Maxwell’s Track and Surveying (13/02/21 – 14/02/21)

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.

Looking up towards 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.

A huge eucalypt in the coupe

A huge myrtle in the coupe


An upside down fungus


A canary worm (Fletchamia sugdeni)


A bracket fungus not being a bracket on a fallen eucalypt


Looking up through the trees


Some trees in the coupe


A beech orchid (Townsonia viridis)


(I think) a dog vomit slime mould

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.

An orange-rimmed satin moth (Thalaina selenaea)


A Kinemania ambulans on my tent


A eucalyptus leaf beetle (Trachymela rugosa)

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.

A native snail (Caryodes dufresnii)


Big strong myrtle

A huge bracket fungus on a fallen tree

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.

The Maxwell’s Track crossing of Winter Brook


King billy pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides)

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.

Some foam spread all over the rocks near a creek from when the water level was much higher a few days earlier

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.

Open myrtle forest close to the old carpark


Some big myrtles

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.

Looking down Sorell Creek after just coming off the Myrtle Forest Trail

Sorell Creek, kunanyi (12/12/20)

I have long been intrigued by the supposed waterfall on Sorell Creek in Wellington Park, marked as unconfirmed and named ‘Sorell Falls’ on the World Waterfall Database. Searching this name I hadn’t been able to find any information about the falls for some time, until I had the idea that people perhaps call this waterfall ‘Sorell Creek Falls’. This led to more success, turning up a couple of historic photos of the falls and an old map (which places the falls further upstream than the World Waterfall Database), but no evidence that this waterfall has been visited in the last 100 or so years. It is perfectly understandable that this waterfall hasn’t had any recent visitors, as it doesn’t appear to be particularly large, and requires a decent scramble up or down the creek from the nearest track to reach it. Even more recently, walking to the waterfall has become intensely difficult, requiring an awful scrub-bash along the closed and overgrown Myrtle Forest Trail before the creek is even reached. I’ve always known that trying to find this waterfall wouldn’t be a particularly fun walk, but given that I had no plans for the day, and I was running out of new walks to do in the park, I decided to go for it.

A historic photo of Sorell Creek Falls from Libraries Tas (date unknown)
A historic photo of Sorell Creek Falls from Libraries Tas (date unknown)

I started walking at about 9:30am, immediately being confronted by many signs telling me that the Big Bend Trail, the only route from Pinnacle Road to the old Myrtle Forest Trail that doesn’t involve a mountain ascent, was closed for track work. So, officially, I did not walk along the closed fire trail, and I will leave it to the reader to decide how I arrived at the entrance to the Myrtle Forest Trail. The Myrtle Forest Trail has been closed to all walkers since 2015, and closed indefinitely since 2019. As this track used to be a fire trail, I figured the overgrowth wasn’t going to be too bad, but seriously, this track is closed for a reason!

View from near the carpark. A great day for a walk!
View from near the carpark. A great day for a walk!

A jewel beetle on the track to Myrtle Forest Trail start (castiarina insularis)

Originally still having some resemblance of its fire trail past, the track soon descends into an enveloping cloud of cutting grass and beaura scrub. I was certainly the first to walk this track in some time, as there was no real evidence of a pad, nor any footsteps in the many sections of mud. The surrounding bush was delightfully serene and filled with wildlife, which somewhat made up for the poor walking conditions. I stopped at a relatively clear section to watch a ringtail possum (awake at midday), an olive whistler, and a pair of strong-billed honeyeaters ripping into the tree bark. Not long after this I reached a tributary to Sorell Creek, which now seems to have been diverted to run along the track, cutting a small gorge. At a few points the pools of water in the gorge got too deep and I had to scramble out, before jumping back in again when the scrub got too thick. Thankfully it was only about 1km to the creek, but the bash through the scrub through to the creek still took an hour.

A relatively cutting grass free section of Myrtle Forest Trail

One of the more road like sections of Myrtle Forest Trail

The track…

Sorell Creek is actually quite wide and is skirted by tree ferns and ancient fallen eucalypts, making for quite a beautiful setting. Being incredibly exhausted and not even half done with walking for the day, I decided while eating lunch that I wouldn’t be searching too far down the creek for the falls. I am glad that I had a bit of a scramble down the creek however, as I found some small cascades, some huge fallen trees and even a half-decent waterfall. I am quite confident the fall I found wasn’t Sorell Creek Falls, due to the lack of enormous boulder perched above, but I couldn’t push myself any further knowing I had to go back through that scrub.

Looking down Sorell Creek after just coming off the Myrtle Forest Trail
Looking down Sorell Creek after just coming off the Myrtle Forest Trail

A small cascade on Sorell Creek

A cascade created by a log on Sorell Creek

The small waterfall I found on Sorell Creek

The small waterfall I found on Sorell Creek

Sorell Creek Falls remains a mystery for now, but I hope that somebody up for the challenge is inspired by my journey and hunts down Sorell Creek Falls for themselves. If you find it, I would love to see a photo!