Tag Archives: Florentine River

Visualising walks in advance is another form of planning

A recent blog posting provided the ‘story’ of how I imagined a walking stage would progress along one section of the Derwent River.  On paper, such visualisations have acted as a planning tool to remind me of the potential challenges ahead and the work I needed to do to make sure I was able to have a safe walk within a reasonable time frame.  Another ‘big think’ happened in relation to the walk between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations.

In the photo below, water gushing from the Wayatinah Power Station adds to the volume of Lake Catagunya near its western extremity.   20151029_090827.jpg

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This expanse of water, fed by the Derwent and Florentine Rivers further upstream, extends approximately 7 -8 kilometres as a substantial water storage holding until it reaches the Catagunya Dam wall and then passes through the Catagunya Power Station at the eastern end of the Lake. Earlier walks had taken me to both hydro electricity generating power stations, and during one walk I was privileged to be shown over the remote and isolated Catagunya Power Station complex.

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How to tackle the distance between the two locations?  Should I start my walk from the eastern or western end?  Should I walk on the southern or northern side of the Lake? The terrain to be covered included private property so what permissions needed to be acquired and from whom?

At first, I inspected the last official map printed by the Tasmanian government, the 1993 map titled ‘Strickland 4630’ in combination with perusing the Google Earth map for the same territory. In addition, I used my on-the-ground first-hand knowledge of the terrain and the vegetation at both ends of the stage from having visited in association with other walks, and aerial photos taken early during this Walking the Derwent project.

Michelle’s photos show Wayatinah Power Station in the distance near the western end of Lake Catagunya,  a section of the curved shape of the Lake, and Catagunya Dam and Power Station. Each photo clearly shows the incline from water level to the plateau above.

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My aerial photos show  Wayatinah Power Station behind an expanse of Lake  Catagunya, the major inlet close to the eastern end of the Lake, and the Catagunya Dam and Power Station complex.  The density of the forests and the hilly terrain are clearly shown.

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Chantale’s aerial photos show the inlet, fed by Black Bob’s Rivulet, near the eastern end of the Lake.

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What I had seen on the ground and in the air was not what maps showed. For example at the Catagunya end, massive comparatively new pine plantations had swept across hills where natural bush once grew.  This meant that a mesh of unmapped forestry roads would have been built and that these would make navigation confusing without a compass and/or GPS equipment.

Clearly the edges of the Lake were/are exceptionally steep and if my walks elsewhere in the region were used as a guide, the slopes would be a mixture of dense wet rainforest tangled around partially hidden rocky outcrops.  Both sides of the Lake have sections which rise over 200 metres within half a kilometre.  All indications are that walking at water level would be impossible. If Plan A to walk alongside the Lake wasn’t possible, what should be Plan B?

On the northern side, skyscraper-high electricity transmission structures with their connecting wires have been installed in a straight line from the Wayatinah to Catagunya Power Stations and located roughly at the top of the steep incline from the Lake. I felt this line would be the best option for progress. During construction, an area of less than hundred metres wide was cleared to create a pathway for vehicles to use. Perfect for easy walking?  Reflections on past experiences suggest not.  This is rainforest territory and as a constantly regenerating living organism, I realised that I should expect the forest to have begun to re-establish itself. I recalled walking along the ‘cleared’ transmission lines area through the most challenging vegetation on unseeable uneven ground at the northern end of Lake King William. It was slow, tedious work where a snapped ankle was always a possibility.

Thinking of the Wayatinah to Catagunya leg, I made a note to contact TasNetworks to see whether their clearing program had reached this transmission area, and whether I could hope for a reasonably straightforward walk along this line.  Google maps indicate a vehicular road leaves the Wayatinah Power Station area and continues eastwards for the first half a kilometre of the 7 km line of towers.  It seems to stops short of the first heavily forested gully that cuts deeply through the landscape and which contributes water downhill to Lake Catagunya.  400 metres past that obstacle is a new similar impediment to smooth walking.  A third such impasse waits a further 400 metres eastwards.  In advance of the walk, it was easy to imagine the vegetation would be slippery with dripping water from the plants, the light levels amidst the tightly packed vegetation in the ravine would be low, and the flow of water over the centuries would have exposed rocky outcrops that would make descent and then ascent on the other side of the creek time consuming and treacherous.  Until in the presence of each ravine,  judgements could not be made as to whether to walk inland to skirt around the worst of the cuttings or whether it might be possible to descend and ascend on the other side safely and with my backpack still attached to my back.

Approximately half way through the walk after the three creeks, an undulating plateau with a lower gradient should be a welcome change for a few minutes before the terrain drops down to Bushman’s Hill. I would expect this site to be seriously forested and not to offer grand views of the Lake, and I would expect a mesh of unexpected and unpredictable forestry and Hydro Tasmania roads across the land. Ahead the land drops away rapidly, is crossed by another deep creek cutting, until it reaches a significant inlet body of water that is more than 100 metres wide. This water extends inland for over one kilometre.  Into this length of water flows Black Bob’s Rivulet which extends for many kilometres north west of this area. There would be no choice but to walk around this obstacle and cross the Rivulet where possible, until a connection with Catagunya Road could be made.  The degree of deviation will depend on the nature, location and extent of the plantation and natural forests.

Once on the Road, an easy gravel surface leads to Catagunya Dam and Power Station; perhaps 4 to 6 kilometres of road will need to be walked depending on the difficulty getting around the inlet.  After panoramic photos are taken to record the Lake and it’s edges, then a 7-8 km walk to the locked gate at the Lyell Highway will conclude this leg of the walk along the Derwent.

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All up, and at the best, perhaps 18-22 km would be walked in this stage.  If substantial rerouting around the creeks was required then the distance would be much longer.  Fundamentally, I imagined this was a walk of clambering up and descending steep forested hills relentlessly. Depending on the density of vegetation in the ‘cleared’ transmission line area and then the difficulties crossing the creek cuttings, at best this walk might take 10 hours.  At worst, and probably realistically, it will require sleeping out overnight, and therefore I will walk with the full complement of camping gear.

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?

Back to the Florentine River

Last year I wrote (The Florentine River flows into the Derwent Riverabout my walk from the Wayatinah Power Station westwards along the north/ eastern side of the Derwent River until I passed the point where the Florentine River entered opposite.  To cover the total distance from the Power Station to the Derwent River near the town ship of Wayatinah, more recently I walked on the south/western side of the Derwent River along the Florentine Road from near the Florentine River.  This short and easy walk, took me mostly uphill on a good gravel road, and allowed me to look down on the running Derwent.  Not a soul on the road, just the sound of birds and gushing water.

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Thanks to Deb, I was chauffeured to the Florentine River which meant I didn’t need to retrace my steps on that walk. That Florentine River is quite lively.

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Soon after leaving the Florentine, a thicket of bush fills the space between the road and the Derwent River.

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As I walked I could see the river below. However now, in the photographs, the colour of the water and the shape of the river rocks blend with the vegetation colours so that I find it almost impossible to identify the water.  But trust me it’s there in the photos below.

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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.

The complex that makes up Wayatinah – posting 5 of 7

The Florentine River flows into the Derwent River.

Westwards from the Wayatinah Power Station, Andrew and I covered some kilometres of bush, clambering over fallen trees and through a mesh of understorey vegetation.  The marks of mankind were clear despite the absence of tracks; various weeds were flourishing.

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And through the bush in two different locations a well secured lidded white box sat alone with a surname and phone number written on top.  These were not bee hives and we could not determine their function.

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Once we had walked further westwards past the meeting of the Florentine River with the Derwent River, the Derwent presented with a low water level and stony river base.

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However there were sections containing more water.

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Along the way we discovered the remains of an old shed and an ancient water level monitoring system, through which a bush fire had passed.

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Bits of iron and steel were scattered through the cleared surrounds.

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I loved the way the corrugated iron had been ‘stitched’ with wire to create the building. Very enterprising.

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Amidst this debris a lone native orchid bloomed.

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Down next to the river bed, a water level height gauge was marked in imperial measurements, therefore indicating a date before the mid-1960s.

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We wondered what sort of electronic or satellite related devices and measurement tools were used these days.

I found this trackless walk to be very hard going (at the pace Andrew set) because negotiating the bush took thought and time.  I reflected on the challenges this section would pose if I had been carrying a full backpack.

Michelle’s aerial view gives an idea of the dense bush on the top side of the River where we walked.

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The complex that makes up Wayatinah – posting 1 of 7

As an introduction to the widely spread features of Wayatinah, the Derwent River runs in a south easterly direction past many acres of State Forest before flowing into the expansive Wayatinah Lagoon, a waterstore located five or so kilometres north of the Wayatinah Power Station. The Lagoon’s water is piped to the Station first underground and then overground in massive white pipes.

Excess water from the Lagoon seeps, dribbles or spills back into the Derwent River at the Wayatinah Dam, which isn’t far from the Wayatinah township. Then the low water level of the river trickles over a rocky base until it catches the flow of the  Florentine River before continuing on to become part of Lake Catagunya.  The western most reaches of the Lake have already formed before the river reaches the Wayatinah Power Station.