Tag Archives: Tasmania

Starting out for the source of the Derwent River

I turned north and walked off the Lyell Highway along the road leading to Lake St Clair and other locations including the source of the Derwent River.  As I walked beside the River, I revelled in the colours of that pure water, and in the mystery of its twists and turns.

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The water clarity was such that I could see the bottom of the River easily.

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I passed an area designed for helicopters to land. There were none waiting, but I heard and saw many flying around every day giving tourists a bird’s eye views of the terrain.

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I loved the sign alerting drivers to be aware of walkers. The one below amused me because it was placed about 1 or 2 kms from the Lyell Highway and it occurred to me that if walkers were on the road after the sign then they had to be on the road before the sign as well. Like me.

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Then there was one of my favourite tall-story telling signs.

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This sign suggests our Tasmanian Kangaroos are larger and stronger than a car.  While mainland Australia has some giant sized ‘roos, our Tasmanians grow to a more modest size. However, in any collision, while our kangaroos won’t pick up a car, the power of the contact as they jump into the car’s path can send a car careering off the road perhaps towards a tree, or severely dent it, and personal injuries may result.  That is, both our kangaroos and our wallabies can unexpectedly cause major vehicle accidents.  By the way, our wildlife do not know what we write on signs. When a sign alerts motorists to be aware between dusk and dawn, they may be forgiven if surprised by an animal running or hopping on the road at other times of day.  Motorists must expect a rare occasion when a ‘Jonathan Living Seagull’, a maverick, an animal demonstrating great independence will suddenly appear.

On a more pleasant note and through my walk, the early morning birdsong was a delight. Listen to their crystal clear sounds on this video.

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.

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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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.

Help is on its way

Tasmania is fortunate to have excellent emergency services so that when you need help, ambulances, fire trucks, police, and special emergency services (SES) come to your aid.  Sometimes this involves boats and sometimes this involves helicopters. In a local newspaper article earlier this week, the Westpac Rescue helicopter collected people from five locations. Two of these are connected with the Derwent River.

One person fell down a cliff at Pearsons Point, the location which,in my estimation represents the western mouth of the Derwent.  Long term readers of this blog may recall my photographs from this location – high up and looking out and across to Bruny Island. When I walked there, I remember making the decision not to try and clamber down the cliff.  Reading this news story now makes me glad that I resisted the opportunity to get closer to the water.

The article reported another person was rescued from somewhere near Lake St Clair, and the source of the Derwent River is that Lake.

It does not matter where you are, if you can signal for help (don’t forget your Personal Locator Beacon) then Tasmania’s rescue services will reach you.

The inspirers

Congratulations to all the bloggers who celebrate the wonders of our world.  I hope those listed below may inspire my blog followers to be excited by the opportunities to see beautiful landscapes whether close to home or thousands of miles away.

In particular, I am inspired by all those who present Tasmania with glorious photographs and introductions to the geographical nooks and crannies that walkers, cyclists, rowers, kayakers, skiers, sailors and drivers find.  It has been my privilege this year to discover new sites, whose owners love what they find and then share it with the world.  Amongst these, you can find informative and stunningly beautiful photos of Tasmania’s Derwent River.

Here are some of my favourite blogs.

  • Showcasing Tasmania is No Visible Means
  • Traverse our life highlights more Tasmanian beauties by new arrivals to this State
  • This Amazing Planet presents photographs Tasmania, mainland Australia and more broadly overseas
  • The blog, Tasmanian Beaches is being written by a person who plans to find every Tasmanian beach by walking, cycling, sailing or kayaking.
  • For mainland Australia vistas, I love those posted by Solo Hiker. From Home to Roam
  • Life:Kitt shows me colourful photos of cities on mainland Australia
  • The couple of guys who write Everyday Adventures transport me to places in Australia and around the world, give me a new perspective on the familiar and encourage me to seek out more of the unfamiliar.

In addition, the photographs and written content of many overseas bloggers uplift me.  Some examples:

A few bloggers and I have developed a wonderful mutual adoration society because we enjoy what each of us shows in our blogs.  In particular, I love the blogs of

Perhaps you have found blogsites that inspire you. If you think they may interest me or other bloggers then please add the details in a comment to this posting.

Getting perspective

I discovered the following graphic on the Australian Native T-Shirts website.

For readers who do not know Australia well, note Hobart is located at the southern end of the island state of Tasmania at the bottom of the country.  Slightly east of Hobart is where the Derwent River flows out into the sea.  The source of the Derwent River is located north west of Hobart roughly in the centre of Tasmania.

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A comparison map showing Australia and the United States of America is located at the site ‘On Walkabout’.

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Finally, I found a most amusing map with multiple overlays of Australia across the world.

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Seeing such images certainly helps me to understand the scale of our nations.

Clark Dam

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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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Aboriginal Cultural Walks in Tasmania

Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service provides information about an Aboriginal Cultural walk, the Needwonnee Walk, in the very remote southwest of Tasmania.  In addition, information is provided about a cultural walk at Lake St Clair – here. The Tiagarra Walk in Devonport on the north-west coast of Tasmania, is introduced on this website. Last weekend I visited Devonport and went to walk in this Mersey Bluff area before learning that the site was closed.  Alas.

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However, I was born and grew up west of Devonport where I could look out at Bass Strait during those early years of my life.  Standing and listening to Bass Strait with the onshore breeze blowing into my face brought back many memories.  This felt right. This was my place. I knew my place.

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Watch this video to hear the sound of the Bass Strait waves lapping the stony shore near Mersey Bluff.

Journalist David Beniuk reported (Sunday Tasmanian 1 November 2015) that a survey of Australian holiday makers found ‘more than a third of domestic tourists would consider an Aboriginal cultural walk on their next trip to Tasmania.’ He went on to say ‘The results have buoyed the proponents of a four-day trek through the traditional homeland of Tasmania’s Aborigines from wukalina (Mt William National Park) to larapuna (Eddystone Point) in the North East.’

The Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania is seeking funds to build huts based on Aboriginal building practices, and to set up the walk as a commercial operation.  The walk would include traditional stories, bush tucker and premium Tasmanian produce.  I like the concept of a four day walk because it provides sufficient time for walkers to forget their city or other lives and immerse themselves in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of the land.

Maps of Tasmania

The Tasmanian Government offers a website which links together a number of different interchangeable map views that include Google maps but many more.  Go to Maps of TasmaniaThis site includes a drop down Tools menu with various options for drawing and marking areas on maps.

UNESCO and Tasmania’s wilderness

Matt Smith reported (‘Heritage sites get UN check. Team on way to state’, in Sunday Tasmanian 8 Nov 2015) that Tasmanian government agencies and land conservation associations are ‘gearing up for a visit from UNESCO officials who investigate concerns about logging and mining in World Heritage Areas’.  Apparently UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has concerns about the current Tasmanian government’s ‘plan to allow logging and mining in the state’s 1.5 million hectares of protected world heritage area. The World Heritage Committee has repeatedly reiterated its position that mineral exploration and exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status’.  Acting Environment, Parks and Heritage Minister Jeremy Rockliff is reported as saying, ‘We recognise the importance and significance of the TWWHA (Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area) and the importance of managing it in a way that is respectful of its natural and cultural values’. I hope to see UNESCO’s decision is accepted.

Personal Locator Beacon – walkers have one with them

Recently I posted the story of a man who got lost for two days and then was lucky to get out of the Mt Anne region without a Personal Locator Beacon.  Today the news is that a couple of walkers needed to use their Personal Locator Beacon in the same area.  This good news can be read here.  I am pleased to read that the walkers plan to make a donation because the cost of their rescue would have been thousands of dollars.

Both stories are timely reminders of how difficult the terrain can be in Tasmania. When coupled with the uncertainties of extreme weather, the walking experience can become very dangerous.

The sheen on Shene

No.  The historic Shene property is not reflected in the Derwent River. Nevertheless it shines bright in my memory for the number of stunningly well restored and conserved 19th century sandstone buildings.

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The Shene Estate, located just north of Pontville, covers many acres only a few kilometres inland from Bridgewater which sits on the Derwent River.  A few months ago a brilliant photographer, one of my blog followers, presented a set of images that stopped me in my tracks (pun not intended) – have a look.

When I visited last Friday, one of the owners, Anne Kernke enthralled me with the history of the property. Long term blog readers know that I get excited by many things and where possible I try and make a connection with the Derwent River, simply because I want to write a record.  I was on high alert the moment Anne mentioned the Derwent.  When she said that one of the key family members died near Pearson’s Point which is the location where I suggest the mouth of the river is located on the western shore, I knew I had reason to create a post.

Edward Paine/Payne emigrated to Van Diemens Land in 1820 and his eldest daughter married Gamaliel Butler who established the Shene estate. Unfortunately Edward drowned when travelling in a small boat with others because a boatman went “to the mast-head, which a small boat would not bear”. The boat capsized and it seems Edward could not swim. Anne Kernke has provided the following information: “an ill-fated boat trip to North West Bay, where Paine was looking for land to purchase.[1] The Hobart Town Gazette gave a very detailed account of the day’s tragic events:

It falls to our painful lot to record one of the most distressing and melancholy accidents which has ever occurred in this Settlement. On Saturday afternoon last, Mr. Edward Payne (who arrived recently in the ‘Deveron’), Mr Wickham Whitchurch, Mr James Kay, and Mr George Read, Superintendent of Government carpenters, left the port in a boat with three men to go to North-west Bay. On their way, they put into Tinder-box Bay, about 10 o’clock at night; but not finding the landing good, they determined to go on to the Government huts at North West Bay. When the boat had got about 300 yards, from the shore, the halyards being jammed in the mast-head, one of the boatmen went up to clear them, and in an instant the boat overset. With difficulty, and by the assistance of a Government boat which was in the bay, all were saved but Mr. Payne and Mr. Read. There was scarcely any wind or swell at the time; and this unhappy accident was caused solely by the man going to the mast-head, which a small boat would not bear. Mr. Whitchurch is an expert swimmer, and knowing that Mr. Kay could not swim, laid hold of him, and conveyed him within 50 yards of the shore, but from extreme weakness, was compelled to leave him for his own preservation. Mr Kay, although he never swam before, struggled through a thick bed of sea-kelp in deep water, and made the shore. Mr W. in the meantime floated on his back to recover his strength, until the Government boat came to their help.

Late on Sunday evening, accounts of the melancholy event reached Hobart Town; and upon its general circulation on Monday morning, it occasioned a sensation of feeling and regret proportioned to the estimation in which the unfortunate sufferers were held, and the loss inflicted by their sudden and premature fate. The body of Mr. Payne was found on Sunday, near the place where the boat overset. A Coroner’s Inquest on Tuesday gave a verdict of Drowned by Accident.’[2]

1]Journal of Peter Harrison, 1822, Royal Society of Tasmania, p.40 (typed copy)

[2] Hobart Town Gazette, 13 July 1822, p.2

On the following day, the distraught Mrs Paine was visited by the Reverend Robert Knopwood, who spent the evening trying to console her for her loss. Several days later, Knopwood conducted Paine’s burial service at the Hobart Town Cemetery (now St. David’s Park) on the 6th July 1822. The headstone was removed when the old cemetery was converted to the present day park.”  St David’s Park is in the Salamanca precinct which sits by the Derwent River at the edge of Hobart’s CBD.

Currently, to help support the expensive and meticulous restoration work across the Shene property, the owners provide guided tours by appointment, keep polo horses and will soon have competitions (the Hobart Polo Club now call Shene home and they use the 1851 stables as their clubhouse), they operate a distillery making a filtered and an unfiltered smooth tasting Gin, and much much more. More information can be read on the Shene website.

Brilliant bird’s eye view

Thankyou blog follower Ju.  Recently Ju connected me with a woman with a husband who has a Private Pilot’s Licence.  Once I made contact, Michelle and Dave were delighted to fly me in their four seater plane, a Cirrus SR20 which Michelle referred to as the BMW of the skies.

Today we flew.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Clean blue sky. Hardly a breeze.  The landscape rich and varied.  The Derwent River sparkled from start to finish.

The experience was stunningly magnificent.  I love words but I find it difficult to express my excitement, my pleasure, and the sheer joy of the flight in the depth which I felt.  There below me was the river I have come to love and know a little more. There below me were the tracks, paths, roads and landscape over which I have walked – and I laughed occasionally remembering certain experiences during my walks. There below me were logging tracks, dam roads, and fading vehicular pathways.  And then we were flying over impenetrable sections which may not be walkable.

We left Hobart airport and flew to Storm Bay by rounding the Iron Pot, then we followed the river upstream to the source. Dave flew on until we reached the northern most point of Lake St Clair. The return journey was equally as beautiful and engaging. The light had changed presenting us with a ‘new’ landscape.

Of the hundreds of photos taken by Michelle, friend Chantale and myself, I include a tiny selection here.

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The photo above taken by Michelle caught me totally preoccupied by the view.

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MIchelle’s photo above shows the Derwent River snaking around the Claremont Golf course with Cadbury’s Chocolate Manufacturing buildings in white to the left.

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The photo above shows a straight section of the Derwent River before the township of New Norfolk on the upper left.

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The photo above shows the Derwent River circling part of Reid’s cherry orchards.

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Chantale’s photo of the Pumphouse Point accommodation projecting into Lake St Clair, also shows the dam across the Derwent Basin where the water enters St Clair Lagoon.  The source of the Derwent River starts to the right of the photo.

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Michelle’s photo above shows part of sprawling Hobart set against the Derwent Harbour.

Those photos taken while flying over the river westwards of Gretna will be incorporated into the stories of my walks from Gretna onwards, in future posts.  From now on, you can expect both ground-based and aerial photos to enrich the stories.
I feel like the luckiest person in the world for the opportunity to travel in a smooth flying small plane, to see the Derwent River winding through the landscape in glorious blueness, and to be reminded Tasmania is a superb place. A truly wonderful and memorable day. Thankyou to all concerned.

Dangerous rivers

The Derwent is ranked No.8 in the country’s top 10 most dangerous inland waterways, with 12 victims since 2001,’ said David Beniuk in his article “Don’t run the risk in rivers”, published in The Sunday Tasmanian yesterday.

He explained that ‘Tasmanians are being reminded of the dangers of their beautiful, but potentially deadly rivers in a national campaign.’

The Royal Life Saving Society says ‘We are a state that absolutely loves our waterways … But our inland waterways, in terms of drowning fatalities, are really where it’s happening in Tasmania. The perception is that the still waters of a river are calm and are safe. But it’s what we don’t see and don’t know, things like ice cold water, snags, things like tree branches as well as river currents, that often get people without notice.’

Beniuk reports that ‘The state registered the highest per capita rate in the country, with men over 55 at risk.’  He noted a number of things we can do which offer protection: ‘wearing a regularly serviced life jacket, avoiding alcohol, never swimming alone, knowing the area, telling people where and when you’re going and learning first aid.’ In addition, ‘checking weather conditions and the Maritime and Safety Tasmania website were also important.’

This article was timely; over the weekend a friend urged me to stay with my decision not to canoe/kayak down the Derwent River.  As I mentioned in a recent post, a strong fit male family friend canoed down a short section and had never been so frightened.  I got the message then.