Tag Archives: Derwent Bridge

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.

The Derwent River at Derwent Bridge

Having enjoyed showers, easy cups of tea and a comfortable bed, I woke early and was walking before 7am. It was cool so I wore a hat and jacket.  I noted the evidence of cold winters when snow lies on the ground and sometimes blocks the highway.

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If you want to buy land in Derwent Bridge, a package of 3 lots is for sale.

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Signage on the Lyell Highway is clear.

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In the early light of day, the Derwent River glowed. The water was warmer than the air temperature causing a draft of steamy fog to float above the water.

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Derwent Bridge

Located 174 kms west of Hobart on the Lyell Highway, the town of Derwent Bridge extends about a kilometre from one end to the other and contains a scattering of private houses and a handful of small businesses. This tiny township takes its name from the bridge in its midst which crosses the Derwent River.  Lake St Clair sits to the north and Lake King William to the south.

I love writing Trip Advisor reviews (as Crocodillus) and after returning to Hobart from Derwent Bridge I wrote four: my accommodation at the Derwent Bridge Cabins, the food experience I enjoyed at Hungry Wombat Café , the Derwent Bridge Hotel, and the Wall in the Wilderness .  A description of these is not particularly relevant to this blog so, if you are interested, I have provided the links to my reviews with a few photographs.  I am happy to answer any email enquiries if you are considering visiting Derwent Bridge.

I stayed in Derwent Bridge for two nights (buses to Hobart do not travel every day) and every chat, communication, look that I experienced with another person was full of positive energy, good will, happiness, and this made the time pass so easily.  It did not matter whether I was connecting with the Cabin owner or her cleaner, the bar and meal staff at the Hotel, the wait staff at the café, or the owner and others at the Wall in the Wilderness, everyone was upbeat and the services the businesses provided were excellent.

In addition, I met many interstate and overseas travellers, almost all of them walkers who had been journeying either on the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, or had been walking some of the day or longer walks in the vicinity of Lake St Clair.  The effect of continuing kind weather on walkers, the fact that their walks had introduced them to environments which they found profoundly beautiful, and their plans for future walks and discoveries were the catalyst for everyone to buzz with vitality. Infectious.

Showing me the way to go

Through the bush near the town ship of Derwent Bridge, many tracks criss-cross the landscape and I can see that some might get lost – and the maps do not show all tracks. However, no walker should have a problem if s/he remembers that going downhill will either bring him or her out onto the Derwent River or onto the Lyell Highway.

Nevertheless, when I came across a series of stones arranged into an arrow pointing along one track, I chose to believe it was the best track to take.

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Of course it was a risk to trust the arrow, because the stones could have been arranged for other purposes rather than to get someone to the town of Derwent Bridge by the shortest route.  I was pleased that sometime later, the Lyell Highway was in front of me albeit with a padlocked gate between us.  When I walked onto the road and looked back, this is what I saw.

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That was the first and only sign between Clark Dam and the southern end of Lake King William and this gate that indicated I was walking on private land which I should not be on.  Too late!  I have arrived.

The Derwent River was not far away. It is located between the gate and the Derwent Bridge Hotel 250 metres westwards.

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I was elated because I arrived in Derwent Bridge a day earlier than I expected.  A lovely surprise.

The marks of man

Lake King William, the electricity transmission lines and their towers, the cleared but regrowing areas surrounding them, and the nearby 4WD vehicle tracks changed the landscape from its original form and I spotted other signs of non-aboriginal intervention in the bush.

As I was closing in on civilisation again, while nearing the town ship of Derwent Bridge, I noticed a felled log beside the track with saw marks.  What struck me as strange was the way more than one straight length of timber had been sawn from within the tree trunk.

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Not a letterbox

When walking through the bush from time to time you see tree stumps with a horizontal man-made slit.  These were not letter boxes for use by the old European settlers.  Rather they were part of the process to fell huge ancient trees. Where I was walking, the trees would have been felled to clear a path for the electrical transmission power lines and the 4WD track.

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These notches were made in the days when strong men wielded axes with accuracy and extraordinary bush knowledge. This was before chain saws: the massive girth of many trees would have rendered such equipment useless. In addition, such tree clearings were in an area too remote for massive machinery to access, even if it had existed.

At its simplest, the process can be described as: first the axeman cuts a small slit in the tree trunk then jams a board into the gap.  He (and I have never heard of a woman doing this) jumps up onto that board. Then he creates a new slit higher up the tree, grabs a second board and jams that into the new slit.  He jumps up onto the second board and releases the first board, rests it across the one on which he stands, and then he cuts another slit higher up. The process is repeated until he is sufficiently high to start cutting a 45 degree notch which will help the tree fall in a certain direction.  After a while, the axeman descends and repeats the process up the same tree from another angle, then continues on cutting the notch until the top part of the tree sends signs that it will fall. At this point, in order to stay alive, he jumps down the tree as quickly as he can and moves a distance away being careful not to be struck by any other vegetation or tree than is inadvertently brought down at an unexpected angle.

From this practice has grown the international sport of wood chopping which includes a competition on tree felling.  The image below from the Queensland Archive shows how this looks in the sporting arena.

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Did you know the first wood chopping competitions were held on the north-west coast of Tasmania (not far from where I was born)? These days the competitions have become an international event.  To see how it all works in practice, at least in competitions, I suggest you have a look at a local competition in Canada on You Tube

Snakes alive

In recent walks (Nearing Derwent Bridge from Lake King William, and between the Florentine River and Wayatinah), I have been surprised to see two examples of one of Tasmania’s venomous snakes the White Lipped Snake, also known as the Whip Snake.  What I saw was a delicate slender olive greenish brown snake with soft looking velvety skin.  You can refer to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment’s site for more information.

The first snake was close to a metre in length and calmly meandered across the stony track, about a metre in front of me, as I descended towards the town of Derwent Bridge. The second snake was just under half a metre in length and was lying on the gravel road in the greenish shade – something made me look down and I realised I was only a couple of steps from standing on it. Naturally I stopped, apologised for my intrusion, stepped away to the other side of the road, and the snake in its own good time, calmly and slowly slid off into the bush away from me.

The length of my snakes is greater than that which the above government website suggests for the standard length. Mine were very slim but long.

These experiences have now made me doubt a ‘fact’ which I had always believed.  The ‘fact’ is that snakes feel the vibration through the ground of something coming towards them and then disappear because they are fundamentally shy and do not seek confrontation. The website listed above suggests the Whip Snake is shy but my experience is at odds with their information.

A chat with another walker recently reminded me that wearing gaiters is a protection against snake bite on the lower legs.  I had forgotten that important use – I was only thinking of wearing them in muddy conditions.  If you don’t know what they look like, then the Paddy Palin website, for example, show a range of gaiter styles.