This was to be my first trip off into the bush since the South Coast Track almost a month ago. This is an unusually large break from bushwalking for me, but a combination of my last walking experience, and being horribly busy kept me from venturing out. Since returning from the South Coast, I have moved out of my Hobart house, helped my housemates move into their new house, fought to have our rental bond returned (we got it back by the way), and moved to Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania.
Living on the west coast opens up a whole heap of new bushwalking opportunities, and I’m excited to spend a lot of time exploring old tracks and roads through the bush. My first overnight walk here ended up being up in the North West though, around the foothills of the tremendous Black Bluff. The purpose of this trip was to survey a soon to be logged section of native forest halfway up Black Bluff, but we also camped for a night, intending to have a long scenic walk back out.
We started the walk from the car park for the popular, but un-maintained Winterbrook Falls track. To get to the car park for this walk, you have to weave through a maze of forestry roads in a large section of plantation forest south of Nietta, with hardly any signs to guide you. The current car park for the walk is 800 metres back from the original car park due to some serious road erosion (really big holes in the ground) and the start of the walk is indicated by some scribbling on an old road-works sign. Supposedly, management of this track has recently been handed over from forestry to Parks and Wildlife, so we may see some work done on it soon (although maybe not).
We quickly diverted from this track along an old forestry road heading North-West. This road leads through some young regrowth forest and at a few points had some nice views up to Black Bluff.
While it was young forest, it had clearly been left long enough for the bridge across a Winter Brook tributary to have completely collapsed. The creek was crossable, but considering my recent experiences with creek crossings on the South Coast, I wasn’t too keen on that. We managed to utilise the remaining logs of the fallen bridge to cross “safely”, though it did feel as though the logs were going to collapse underfoot.
We continued onwards, slowly ascending until we reached the junction of our road, Maxwell’s Track, and an even older logging road that leads down to Loongana, close to the Leven Canyon carpark. Here we set up our camp and headed off into the logging coupe for many hours. The coupe is predominantly rainforest, with a section of eucalypts to the south. We found some surprisingly large eucalypts and myrtles that must have been spared when some of this area was originally logged 60+ years ago.
We stopped to have some dinner before heading back out until it got too dark. I spent some time wandering around looking at moths and other insects before we went into our tents and fell asleep listening to the calls of ringtail possums scrambling in the trees above us.
The next morning we spent a few more hours out in the coupe before returning to have a bit of lunch and pack up camp. I said goodbye to the eucalyptus leaf beetle that had hung around my tent the whole time we had been here and we headed off along Maxwell’s Track for a lengthy, scenic return back to the cars. I don’t know any of the history of this track, or where the name Maxwell comes from, but I can only assume it was once used as access for selectively logging king billy pine in the past, as the Winterbrook Falls track follows an old tramway used for that purpose.
Maxwell’s Track follows an old road for a while, meandering slowly uphill through a lot of thick bauera scrub before one by one, giant myrtle trees appear. As the track entered the regional reserve, it thinned out into a real bush track, and the understory opened up, with the cover of the looming myrtles blocking out the sun. This section was an absolute joy to walk through, and we took a lot of time to admire the trees and look at fungi, devil poo, birds, native snails, and moss.
As the track kept ascending, we noticed some long spiky things on the ground. We soon realised that they had fallen from king billy pines, and we looked up to see some king billys extending their arms out over us. As they prefer higher elevation, we naturally encountered more and more of these spectacular, and strange, trees as we kept rising. We also spotted some huge yellow gums off in the distance.
Maxwell’s Track crosses Winter Brook just before it connects with the Winterbrook Falls track. Thankfully on that day the Brook wasn’t flowing too heavily and we could safely rock hop across. The Brook itself was quite picturesque, with dark brown water stained from the buttongrass up the top of Black Bluff and moss and small plants skirting its edge. We turned down the Winterbrook Falls Track, heading back to the car. We didn’t visit the waterfall today as we were already running a bit late, but I will one day return for it.
The section of track just after the turnoff was, at the time of writing, quite badly covered in fallen trees, and some serious acrobatics had to be done to weave through them in places. This was made up for though by some enormous king billys. We even found one with a circumference of at least 7 or 8 metres! Some of the king billys in this area, which were thankfully spared from logging, are estimated to be over 2000 years old.
After most of the fallen trees were weaved through, the walk was very pleasant, and leads through some of the most beautiful rainforest I’ve encountered in Tasmania, certainly on par with some areas protected in the World Heritage Area.
Closer to the carpark, the track flattened out, and evidence of the old tramway was more obvious, with some parts of the tramway still intact. This whole flat section was more open huge myrtle forest. It’s quite strange to stand in a temperate rainforest and be able to see more than 100 metres all around you. It was very easy walking through here, with solid flat track and boardwalk leading all the way out to the old Winterbrook Falls car park. From here it was just another 800 metres along flat road through regrowth forest to the car. The young myrtles regrowing here are all growing close together, interestingly in a hedge-like formation along the side of the road. This made me think about how great growing a hedge of myrtle would be as opposed to the non-native hedges that people surround their houses with at the moment.
If you’re ever around inland North-West Tasmania, or are visiting the Leven Canyon and are hungry for more, it is certainly worth looking up the directions to the Winterbrook car park and walking either to the falls, or just the rainforest loop (up to Maxwell’s Track and back to the car park along the Winterbrook Falls Track).
This area is not just under threat from logging, but also from a new power-line project that will cut straight through the Loongana valley. The towers in these lines will be almost as tall as the Wrest Point Casino in Hobart and a continuous 90 metre wide, 11 kilometre long strip of forest will be cleared, dividing Black Bluff from the Loongana range. These towers will be visible from Black Bluff and the Leven Canyon lookout and have significant impacts on the ecology, tourism, and residents of the area. The group: SOLVE Tasmania is dedicated to stopping the project and have much more information available on their website.