Tag Archives: Lake King William

Crossing the plain

Before reaching the plain, I stepped across a couple of tiny rivulets the waters of which were heading to Lake King William. The map indicated I should expect a number of these. None impacted on the ease of the walk. 20160103_075628.jpg

After walking approximately two thirds of the length of Lake King William from the south northwards, the track ended in a mire of deep dry criss-crossing ruts a few hundred metres inland. Obviously when the land was wet, vehicles had tried to continue onto the plain using bits of driftwood to give purchase – but the ruts soon stopped so I knew these man-made beasts had retreated, albeit with difficulty. My photo below, with Mount Charles looking down, does not adequately present the depth or the complexity of the intrusion of vehicles.

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In a recent posting I added in a link to Tassie Rambler’s blog . I suggest you revisit that site to look at the photographs showing what the area looks like when wet. Look for Mount Charles in the photos and then, in the photos that follow, you can see the wet plain that the Tassie Rambler experienced. I am immensely grateful for the dryness I found.

Mount Charles looked down on the plain which stretched wide and extended perhaps a kilometre inland from the Lake.  I knew I needed to aim at the pointed hill (see photo below) in the distance and be prepared to walk around it.

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A snaking crevasse meandered through this seeming flatness. My map named Bethune Creek as the main watercourse in the area so I knew I needed to make a water crossing at some stage.  My passage point was a log resting on both sides of the land. Crossing Bethune Creek was easy.

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The ground either side of the Creek and presumably across the plain was not wet, nevertheless it was springy under foot and I bounced as I walked.

Acres and acres of this ‘ground’ extended in all directions and a decision was required. Should I walk beside Bethune Creek until I was much closer to Lake King William and then try and get through the bush, find a track and continue on solid ground? Alternatively, because I could see the power lines in a row parallel to the plain, I wondered whether I should walk through the bush towards them as soon as I could see an easy route.  From where I stood it was not clear that accessing the power line area would be easy or even possible if I proceeded closer to the Lake so I decided to make a path to the power lines through the band of small bushes and undergrowth which seemed to be the narrowest.  It didn’t look difficult.

This was where the fun started.

Over the years, bushwalkers have groaned at the memory of experiences crossing button grass plains. Until this walk, I had no experience of walking through these plants.  Now I understand bushwalkers’ groans. When you see the images below of the button grass it appears not to present difficulties for walking – but appearances deceive.

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Despite the fact I only needed to cover about 100 metres of these beautiful looking plants, it was one of the most exhausting and frustrating processes I have ever endured. However, even as I tried to negotiate the distance, I could see the funny side if someone else had been watching my antics and halting progress.

Each button grass plant has a thick roughly circular base and then sprouts long arms some of which end with a spherical seed case, the button. Around and between each plant run channels which, in wetter times, would be a muddy, marshy, boot-removing quagmire.  Thankfully, these channels were bone dry when I made the crossing.  The channels were the width of one of my feet so on occasion I tried to walk in the channels. The channels are deep so that the top of the surrounding button grass plants were sometimes around my armpit height. This meant seeing the best forward path was not always possible. After making a few steps around a few plants, I would think I had found a way to continue reasonably comfortably, albeit not in a straight line to my destination. Then suddenly a mesh of grasses from a number of close growing plants would be so thick that I could not force my way through nor step over.  Then I would hump myself up to balance in the middle of a grass plant, my backpack changing my centre of gravity.  The irregularity of the height and thickness of the plants required constant rebalancing to stay upright. And I didn’t stay upright. I couldn’t.  So I would fall onto my back perhaps across a plant or two or perhaps into or straddling a channel. I lay there, rather like a beetle with legs and arms flailing in the air where turning over or getting up seems impossible. Then I would unhitch my back pack, firm my footing in a channel, load my backpack on, and start again. How many times did this happen? I cannot say.  But the landings were always soft and not jarring. These were gentle falls backwards offering marvellous sky views!

After much time – was it an hour or more? – the vegetation changed to a combination of few button grass plants, a nice little short spiky leaved plant (mind over matter was required to proceed through this), and a deeply spongy moss.

In the photo below, across the low level growth, the taller spiky plant can be seen left of centre, and the pale green plant in the foreground is the moss.  Again this photo shows a landscape that looks easy to walk through.  I promise you that looks deceive greatly. The ground beneath the plants was uneven, and some of the plants were deeply compressible by different degrees.

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I do not think the soft mossy plant, which slowed my progress considerably, was Sphagnum Moss one of Tasmania’s endemic species; however I am unable to identify it. Looking firm, I would step onto a smooth looking mass and that foot might sink a few inches, twelve inches, or I might drop down to knee height in the mass. Meanwhile the other foot and leg stayed elsewhere up someplace on another firmer plant. Unused muscles got a stretch. Keeping my balance was crucial because falling on the spiky plants held no allure.

A couple of years ago I attended classes to learn to dance the Argentine Tango in which balance is critical to success. During the dance, the man leads and the woman may need to stay balanced mid move on one foot for an unknown time. This means every time I made a step I needed to be prepared to stop, not sway, and keep centred. The dance experience proved useful in Tasmania’s wilderness as I negotiated a path through these plants. Speed was never an option.

I am not proud to say that I disturbed the landscape on this section of the walk.  However, the extraordinary resilience of the plants on which I stepped amazed me. They bounced back to their original shape immediately. When I stepped off the button grass plants and the moss, I could not see any mark of where I had been, although I recognise that at a micro level (perhaps even closer inspection) my steps would be in evidence on these plants.

Eventually I reached the power line clearway. It wasn’t clear. Dreams of easy walking remained dreams.

Rise and shine

At 6 am, my day started with soft clouds. And it was cool; just perfect for walking.  It was only later, around midday, that I removed my jacket.  Each of the sky, the water of Lake King William and the air seemed silvery. Perhaps I was influenced by the beautiful soft grey colours of the driftwood and dead trees. Serenity.

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Before departing my camp site, I filled my water bladders with Lake water. Later, when staying in Cabin accommodation at the town ship of Derwent Bridge, I poured some water into a sparkling clean glass.  I was surprised. The water was crystal clear.  No sediment. No wriggling larvae.  As I thought; this was pure water.  Marvellous!

Time sped fast while I slowed down. It was 7.30 am before I started walking.

It wasn’t long before Mount Charles stood ahead to the north. I knew I needed to find a way to walk around its left-hand side.

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The night before, from the rocky shore I could see Charles. In the photo below, at some distance to the left of the Mount I picked out a U shaped cut in the landscape.  From the map, I knew the electricity transmission line pathway passed through that gap.

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I expected to walk in the regrowth up that hill. In a direct line, approximately 2kms separated my camping site from the foot of that hill. Between the two locations the map indicated a swampy area.  Google Maps show a water-filled bay. No crossing tracks are evident.

What Google Maps show:

Google map of swampy area

What I saw from the south eastern end:

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What I saw from the north western end with a sliver of Lake King William in view:

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What I saw from the north western end looking inland back towards where I had crossed:

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I imagine you are thinking this ‘plain’ which was once filled as part of the Lake, would be easy to cross, and that it would take me no time.  Well my story is different from those expectations. I took three hours to cover the 2kms from the camping spot to the foot of the hill with the transmission line . Despite my experiences, I visualised my progress and could see the funny side.

The story starts as I walk towards Mount Charles and will be detailed in the next post.

Death and Lake King William

Fairly early in my walk along the eastern edge of Lake King William, when I neared the power transmission lines, signs such as the following were posted.

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I have no idea how close one must be to incur death, and therefore the concept of a ‘near approach’ is rather meaningless.  However, because I saw the 4WD track crossing under the power lines from time to time, I guessed that walking along these tracks wouldn’t bring on my early demise, well at least not from electricity jumping about. And so I live to tell tales.

Later in the walk when I approached another sign, the combination of the sign and the vista created a special message.

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The way my simple mind worked was this:  Lake King William is a man-made lake damming the burblings and gurglings of the infant Derwent River. The purpose of the Lake is to enable hydro-electricity power generation. The Lake drowned the native vegetation and dead trees are the result. The Danger sign alerts people to the danger of death from the electricity pouring through the wires overhead. The making of electricity kills and electricity itself is a killer.

As I walked, I thought a lot about the conservation needs of our forests and our contemporary way of life needs.

On the one hand, I can imagine the sorrow and despair that some will have when seeing the photos of the dead remains of old forests jutting out of the land as the Lake’s water level drops. I guess some people would wish this dramatic change to the original landscape never happened.

On the other hand, most people want to click lights on at night, recharge their technological devices, and have a refrigerator to keep their food cold and safe, run a washing machine, boil water and cook food. Without electricity (which is always generated using some natural resource), our contemporary lives could not continue. Hydro power is cleaner than coal power, and not dangerous like nuclear power.  If we must have electricity, which resource source should we use?  The creation of wind turbines changes landscapes and uses large quantities of processed mineral resources.  Equipment to support the gathering of solar power also uses processed mineral resources. If we choose to live as we have become accustomed, then ancient forests will be continue to be lost either directly or indirectly. There are very few who would give up the use of anything made from or using electricity.  I wonder if it is even possible to do so absolutely in first world and most third world countries.

Looking for a place to camp overnight

An earlier post told how I started the walk on the eastern shore of Lake King William at 4 pm. Once on the way, I saw the following views.

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I planned to walk until around 7.30 but I walked until 8.30 pm before finding a spot that I liked near the water.

I enjoyed the walk, my knees and ankles and feet were all travelling relatively comfortably, the day had a mild temperature which made passing through the bush a delight, and I was excited to be out in the wilds again and exploring and discovering.

Despite considerable research, I couldn’t be sure what to expect nor could I calculate how fast and far I could go. I knew part of my uncertainty was based on not knowing the degree of wetness I might encounter, and not knowing how much bush would be difficult to walk through.

In the end I found it easiest to walk on the blue metal based Switchyard Track where it ran next to the Lake edge or deviated very little inland.  Occasionally I walked in the regrowth area beneath the powerlines.

I felt free. Lucky.  Profoundly happy.  Immensely privileged to be able to make such a walk. But as the sun edged closer to the western horizon, a tiny fear began to niggle.  Would I be able to find a flat area to pitch my tent before the sun went down?  I didn’t want to walk in the dark in case I tripped and injured myself all the while knowing there was not a soul around to pass by and render help if needed.  Certainly I was armed with my Personal Locator Beacon but I never want to press the SOS button.

I reminded myself of all the luck I have had in life, and how ‘the right thing always happens at the right time’ for me.  And so it did yet again: not long before the sun went down I noticed the remnants of a vehicular track T-junctioning the main track on which I walked.  That barely visible track headed towards the Lake. Feeling partly desperate and partly positive, I followed the track until it stopped at the bank of the Lake, fifty or more metres from the water edge.   Within the red circle in the photo below is the track on which I camped, and my backpack can be seen to the left of the track – this photo was taken next morning.

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As the sun went down behind the ranges on the opposite side of the Lake. the decision was made for me; so the tent was pitched, my dehydrated dinner set in a water filled billy to soak, and I slipped and flopped over the shore to the water.  Wonderfully clean water.  Pure tasting water.  Untainted.  And I remember feeling the water was warmer than the quickly declining air temperature.  For a split second I contemplated stripping off and going for a swim.  But reason prevailed. No point in catching night air chills.

The two photos below are taken after sunset at the Lake bank near my camping spot at the same point and at the same time – because of the intensity of the light my tablet’s camera can’t compensate easily.

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The weather forecast had indicated the overnight temperature could be around 6 degrees Celcius and I felt the dramatic drop as the daylight began to disappear. I was glad I carried a winter beanie and thermals and it was a reminder that inland Tasmania has weather/climate extremes regardless of the season (and this is high summer time). My warm clothes were worn until bedtime.  And then, perhaps with the shock of the walk and all the related experiences, and/or with the lowering temperature I shivered in my sleeping bag until I relaxed and its warming qualities kicked in.

I lay trying to hear the sounds of the night and the bush, but the rustle of my sleeping bag made that impossible.  Then I resigned myself that I would never hear the rhythms of the bush.  As yet I have not heard the murderous cries of fighting Tasmanian Devils in the night – probably best. So, finally when I was well fed, warm and comfortable, I drifted off to sleep.

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A variety of vegetation

Lake King William extends over 15 kilometres in length and, with various mountains and ranges situated nearby and influencing the weather, I was not surprised that the vegetation varied considerably.

Amidst ferns and other plants, flanking my walk on the first day were endless bushes with their native red sometimes pink sometimes almost white berries. Some refer to this plant as the Pink Mountain Berry. Is this plant also known as the native currant?

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Mostly I was impressed with the tall straight gum trees, some with their ‘painted’ trunks.

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A gum tree with its curling bark, like gift parcel wrapping strands, attracted my attention.

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Further north, myrtle and other complex forests grew in rich profusions, sometimes creating dense dark forests.

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I passed by an area with stands of remarkable tall trees, so tall I needed two photos to show most of their height.

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More than a few trees have toppled over, or been blown down and wrenched from the ground so their roots are upturned.

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I loved the delicate and tiny trigger plants; luminous neon pink in colour.

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Tasmanian native mountain pepper (Tasmannia Lanceolata) bushes flourished everywhere.

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The bush was awash with a flush of native flowers, which I cannot identify.

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In the photo below, the low level vegetation beneath the powerlines near the southern end of the Lake is contrasted by the tall bush at the edges.

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The rocky shore

The low level of water on Lake King William exposed a wilderness of silvered dead trees (once ancient forests) and a rocky shore.  Sometimes the rocky shore extended flatly to the Lake and sometimes it dived down deeply. Where I camped on the first night, the distance of the water from the bank would have been at least fifty metres.  Elsewhere the wide rocky shoreline extended 100 or more metres.  A combination of various sized boulders, stones, fine gravel and the occasional sand, this shore line created a sometimes grey and sometimes yellow ring enclosing the huge expanse of lake.

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From the drowning of the landscape, the now receding waters are giving up the flotsam of driftwood.  The surfaces of the wood, smoothed by the action of the weather and the Lake, are stunningly beautiful.

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Lake King William

Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)’s mother country England was governed by 3 King Williams preceding settlement of Australia (Tasmania received its first European settlers in 1803).  William IV of the United Kingdom reigned from 1830 and lived until 1837. Indirectly our Lake King William which dams the Derwent River was named after the Fourth.

Watching over Lake King William is Mount King William and the King William Range. Wikipedia  reports that Mount King William was named during Sir John Franklin’s journey into western Tasmania in 1842.  Hydro Tasmania created the Lake in 1950 and referred to the nearby geographical features which had been named by European explorers in the 19th century, for its current name.

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The photo above with snow topping the Range was taken in October 2015. The photo below was taken in January 2016.

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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.

Taking stock

I feel emotional when I remember my recent walk to the source of the Derwent River. I had promised to write the stories and post them within days, but since returning I have felt overwhelmed by my breathtaking and wonderful experience and afraid to start writing.  In addition, I claimed to have walked the majority of the river’s length and I was afraid the claim was unfounded.

Today I have made the calculations and posted an update on the pages ‘How far have I walked’, ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ , and ‘The inspiration for my walk’ . To summarise, while I had hoped the number would have been closer to 100%, the fact is I have covered a smidgin over 2/3rds of the 215 km length of the Derwent River.

Of the remaining 70 kms, by my reckoning approximately 25 kms can be achieved relatively easily across farming or forestry land subject to permissions.  However, the remaining trackless, uncleared densely forested 45 kms of river edges may be a challenge I cannot rise to.  Blog followers may recall reading my earlier post Where is the source of the Derwent River? which introduced George Frankland’s discovery party’s finding that some of the bush between the area now known as Lake Repulse Dam (which did not exist when he was around in the early 19th century) and Butlers Gorge provoked a huge effort for grown men to cover little distance.  The landscape hasn’t changed since then.

Regardless, and as usual, my plan will be to continue walking.  But before then, I will share new posts and photos taken during my recent walks.  As a taster, the photos below shows forest and ferns in the Lake King William vicinity.

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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.

Yesterday I walked to the source of the Derwent River

Over the past four days I have enjoyed remote, off-the-main-track inland Tasmania from Clark Dam at Butlers Gorge, along the edge of Lake King William to the town ship of Derwent Bridge, and then further north to where the Derwent River commences out of the gates of St Clair Lagoon.  I continued further north also to the Weir which controls water into St Clair Lagoon from the Derwent Basin (which is kept filled with water flowing from Lake St Clair).  Dozens of posts with all the details of the walks, and accompanied by some grand photos, will be forthcoming over the coming days.

This latest walk means I have walked most of the length of the Derwent River from the mouth to the source.  There are only a few gaps to fill if I have the courage (or a moment perhaps of insanity because of the level of difficulty I believe is involved) in the coming weeks.

For the moment, I thought a few photos would be in order to whet your appetite for more.

The photo below shows one aspect of a view across Lake King William in the late afternoon.

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The photo below looks across Lake King William early in the morning.

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Sun passing through gum leaves.

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The Derwent River early morning near Derwent Bridge.

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The source of the Derwent River – the water as it leaves St Clair Lagoon. I was standing on the dam when I took the second photo, and watching the water run away eventually to pass New Norfolk then Hobart and finally exit into Storm Bay before dispersing into the wide ocean.  The whole experience was quite marvellous.  The river was fresh and alive!  And so was I!

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Tarraleah Canal No 2

Derwent River water from storage in Lake King William travels overground via a number of canals towards Tarraleah Power Station.

The water pours down a carefully calibrated though seemingly slight gradient at an exceptionally fast rate. When I stopped at a canal crossing walkway, I could see the concreted sides offered no purchase if you fell in; there were no hand-holds to grasp. Clearly, if you found yourself in that water, you would never get out and soon find yourself tumbling through the penstocks before reaching the Power Station. At some point you would drown.

Listen to our estimation of the situation.

Watch this video to hear the rush.

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This canal cuts a significant swathe through the landscape roughly one to two hundred or so metres away from the Derwent River, as noted in Chantale, Michelle and my aerial photos.

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Lake King William

Lake King William map

At the lower edge of my aerial photo below sits the Clark Dam with Lake King William backed up behind. The photo also shows clearly the road/track to be taken westwards to walk along the edge of the Lake.

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Behind the massive curved wall of Clark Dam sits millions of tonnes of water in a glorious expanse that extends over 15 kilometres northwestwards.

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At the boat ramp, a sign provides information for visitors.

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The water level of the Lake is extremely low.

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I loved the silver grey driftwood on the rocky shore and imagined the creation of rustic furniture.  That might become my next project.

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The views across the Lake were sensational.

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I should have chosen a panoramic photo option.  Fortunately my chauffeur and companion walker Andrew did take such a stunning shot.

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While there was no-one else around during our visit, this fireplace was an obvious sign of past visitors.

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I expect to walk the length of Lake King William solo before Christmas: 15 km ‘as the crow flies’, and possibly 30 kms to walk at ground level. Before I reach the Lyell Highway way up in a north westerly direction, the Derwent River will empty into Lake King William.

When I flew up the Derwent River, and when Lake King William came into view, it was clearly a massive stretch of water.  See Michelle’s photos below.

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Clark Dam

Clark Dam map

Late in October 2015, on the northern side of the Derwent River, I walked at Clark Dam built on Butlers Gorge, and then along a little of Lake King William. We know that in 1835, George Frankland followed the Derwent River in a southwesterly direction from Lake St Clair across huge plains until the gorge country commenced. The Clark Dam has been built at that junction, and over the decades the plains behind have been swamped with what is now known as Lake King William. The location is a place of extreme weather conditions, from blizzardly snows to ferocious and bitterly cold winds and to scorching sunny days, but always stunning.

Clark Dam is a massive piece of engineering in a beautiful but remote area of central Tasmania.

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Chantale’s aerial photograph below puts the Dam and Lake King William into context.

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Michelle’s photos below provide similar information.

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In 1952 a special tribute plaque was installed on the Dam: ‘The Hydro Electric Commission, Clark Dam, A Tribute, To those who conceived this project, who laboured on its construction, who made its accomplishment possible, a united effort to harness the forces of nature for the benefit of mankind.’

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Another plaque nearby records: ‘The Hydro Electric Commission, Clark Dam, Named in honour of his Excellency, Sir Ernest Clark,  G.C.M.G., K.C.B., C.B.E., Governor of this State, 1933- 1945.’

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My chauffeur for the day Andrew, remembered years ago he walked across the Dam wall but that is now impossible.

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This means it is impossible to change from one side of the Derwent River to the other at this point.  In the photo below despite the walkway beckoning a walker, it was impassably gated at the other end.

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The reminder that the Clark Dam is part of an electricity generating project is everywhere.

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