The plan was to check out an incredible double arched dam wall near Strathgordon. But Tasmania’s many diversions always have a way of keeping Kev Smith on the road that little bit longer. These were the highlights of his road trip to Gordon Dam.
Mt Field National Park
An overnight stop near the little village of Maydena in the heart of Tassie started this adventure, where a local told me about the Gorgon Dam wall. But before heading out there, exploring the stunning Mount Field National Park was on the cards. Mount Field was the very first national park declared in Tassie to protect its precious environment for the future. Only an hour’s drive from Hobart, it’s a popular park throughout the year. In summer the walks are a cool relief from the sun’s heat, yet in winter skiing is available at the peak of Mount Field along several trails.
The most popular spot is the short walk to Russell Falls. One of Tassie’s 60 Great Short Walks, it’s also regarded as the most photographed waterfall in Tasmania. With a quick 20 minute walk and a constant water flow surrounded by huge tree ferns, it’s not hard to see why. The walk meanders through gorgeous ferns and mossy stumps as huge old growth timber towers over giving a canopy to the lower plant life.
After reaching Russell Falls, it’s worth continuing on to the other spectacular highlights on the loop trail. Further along the marked walking trail, Horseshoe Falls is another example of the park’s beauty. Continue along to the Tall Timber area to discover some of the largest trees in Australia, which have thankfully been protected from local logging practices. The local eucalypt trees are estimated to be 450 years old and some of the ones that can be viewed are 100 metres tall, putting them amongst the largest living things in the world.
If you’ve come this far a little extra effort takes you to Lady Barron Falls, which according to some locals that I got talking to, thunders down here all year round. Looping around the easy trails leads you back down to the main centre of Mount Field. The area was discovered back in 1856 and now attracts tourists worldwide with its natural beauty. For a deeper appreciation of the park, inside the centre there’s a curiosity room illustrating the life of the forest, the animals that call it home, and the local history.
Farm, bike and rail trails
If you time your visit with raspberry season the local farms open to visitors, with an array of jams, wines and festivals to showcase these tantalising sweet berries. Nearby Maydena has some of the best mountain bike tracks in all of Australia. These world class parks have 60 individual downhill tracks for different skill levels. From highly technical to free flowing rides down the mountain, you’ll drop almost 1000m back to the start of the trails.
Another local attraction, and the only one in the state, is the Maydena Rail Track Ride where you pedal specially designed rail carts on the old narrow gauge tramway through different landscapes and past rail relics from years gone by. These are a great way to burn off a little energy and are kid-friendly too.
Alpine views and lakeside camps
After a couple of hours here it’s time to start the drive out to Gordon Dam. No need to rush the 80km drive, as the road out takes you through an array of different landscapes and the scenery is nothing short of stunning in every direction. It starts through huge pine plantations where controlled logging makes for some fascinating viewing as Goliath machines harvest the pines. The last place to grab a coffee is Florentine, known for its old growth forests and unique animals. It was here that the last known Tasmanian tigers were sadly hunted back in 1929.
Heading out further along the Gordon River Dam Road the landscape clears to low heath and button grass plains that have been shaped by strong winds and cold, crisp winters. Glacial mountains cast huge shadows across the area and give awe-inspiring views at nearly every turn.
The mountains overshadow massive lakes that collect rain, snow and ice-melt running down the hillsides all year round. If you’ve got a National Parks pass, there’s some great designated camping areas right beside the lakes, which you can also fish and boat in. I camped at Teds Beach where the serenity was second to none, with crystal clear night skies, a beautiful silence in the air and sunrises across the glassy lake that have to be seen to be believed.
It’s only a short drive to the dam from Teds Beach, and from the moment the dam comes into view, the wow factor hits you. The stats don’t put this unique structure into perspective, but we can try. At 200m long and 140 metres high, it’s actually the tallest dam on the Apple Isle, but it’s the curved structure and lack of spillway that make it particularly special. Visitors can walk down the 600-odd steps and walk across the wall to experience the unusual sensation of the dam curving back under you.
Astonishingly, the dam is actually higher that the Sydney Harbour Bridge and holds back more water than the entire Sydney basin area. The power station is 185 metres below the dam wall. Here, a drain pipe feeds water from the base of the dam into the power station to operate several turbines that produce nearly 15% of Tassie’s power.
From start to finish, I found this road trip awe-inspiring. The drive out to the dam should be on everyone’s list, but with so much to see along the way, it’s certainly not to be rushed.
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