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.