Feature Article - Bushwalking, Tasmania
Bushwalking in Tasmania has been a major source of physical recreation since the early 1900s. Organised, or club bushwalking, began in the early 1900s with the establishment of the Tasmanian Field Naturalist Club (TFNC) and then the Hobart Walking Club (HWC) in 1929.
The HWC grew with official support from the Director of the Government Tourist Bureau who, having noticed the number of walkers on the Sunday excursion trains in Melbourne, believed that by stimulating bushwalking in Tasmania he could secure passengers for the railways and at the same time provide another means of publicising Tasmania’s attractions.
Early bushwalking for those in the club was confined to within about 20 miles of Hobart. However by the late 1930s, long summer trips from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair became increasingly popular.
Bushwalking shared in the general post-war boom in recreational activity. Hobart Walking Club enrolments rose from 62 members in 1939-40 to 146 members in 1946-47. The increasing popularity of bushwalking in the State saw the development of the Launceston Walking Club (LWC) in 1946.
During the 1950s and 1960s there was an expansion in the number of areas visited by walkers. The south-western regions of the State became popular for long summer trips; new aerial photographs and maps, food drops from the air and air charter flights all helped make this remote region more accessible.
By 1960-61 the combined walking clubs in Tasmania had 470 members. The Hobart Walking Club had 85 walks per year with a yearly attendance of 1,064 people. Two-thirds of all walks that the Hobart Walking Club organised were day walks, 70% of all walks were within 20 miles of Hobart and most of these were around the Mt Wellington area. In contrast, the Launceston Walking Club organised trips further away in locations such as the northern beaches of the State and the Western Tiers.
The objectives of the Hobart Walking Club in its early days were to “encourage walking, skiing and similar outdoor activities, and promote interest in the preservation of flora, fauna and natural scenery”.
Tasmania’s reputation as a bushwalking centre has grown internationally, as visitors from Europe, New Zealand and North America come to Tasmania to sample the States bushwalking opportunities. However, the growth of bushwalking in Tasmania has come at a cost of environmental degradation.
Environmental problems include the rapid deterioration of walking tracks, the degradation and proliferation of campsites, the development of new unplanned tracks and crowding and sanitation problems.
To address the increasing problems associated with bushwalking, the Government has implemented the Walking Track Management Strategy for the World Heritage Area. Strategies to address the problems of visitor impacts include a comprehensive track works program; a focus on ‘Priority Erosion Control’; an expanded education program, and ongoing monitoring and research. In addition, walker limits on tracks are being considered.
Throughout the State there are over 1000 kilometres of established tracks and routes ranging from easy family walks of up to several hours duration to more arduous walks up to days, even weeks, in duration.
Walks around Mt Wellington
Mt Wellington is one of the most popular destinations for walkers being only 15 minutes drive from Hobart’s city centre. There are dozens of walks ranging in time and difficulty. The walks, as they ascend and descend the mountain, pass through different types of environment ranging from dry sclerophyll to temperate rainforest to alpine environments.
The Overland Track
The Overland track is an 80-kilometre long track that passes through high plains, rainforest and button grass in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The park is one of Tasmania’s most popular walking destinations, with the Overland track attracting about 4,500 walkers each year. The popularity of the track is evidenced by the increasing number of visitors each year, reaching 7,202 visitors in 1998. The walk takes between four and seven days crossing from north to south through landforms formed by glaciation. Walkers also pass through button grass plains and thick forests of myrtle, King Billy Pine, Pencil Pine, Sassafras and Celery Top Pine. Walkers can also get glimpses of native fauna such as the Tasmanian Pademelon, Bennett's Wallaby, the Tasmanian Devil, the Long-tailed Mouse and the Eastern Quoll.
South Western Tasmania
The south-west of the State is undoubtedly the most rugged region and can only be reached by walking, flying or boat. There are several tracks in south-western Tasmania including the popular South Coast and Port Davey Tracks which cross through button grass plains and pass over mountain ranges. These walking tracks lie entirely within the Southwest National Park and take you through the heart of 600,000 hectares of wild country. In 1998, 924 people attempted the 5-8 day, eighty-kilometre long, South Coast Track.
This track leads to the top of the magnificent white quartzite dome of Frenchman’s Cap at a height of 1443 metres above sea level. It is known as one of the more arduous walks in the State, the track length being 46 kilometres and taking three to five days for the return trip. Each year around 700 walkers use the track, with about 600 visiting from December to March. In 1998 the number of walker registrations for those attempting the walk was 688 persons.
TRACKS IN NATIONAL PARKS, WALKER REGISTRATIONS, 1998(a)
|South Coast(c) |
|Port Davey(c) |
|Frenchman’s Cap |
(a) Numbers include only walkers who registered and represents their intention.
(b) Sum of registrations at Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair.
(c) Sum of registrations to walk the length of the track, in any direction, irrespective of starting point.
(d) All overnight walkers registered in the park.
Source: Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment and Tasmanian Statistical Indicators (Cat. no. 1303.6).
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