of the vegetation would be above me) with interspersed and unpredictable rocky outcrops that would require flexibility and care. If the day was overcast, my ability to see clearly through the dense bush might be limited, so the danger of slipping over a cliff had to be taken into account.

While Michelle’s photo below taken during a flight along the Derwent River shows the vegetation between the Canal and the River bed, the location is further along towards Clark Dam. Nevertheless it does show the density of the bush which needed to be penetrated and walked through.

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My aerial photo below gives a stronger sense of the gradient from the Canal to the river bed in some sections.

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The photo below, which I took during my Canal walk, looks back and clearly shows the steep gradient.

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I imagined slipping and sliding part way, with backpack occasionally getting ‘hooked’ to slow me down. Despite the short distance but considering the possible obstructions and the need to skirt around these,  I mentally allowed at least an hour for the descent.

On the River bed I hoped for a low water level in order to be able to rock hop for much of the 14-15 kilometres down to the Wayatinah bridge. If the water level was low, at best the river bed might look like the following photos as it did near the confluence of the Derwent with the Florentine  Rivers.

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Alternatively it might have limited water something like the following photos of the Derwent near Wayatinah.

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Of course, hoping for minimal water was likely to be a pipe dream and I realised it would not be realistic to expect this situation for the entire length of the walk. I knew from aerial shots, old maps and out of date Google Earth that large pools of water would present challenges and that clambering up any side of the River to avoid these would be part of the walk.

From maps I could see approximately  eleven small creeks and the Counsel River feed into the Derwent. I fervently hoped little rain had fallen in this area in the preceding weeks, that these creeks were low on water, and therefore that the spill into the Derwent River would be minimal. If much water ran down these creeks then the likelihood of more and larger water holes along the Derwent increased. If this was the case then I could imagine fighting my way through vegetation overhangs in order to clamber onto the bank and then negotiate the forest to bypass the water obstruction.  Anticipation of such exhausting activities did not thrill me.

Once on the River bed, rocks that roll were at the top of my list of fears; such as – would I turn an ankle, break a leg, smash my head into another rock, or get weighted down in a deeper pool with the pack on my back.  I could not see how developing any sort of walking rhythm would be possible. My usual opportunities to walk and look around me would be unlikely. I foresaw the absolute necessity to watch the ground/rocks/water and think about and make decisions where to put each footstep would become mentally exhausting over such a distance.  I doubted if it was possible to walk this stretch of the River and, even if it was, I thought the possibility of covering the length in a day even a long day, would be unlikely.  I allowed two days for this leg of the walk.

I always take my tablet for photos and carry this with me to point and click as a record. Typically on a one-day walk I might take 300-400 photos and then pick a selection for the blog posts.  But for this walk I realised that carrying the tablet would not be wise. I could see that having two free hands to clamber over rocks and debris and vegetation would be smart, and I also needed to allow for the unexpected underfoot changes and the need to grab or balance using my hands.  Clearly stopping to retrieve my tablet for photo ops would slow me down. Therefore, I knew that I would not be taking many photos so that the record of this walk would be less than normal.  But my safety had to be paramount.

From aerial reconnaissance and nearby on-the-ground checks and maps, I found it difficult to visualise where I would set up the tent overnight.  Both hill sides were steep but maps did indicate that near some major bends in the river there was sections beside the water bed that might be a little flatter than elsewhere.  On one bend, some larger islands were mapped mid-stream. I wondered whether I might be lucky to find them water free and accessible and not totally tight with vegetation.  Perhaps there I might find a sleeping spot.

Overall I visualised a most unusual journey. One where the only view would be of steep forested hillsides rising above a comparatively tiny water bed, and never a panoramic vista of distant hills or mountains. Rather I could expect to see only the next bend in the river. While that would provide me with curiosity about what might be around the corner, in advance, already I imagined seeing more of the same.  So this leg of the journey along the Derwent River was to be about physical endurance; surviving without becoming despondent about the relentlessness of watching my feet placement.  This was the ultimate chance for me to understand the limits of my capacity and capabilities.  I looked forward to  snatching and enjoying occasional moments when native birds flitted about, the sun sparkled on wet vegetation, and variations of mosses and lichens on rocks appeared in all their glories.

I envisaged this experience would introduce me to a continuous valley that is currently protected, untouched, unvisited, and not normally seen at close quarters.  Simply wonderful, however great the challenge to see it.

Recapping the walk along the Derwent River

 

I lived the walk along the Derwent with a vital obsession but, after so many months intensely engaged on other projects, now some of the details are vague. To re-immerse myself into the experience, I am writing this post.

In addition, I suspect it will be a great help to people who have become followers of my blog during the past 6 months.  Despite my inactivity, it surprises me how many visitors and views the blog gets daily, how many different posts are read, and how many different countries around the world are represented.

In August 2014, from an impulsive unplanned idea, I took a bus to a spot near the mouth of the Derwent River on the eastern shore, walked to the sea then retraced my steps and began the walk towards the source of this great river approximately 214kms inland.  On day trips, and around other life commitments, I walked in stages along the eastern shore until I reached the Bridgewater Bridge which crosses the Derwent approximately 43 kms upstream.

Instead of continuing inland, I crossed the bridge and headed back on the western shore towards the southernmost  mouth of the River.  Most of the walks along the eastern and western shores between the sea and the Bridgewater Bridge were along designated pathways, although some informal track walking, road walking and beach walking was required during my trips.

Then I returned to the Bridgewater Bridge and began the journey inland expecting only to walk on the side of the river that made passage easiest.  I had no intention to walk both sides from this point onwards in anticipation the landscape would be inaccessible for a number of reasons or particularly wild with dense and difficult forests. I walked to New Norfolk on the western/southern side of the Derwent but from then on, I switched from side to side. Using maps I determined where I must take up each new stage of a walk while switching from side to side, so that I could say I had traipsed the entire length of the Derwent River.

The farthest inland stages of my walk are easily defined.  I walked from near the township of Tarraleah besides Canal 1 (along which is transported Derwent River water) above the actual River bed, past Clark Dam, and around majestic Lake King William to the township of Derwent Bridge.  From there I followed the river to its source at St Clair Lagoon dam.  In case some people believe the source of the Derwent is further inland, I walked onwards to the weir where the Derwent Basin empties into the St Clair Lagoon via passing the southern end of Lake St Clair.

Between New Norfolk and the area near  Tarraleah, my walk beside the River was in country near  townships (some of which were located at a great distance from the River) such as Bushy Park, Gretna, Hamilton, Ouse, and Wayatinah.  This necessitated additional travel to or from the highway and roads, on which these towns exist, to reach the river or to return home from a walk along the river.

Inland, the water of the Derwent River is controlled by dams constructed to create hydro-electricity for Tasmania: I walked past them all. From the end of the river closest to the mouth, these are the Meadowbank, Cluny, Repulse, Catagunya, Wayatinah, Clark and St Clair Lagoon dams.  Each of these has a bank of water behind them:  Meadowbank Lake, Cluny Lagoon, Lake Repulse, Lake Catagunya, Wayatinah Lagoon, Lake King William and St Clair Lagoon.  Most of these dams and bodies of water has a power station: Meadowbank Power Station, Cluny Power Station, Repulse Power Station, Catagunya Power Station, Wayatinah Power Station and Butlers Gorge Power Station.  I was privileged to be shown around one of these power stations during one walk.

Water from the Derwent passes through two other power stations:  Nieterana mini hydro and the Liapootah Power Station.  I did not follow the trail of these Derwent River managed flows.  The water from other locations inland passes through the Lake Echo Power station and Tungatinah Power Station then flows into the Derwent after power generation, thereby increasing the volume of water flowing downstream.  I did not walk along these feeder rivers.

The few stages of the walks which have not been recorded in this blog, are in all the zone between Gretna and the area near Tarraleah – a stretch of perhaps  120 km.  I have written up and posted most of the walks in this zone, and now it’s time to add the missing sections.

Derwent River water passes via the township of Tarraleah

 

Earlier this year the entire town of Tarraleah was on the market for sale.  Refer article 1, article 2 , and article 3.

If you were to follow Derwent River water by walking from the western end of Lake Catagunya at the Wayatinah Power Station inland past the Wayatinah Lagoon to the Liapootah Power Station then follow the Nive River to the bridge next to the Tarraleah Power Station (with the Tungatinah Power Station on the other side of the bridge), you could look up the hill to see massive penstock pipes descending the hill from the township of Tarraleah above.

The water falling down these pipes is Derwent River water which has travelled via Tarraleah Canal 1 and Tarraleah Canal 2 after processing through Butlers Gorge Power Station at the foot of Clark Dam that holds back the waters of Lake King William.

I chose not to walk the route via the penstocks and Tarraleah township when walking from the mouth to the source of the Derwent River,  rather to follow the original river bed albeit a scatter of stones and limited water during the summer, between Wayatinah and Butlers Gorge Power Station.

However, knowing that Derwent River water flowed along the Canals and through the massive pipes, I did visit the township of Tarraleah during the period when it was advertised for sale. I was curious to see what the township of Tarraleah looked like (it had been many years since I last visited). Despite being centred within lush dense rainforest, thankfully no rain fell at Tarraleah and the sky was blue and the day sunny when I visited. I approached the town from the highway and followed the slightly snaking pipes.

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At the point where the pipes arrive at the top of the hill and are about to drop down the hill, I browsed public information boards and plaques.

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The views from the township were dramatic. I am forever in awe at the engineering achievements of the past.

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These days Tarraleah is a place that acknowledges its social history from the early days of Hydro Tasmania. I was amazed to see the row of freshly renovated houses each with their own array of pastel coloured paint finishes. Perfect location for a science fiction movie.  I felt there was something strange about its lollipop colours and perfection.

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Afterwards I travelled out of Tarraleah and down to the bridge over the Nive River. The Tarraleah Power Station was partly hidden in shadow from the afternoon sun. My eyes followed the pipes up the hill knowing the township was there on top.

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The Nive River accepts the Derwent River water after processing for electricity generation through the Tarraleah Power Station.  The water passes through a series of further management processes, and ultimately empties into Lake Catagunya and then continues its long journey towards the sea.

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I have heard rumours the Tarraleah township sold but I cannot find records supporting this.  I haven’t one idea how a buyer could get a return on an investment of $11 million at Tarraleah, so I will be very interested to hear what will happen to this piece of Tasmania’s history.

Andrew Hughes has walked, rafted and canoed the Derwent over the past month

My last post introduced the Expedition Class’s  latest project.  The key man during the journey was Andrew Hughes and now his trek is complete.

The first newspaper coverage of this story was published in The Mercury last May.

The Mercury published another story recently ‘Warm welcome for adventurer Andrew Hughes as he paddles into GASP‘. His journey started north east of Lake St Clair in central Tasmania and now Andrew has crossed an imaginary finish line between the Iron Pot on the eastern side of the Derwent River and Tinderbox on the western side and this conclusion has been covered again in The Mercury.

If you go to the web,  you can read the mini ‘Live Reports’ of the 28 sections of his journey. You can peruse a collection of photos for each section. The information in the reports is limited and no information is offered with the photographs.  Unless you have travelled the  edge of or on the Derwent River, it would be difficult if not impossible to identify locations.

A comparison of some of Andrew’s photos with those I took during my walk from the mouth to the source of the Derwent River, makes for interesting viewing.

Firstly I would like to compare the rush of water over the river rocks between Wayatinah and Butlers Gorge that Andrew saw compared to the low almost absent water level that I experienced on two occasions. Since I completed my walks along the Derwent earlier this year, Tasmania has been inundated with unexpected high levels of rain which have raised the water levels in the dams and the Derwent River.

The photo below was taken by me in October 2015.

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The next photo was taken by me in January 2016

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The photo below is by Andrew as shown in his Live Report 18.

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My photo below shows the water level of the huge 15 kilometre Lake King William was so much lower in October 2015.

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My photo taken only 2 ½ months later at the beginning of January this year, showed the water level  had dropped dramatically so that the Tasmanian government was considerably worried about our electricity generation options.

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In Live Report 15 Andrew shows the Lake King William water backed up to Clark Dam at Butlers Gorge. Tasmania is no longer worrying about our water storage facilities and power generation. Again we have enough water to create clean electricity.

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These photos are wonderful reminders of the unpredictability and power of nature.   Andrew’s reports and photos are an excellent example of people getting out into our Tasmanian wilderness and experiencing it’s challenges and wonders.  I hope his trek inspires others not necessarily to cover the same territory, but to find new country to discover and enjoy.  To be refreshed by the purity of the bush.

Growing up as a Hydro boy

Thanks to blog follower Mary, I have discovered a series of online stories about past Hydro workers some of whom helped build the Tarraleah Canal No 1 and others who lived near other electricity generating power stations along the Derwent River. These short stories make interesting reading and include photographs of the people and places.

I recommend you look at Hydro Tasmania’s site where the son of Jack Warren records his history.  The photo below from that site shows Jack at Canal No 1 in 1935.

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Simon Stansbie’s record of growing up at Wayatinah can be read on the Hydro Tasmania’s website. Ian Berry tells us what it was like to grow up at Butlers Gorge (where the Clark Dam was built to hold back the waters of Lake King William).  You can read this and see photos at Hydro Tasmania’s site.

Collectively these stories give a little insight into the human reality of living and working in remote central Tasmania to create the extraordinary electricity generating infrastructure last century which used the waters of the Derwent River.

Heather Felton published a book, which tells these and other stories of the people of ‘The Hydro’.  Read more about the book: The Ticklebelly Tales.

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Information about the book launch can be read in issues of the Cultural Heritage Program Newsletter ; and at a second site.

I am not sure what the word ‘Tickleberry’ refers to.  Do I have any blog followers with this knowledge?  According to Wikipedia part of Tarraleah, the area for the married quarters of the original community, was known as Tickleberry Flat. In addition, during my walks I know that I have passed an area mapped as Tickleberry Flat which is south east of Curringa Farm, and almost south of the town of Hamilton mid-way along Meadowbank Lake – a long way from Tarraleah.  In New Norfolk Tickleberry Farm grows raspberries.  The name Tickleberry comes up in many internet searches.  The Brighton, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley and Southern Midlands Councils Joint Land Use Planning Initiative – Stage 2 Heritage Management Plan tells us “Hydro-electric power schemes which commenced in the early 1910s saw the development of construction villages across the highlands at Waddamana (from 1911), Shannon (1925), Tarraleah (1934), Tickleberry Flats (1935), Butlers Gorge (1938), Bronte Park (1948) and Wayatinah (1952). As these small communities grew, schools, shops, community halls, medical facilities and offices were established.”

After all of this, I still wonder what the original meaning of Tickleberry is: maybe someone’s name or a common name for a plant.

Tarraleah Canal No 1 walk – a surprising trickle

Blog followers may remember that at the start of my walk against Tarraleah Canal number 1, I was surprised to see an empty Canal.  Later in my walk I was even more surprised. After a few hours of walking, I stopped, looked, frowned, looked again and peered more intensely. A dribble of water was moving.  I blinked furiously.  Was I imagining that the water was running? No – the water was flowing.  Wow!  I was here on a day which next to nobody ever sees: a dewatered Canal and then one which is filling.  What a thrill.

In the photos below you can see that the water level is edging higher up in the Canal the closer I walked to my destination and the start of the Canal at the Clark Dam.

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The speed with which the water flows can be appreciated in the video.

Any person who decided to drop down into the empty Canal would have no way to clamber up and out over the deep smooth concrete sides and would be trapped.  If you fell in once water ran through the Canal, then the speed would quickly whizz you into the penstocks and before long you would be filtered out in tiny pieces at the Tarraleah Power Station before the water proceeded along at a crushingly powerful pace to create electricity.  I guess the remoteness and isolation prevent idiots from discovering this snaking gem – or maybe even idiots can appreciate the dangers.

Thanks to Tim, a Hydro Tas mechanical engineer who was working at the Butlers Gorge Power Station (Clark Dam) on the day of my walk and who was kind enough to drive me back home to Hobart, I know Hydro Tasmania had deliberately ‘dewatered’ the Canal in order to complete maintenance work at the Butlers Gorge Power Station and at the Tarraleah Power Station.  Obviously tonnes of water pressing through while someone changes a valve or whatever, means the job won’t get done.  While Canal number 1 was dewatered, Canal number 2 a little further inland was running full with water in order for the Tarraleah Power Station to continue to generate electricity.

When I met Tim at the end of my walk, I learned he was responsible for the final maintenance and the rewatering. On his mobile phone he had taken photos and a short video of the first cylindrical gush of water – he was as excited as I. The power of the water was obvious.  A perfect picture of a powerhouse for generating electricity.

I learned that it would take the Canal two hours to reach full capacity between Clark Dam and the Tarraleah Power Station.  I had seen all stages: the Canal empty and later with a dribble across the bottom.  Then the closer I came to Clark Dam the higher the water reached up the Canal walls.  By the time I reached the start of the Canal near the Dam, the water level was at its highest but for some reason I don’t have photos after a certain point back down the road – frustrating.  I know my feet were hurting and I was plodding with determination to reach the end.  I suspect that I lost focus on maintaining a photographic coverage of the whole distance. Maybe someone will want to drive a couple of hours up there with me one day so I can get those additional photos.

Tarraleah Canal No 1 walk – where is the water?

My walk started well with the Tassie Link bus depositing me on the Lyell Highway at the junction with Butlers Gorge Road, a very isolated spot.  The day was overcast and sufficiently cool to make for extremely comfortable walking.

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Instead of following Butlers Gorge Road I walked over to Tarraleah Canal number 1 and was stunned.  It contained no running water and green slime was growing at the bottom in sections.

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A question pounded through my brain – where was ‘my’ Derwent River?  I was annoyed.  I was two hours’ drive from Hobart and returning home was not an option. I was here to walk my ‘choice’ of the Derwent River, yet no water flowed.  I humphed and sighed and decided to walk beside the Canal to Clark Dam despite the absence of water, and that would be my story.

Years ago Tasmania decided to sell its clean electricity supplies into the national grid and in tough times to buy in essential electricity supplies.  So an underwater pipe was built beneath Bass Strait, which separates Tasmania from mainland Australia.  In recent months the connection has failed, the Bass Link is yet to be repaired and our state has been unable to acquire additional electricity to meet our needs in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile with low water levels in our Hydro Tasmania dams, our local electricity supplies are in danger of being exhausted.  Therefore, when I saw the empty Tarraleah Canal number 1 I jumped to the conclusion that the water from Lake King William had been turned off; I thought this was a sign of our increasingly dire situation.  Later (and in a later post I will explain) I learned I was wrong.  The empty Canal had nothing to do with the Bass Link failure.

I laughed to see the warning sign.

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As later posts will indicate, even when empty this Canal is dangerous and should never be entered.

Tarraleah Canal No 1 walk – aerial views of the terrain

Aerial photos help to situate this part of my walk along the Tarraleah Canal Number 1.

Chantale’s first photo below looks across to Lake King William behind Clark Dam, and down onto the remnants of the meandering ‘dry’ Derwent river bed meander which can be seen in the glare near the lower edge.  The Canal winds its way next to a gravel road close by.  Her second photo shows the curving Canal and the gravel road, on which I walked, immediately to its right. Much further inland a yellow line indicates the gravel Butlers Gorge Road.

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My photo below includes the old river bed, the Canal and the Hydro Tasmania gravel road.

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Michelle’s photos below helps you to appreciate the density and height of the surrounding bush. I stayed on the road and was immensely pleased not to be navigating through that wilderness.  The bush was stunningly beautiful to look at and to smell but would have been a nightmare to walk through.

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Tarraleah Canal No 1 walk – what is the ‘real’ Derwent?

Will the real Derwent River please stand up!   Where should a person walk if they are ‘walking the Derwent’?

Since the Clark Dam was built in 1952, the Derwent River has not flowed from the area now known as Lake King William downstream across its original bed, until closer to Hobart.  Instead the Tarraleah Canals number 1 and 2 accept Derwent River water from Clark Dam/Lake King William at Butlers Gorge in central Tasmania.  These canals channel the water to penstocks that feed the Tarraleah Power Station.  Electricity is generated and then the water flows on to create more electricity at Liapootah then Wayatinah Power Stations.  Eventually the water empties into Lake Catagunya.

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The old Derwent River bed is stony.  Along its length between Clark Dam and the bridge at Wayatinah, seepage from the steep hills creates pools of water.  There is sufficient water, although limited, to create a continuous running flow between the stones.  At the end of Spring the river bed looking upstream from Wayatinah was as follows:

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Michelle’s photo shows another view.

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In January the water level had dropped and the river bed looked like …

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Similarly, between the bridge over the Derwent River bed at Wayatinah and the river’s meeting with the Florentine River, and downstream almost to Lake Catagunya, the river is often a stony bed with limited flow.

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Upstream from the junction of the Florentine and Derwent Rivers, upstream from the Wayatinah Power Station, I walked on the river bed where I could.

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To ‘walk the Derwent’ should one follow the original river bed or the Canals or a mix of both?

Since Tarraleah Canal number 1 runs more or less parallel to the old river bed and is usually located under 500 metres from that river bed, I chose to walk next to the Canal along the section before it turned inland to travel to Tarraleah Power Station. I rather liked the idea of staying as close to the original Derwent River course rather than following man-made deviations. However this ‘walkingthederwent’ project does raise the question as to what constitutes the ‘real’ Derwent River. Does it exist any longer? And therefore, is it possible to walk the Derwent?

The tracks on the eastern side of Lake King William

Four options are possible for walking along the eastern side of Lake King William (through which the Derwent River flows): walking on the rocky shore because the Lake’s water level is down 75%; following four-wheel-drive vehicular tracks; using the low level vegetation of the regrowth area beneath the power lines; or ‘bush bashing’ to make a new track (I never considered this option except in one trackless area).  I found all options needed to be used at some stage along the way.

Tassie Trails indicates Lake King William is a remote area where the chances of meeting other people is unlikely.  The site suggests walkers/cyclists/bike riders will get wet feet.  I am pleased to say it was drier for me and my feet were never in mud or creeks despite my not taking any inland directed tracks. Tassie Rambler also describes a bike trip along these tracks, as well as how the writer coped with a trackless section. I will refer readers to this site in a later post to use its photos for comparison purposes against how I proceeded for part of my walk.

4WD-drive vehicular tracks criss-cross the area near Clark Dam but soon simplify into the one track mapped as the Switchyard Track.  Despite the above two sites promoting the use of a mountain bike, I suspect cycling would be painfully jarring because mile after mile of the tracks are constructed from various sized sharp lumps of unevenly laid blue metal (dolerite/bluestone). The rocks are loose and mobile so constant vigilance is required for walking.

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Some days I envy the British and Irish for the ease and simplicity of their towpaths and century-old established walking paths and rights of way next to their rivers and canals.  But then I remember, as I walk in the Tasmanian wilderness, I am the only one around smelling and hearing and seeing an extraordinary diversity of wild nature and it my responsibility to determine the way to my destination. I am incredibly privileged.

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End of day departure time

I usually make a point of starting the walking day as early as possible – to walk when I am the freshest and most alert and if the weather seems fine, then to use it while it stays good (Tasmania is known for its four seasons in one day).  However on the day when I started walking along Lake King William, because I was constrained by other life commitments I did not leave Hobart until 1.30 pm. My driver Emma took me west along the Lyell Highway until a short distance before Tarraleah when we turned left and deviated onto a 16 km gravel road towards Clark Dam at Butlers Gorge.  We dodged a few speeding cars as we travelled the narrow road, when everyone screeched and slewed in the slippery gravel on crests and unknowable corners. But I refused to worry. The sky was golden blue, the bush looked clean, the temperature was perfect for walking, and my excitement grew. My driver dropped me near Clark Dam and I started walking at 4 pm.  Thankfully at this time of year the sun sets around 9pm and I knew the light of day would continue longer.  I thought a three hour walk would be sufficient to isolate me and remove me from the chances of odd bods being in the locality. Not knowing what to expect, I planned for two nights out camping before reaching the town ship of Derwent Bridge.

Near my starting point, fishermen and families were pulling boats from Lake King William behind the arc of Clark Dam.  The water was glossy blue.

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The late afternoon was stunningly beautiful. I felt apprehensive but invigorated and ready to discover the Lake one step at a time.

News today – significant historic theft

The local Mercury newspaper has reported “Historic bronze plaques stolen from dam”.

In October last year after I visited Clark Dam, one that controls the Derwent River’s waters,  I posted my story and at least one of the photographs published in today’s paper appears to be a cut down version of my photographs.  I have never added copyright protection to my photos so I am glad to have been of assistance in getting the message out and showing the community what has been removed.

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Clark Dam is isolated and remote and few people drive there:  the gravel road leading to the Dam at Butlers Gorge would not be driven on in hire cars by tourists, so I am guessing the person who removed these plaques is probably a fisherman who visits the area ready to put a boat out onto Lake King William.  It is someone with local knowledge that few people will be in the area. The plaques would have offered some resistance during their removal – they were strongly attached – so it seems to me that a purposeful perhaps pre-planned effort has been made by the thief.

Recently I was in the vicinity, but having previously walked in the area I bypassed the Dam wall so I missed seeing the gaping ‘holes’.  I would have been horrified.  Whether the taker took the plaques for reasons of greed or souveniring, they are markers of early mid-20th century Tasmanian history and need to be returned – if not reinstalled, then dropped on the doorstep of a police station.

Anyone with any information about the theft is asked to call police on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.