The Raglan Range (30/11/20 – 01/12/20)

The Raglan Range is an incredible area of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area with an intriguing history. Just a short walk west of the popular Nelson Falls short walk on the Lyell Highway is an old rusty gate, swinging open over the Nelson River. Just beyond this gate a wooden bridge once marked the start of the Raglan Range road, constructed and used by the Bradshaw family to log burnt out King Billy Pines atop the range. I had a keen interest in the gate and what lay beyond after spotting it driving between Hobart and Strahan. From observing the old TASMAP layer on the LISTmap, I figured that this gate marked the start of an old track that walkers sometimes use as an alternate route out of Frenchmans Cap. It was also clear from the ESRI imagery layer that this road would still be traceable on foot, so I was intrigued to follow this road and see just how overgrown it was, and how far we could get. The road is now massively overgrown in parts, through at the time of writing is still clear enough to follow with care taken in the more dense parts.

The Bradshaws likely began construction on the logging road in 1930-40’s and it was used to obtain burnt King Billy logs at least through to the 50’s and 60’s. The Raglan Range area was and still is, despite the logging, covered in burnt King Billy Pines. It is fairly widely accepted that these pines all burnt in a severe bushfire that spread over the range in the Summer of 1897-98. Ruins of an old sawmill and some other buildings remain close to the peak of the range. Large drainages are now cut in the truck and much of the road was reforested in 1993.

 

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View of the West Coast range and Gormanston

 

Leaving our cars at the Nelson Falls carpark, we set off at around 9:30am on Monday the 30th of November on a perfectly clear, but uncomfortably hot day. Crossing the Nelson River at the old bridge site didn’t provide too much of a challenge, but could certainly be dangerous given large rainfall. Immediately after crossing the river we were greeted by two signs telling us that the (nonexistent) bridge is unsafe to cross, and that the road ahead was closed. The first section though the wet forest close to the river was the most overgrown of the entire track, and was absolutely packed with leeches. Navigating wasn’t too difficult however, as the vegetation growing on the road was noticeably younger than the bush either side of it. A few times it was necessary to leave the road for a small while before returning to avoid the worst of the bauera scrub. Eventually we reached a much more road-like track as we began ascending up the range. This continued for some time, with great views out to the West Coast range and Gormanston.

Eventually the track led back into a more dense, wet forest. This section of the road was obviously more difficult to cut, as it occasionally cuts through what feel like mini canyons that have been dug out for the road to pass through. The forest in this section of the track was very enjoyable to walk through, with the melalueca and satinwood overstory almost completely blocking out the piercing sun and the road entirely covered in blechnum ferns. Brown thornbills seem to love this area, and could be heard chirping throughout this whole section. Eventually we emerged back into the sunlight, and subalpine vegetation. The Tasmanian waratahs were out in full flower and were scattered all along this next section of the track. The track continued similarly for a while, becoming gradually more open and more road-like as we ascended.

 

Tasmanian Waratah (telopea truncata)
Tasmanian Waratah (telopea truncata)

We soon encountered the old sawmill ruins along this subalpine section, from which there were more great views out to the West Coast range. This is the most ideal place to pitch a tent if planning an overnight walk up the Raglan Range, although we camped a bit lower down on a flat(ish) piece of road in order to have a quicker walk out the next morning to avoid incoming strong winds and rain. We set up our camp on the way up and packed some water, snacks and an EPIRB in a day pack to continue walking up to the trig point.

Some ruins at the sawmill site
Some ruins at the sawmill site

 

A very old can of Boag's Draught
A very old can of Boag’s Draught

 

Christmas Bells (blandfordia grandiflora)
Tasmanian Christmas Bells (blandfordia punicea)

 

View of the West Coast range from the sawmill site
View of the West Coast range from the sawmill site

From here it was only a short walk up to the trig point along a quite clear section of the road. Near the peak, we were lucky enough to witness countless Macleays swallowtail butterflies (graphium macleayanus) fluttering above us. From the trig point there were astounding 360 degree views and far too many peaks visible to name them all. Perhaps most impressive was the view of Frenchmans Cap and its surrounding peaks

Frenchmans Cap and nearby peaks in the background with Flat Bluff (left) and Mt Mary (right) in the foreground
Frenchmans Cap and nearby peaks in the background with Flat Bluff (left) and Mt Mary (right) in the foreground

 

Despite the incredible views, we didn’t stick around too long as we were starting to feel the effects of the heat and our water supply in the day pack was running low. Walking back to the camp was much quicker than heading up, and we soon re-hydrated ourselves and had a nap in the shade. The walk back from our campsite the next morning was quick as we had planned, and we managed to avoid the incoming heavy weather. Although, we returned to a car with a flat battery, which leads me to believe the Nelson Falls car park is cursed, as another account of this walk from rockmonkeyadventures described the exact same thing happening! We luckily had two cars as one of us lives in Strahan and the other in Hobart, and were able to drive to Gormanston to find phone reception and call RACT to jump start the car. This unfortunately meant that as we were driving back and forth, we faced the full force of the intense winds and rain so hard our windscreen wipers couldn’t keep up!

While I would recommend an overnight trip for this walk, it is certainly doable in a Summer’s day, taking around 8 to 9 hours. It is very important to note that there is nowhere on this walk aside from the Nelson River to fill up a drink-bottle, so take at least 3 litres per person (plus extra if you’re using some for cooking). If you are interested in precise route details and information on extending this walk further, I recommend checking out the description of the Raglan Range walk on rockmonkeyadventures.

An ancient relic
An ancient relic

Halls Lemon Twist, made in Launceston
Halls Lemon Twist, made in Launceston

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