The question remained. Was walking this leg achievable? Was the Derwent River sufficiently friendly to allow humans to walk its length? With my feet and knees complaining every time I walk for more than a couple of hours, I asked friend Andrew to proxy for me and undertake the walk along the Derwent River from near Tarraleah to Wayatinah. Since Andrew is a fit, agile, very experienced and sensible bushwalker, I felt certain if he could not finish this leg of the walk then no-one could. Besides he has been a positive supporter of the project from day one and was happy to undertake the walk on my behalf.
At 6.30 am, the day started with a drive from Hobart to the bridge crossing the Derwent River at Wayatinah. After parking his ute on the Florentine Road near the salmon hatchery at Wayatinah around 8.30 am, a friend drove him westwards along the Lyell Highway to the junction with Butlers Gorge Road. Under overcast skies on a cool day, Andrew began walking next to Tarraleah Canal No 1 around 9.30 am and continued until he reached the first crossover walkway about one kilometre further on. This location promised the shortest distance down to the Derwent river bed.
Andrew crossed, looked downhill and saw nothing but dense scrub ahead. He remembers remarking out loud “don’t dither, just do it. Don’t delay. Here we go; just do it”. At 10.10 am he left the Canal. Before stepping into the unknown, he spent time getting a GPS position fix and a magnetic bearing. Once set, he plunged into the thicket and took a series of sightings from one key tree to the next. This allowed him to stay on his bearing, and meant he would be able to retrace his steps if the going was too tough and the forest impossibly dense. The route down the steep slope passed massive tree ferns, smaller ferns, myrtles, mature eucalypts and the occasional Sassafras tree. Many fallen trees littered the understorey and it was clear this was an old forest in a constant state of regeneration. Scrambling over or under logs and negotiating rocky bluffs was a normal part of the descent.
Half way down the steep incline, it seemed that serious wind was blowing high up in the trees. Before long it was clear the rushing sound was the water of the Derwent River further below. Once the river could be seen, then it was a comparatively simple process to choose the clearest path to the river bed.
As dry as the landscape is, from time to time a tiny creek would cross under the Florentine Road making its way downhill to add to the Derwent River’s water flows. Around these creeks or water seepages, a profusion of vegetation flourished.
Native tree ferns, which need moisture, grew nearby. Some tree ferns were tall indicating a great age.
The tall straight native trees on the upside of Florentine Road were majestic and commanding. In many ways these were ‘the finds’ of the day as I walked towards the bridge over the Derwent near the township of Wayatinah.
But elsewhere on the upside of the road were the marks of degradation of the original native vegetation for forestry purposes. Acres of land across so many hills have been cleared. It was not a pretty sight.
Road signs alert motorists to expect great log trucks on this road – from experience they do not drive slowly and take up much of the road because they do not expect to see other vehicles. So caution and care is important. Motorists also need to be watchful in case one of the remaining trees should fall across the road unexpectedly. After drenching rains, the hold of the root systems of trees into the ground can be weakened. If windy weather follows, then trees may topple.
Last year I wrote (The Florentine River flows into the Derwent River) about 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.
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.
Soon after leaving the Florentine, a thicket of bush fills the space between the road and the Derwent River.
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.
I have compiled a list of those locations where I believe, with a vehicle, it will be possible to ‘touch’ the Derwent River occasionally along its length between Gretna and Lake St Clair. Please let me know if any section listed below takes your fancy and if you would be interested to try it out.
Almost all sections include driving on bitumen highway, gravel roads and poor tracks. Some of these may be forestry roads. If you wish to volunteer to take me to one of these sections (let me know on email@example.com), please feel comfortable that your car can handle the different conditions. Of course, common sense will prevail and we will never push on if a road is too rough for your vehicle and your peace of mind.
If you are happy to help me reach my goal, albeit differently than originally expected, I would like to fill up your tank with petrol as some compensation. You know my ‘walking the Derwent’ is a non-commercial project, but since I do not own a car nor drive, I need transport – and therefore, I am happy to cover the cost.
On eastern shore – From New Norfolk drive along the Lyell Highway and then, not far past Gretna’s Sports ground, take a left turn into Clarendon Road and drive to farmstead buildings about 250 metres from the river on a hill. Perhaps 140km return trip.
On western shore – From New Norfolk drive along Glenora Road, and turn left at Bushy Park then right onto Meadowbank Road over the Tyenna River then next to Derwent, then on over Meadowbank Creek to a hill top with buildings. It may be possible to continue quite a way on this road. Minimum 130 and maybe up to 160kms return trip
On eastern shore – From New Norfolk drive along the Lyell Highway and turn left off the Highway onto Meadowbank Dam Road. Continue to dam and southern end of Meadowbank Lake. At least 170 kms for round trip.
On western shore – Travel from New Norfolk and turn left into Gordon River Road at Bushy Park, then turn right off Gordon River Rd into Ellendale Rd and then right onto Rockmount Road before you reach the township of Ellendale. There seem to be many dirt forestry tracks to Meadowbank Lake. At least 170kms return trip and maybe 200kms return or more depending on roads.
On western shore – Travel from New Norfolk and turn left into Gordon River Road at Bushy Park, then turn right off Gordon River Rd into Ellendale Rd and drive on through the township of Ellendale until you reach Dawson Rd / Dunrobin bridge over Meadowbank Lake. Turn left before bridge and it seems we can drive 2kms further up along the Lake edge. Return to Ellendale Road, cross bridge and connect with the Lyell Highway. At least 170kms return trip and maybe 200kms return or more depending on roads.
On eastern shore – From New Norfolk drive up Lyell Highway and continue past the left turn off to Dunrobin bridge and afterwards and to the left there are a number of dirt tracks seemingly without gates. After a while these tracks/roads only extend to the Ouse River and not the Derwent River so map consultation is crucial. At least 180kms return and maybe over 200kms return depending on how many side roads/tracks can be driven along.
On eastern shore – Drive up Lyell Highway past Ouse then turn left at Lake Repulse Road. Continue to intersection with Cluny Lagoon Road and turn left and go to Cluny Dam. Return to intersection and continue on Lake Repulse Road to the Repulse Dam. Can cross a bridge and continue back south around Cluny Lagoon to a ‘settlement’ named Cluny. Perhaps could access this road from the Ellendale Rd on the western shore? By driving north from Repulse Dam along Dawson Road/then renamed Thunderbolt Road it seems we can take right hand detours to Lake Repulse. Over 200kms maybe 250kms or more minimum round trip.
On eastern shore – Drive up Lyell Highway past Ouse, over the Dee River until the sign appears for a left turn at Catagunya Road. Drive down to Catagunya Dam. 200kms minimum return trip
On eastern shore – Drive up Lyell Highway past Ouse, over the Dee River, past Black Bobs and turn left at Long Spur Road. This runs around Wayatinah Lagoon. Go past the intersection to Wayatinah Dam, turn left and travel to Wayatinah Power Station on Lake Catagunya. Return to intersection and turn left and travel to Wayatinah Dam. Cross bridge and continue on to Wayatinah township. Access dirt tracks in the vicinity of all. Drive south from the Wayatinah Dam on the western shore along the Florentine Road but don’t bother crossing the Florentine River because the road goes inland away from the river. Minimum of 230kms but most likely at least 300kms round trip.
On eastern shore – Drive up Lyell Highway and when you reach a canal passing under the road, and where the road turns right to go to Tarraleah, go straight ahead on Butlers Gorge Road. Note there are limited roads off and around going closer to the river near that intersection. Continue along Butlers Gorge Road for 10-15 kms heading for Lake King William. Reach Clark Dam and Power Station. Continue onto Switchback Track along side of Lake King William. This track stops and you have to return the same way – swamp separates you from the track north about 500 metres away. This would be a big day and I suggest take overnight accommodation at Tarraleah before setting out. PERHAPS it is possible to walk across the swamp and then walk about 7 kms to Derwent Bridge. Unknown over 300 kms return trip.
On eastern shore – Drive up Lyell Highway to Derwent Bridge and continue past to left hand turn off on the western side of Lake King William and drive the track to the lake. 360 kms return trip minimum.
On eastern shore – Drive up Lyell Highway to Derwent Bridge. Walk from the bridge over the Derwent River near the township of Derwent Bridge to St Clair Dam at the bottom of Lake St Clair Lagoon where the Derwent River starts. Walk to Pump House Point and St Clair Weir at the southern end of the Derwent Basin. 350kms return trip minimum.