Exploring Tasmania's Central Lakes (From the Wall to Waddamana)
Tasmania's Hydro-Electric Scheme
The Central Lakes of Tasmania are home to the state's hydro-electric scheme, which started privately in 1910 but continued under government ownership after the initial owners ran into financial difficulty. There are 40 lakes under the governance of Hydro-Tasmania; they are used for the production of electricity and are also stocked with trout for seasonal fishing.
I ventured into the Central Lakes area from Strahan, travelling through Queenstown, Gormanston and the 99 hairpin bends to Derwent Bridge. It was raining and visibility was low, so it was a tense drive—with a rock face to my left and a precipitous drop to the right. Cars race over this road as part of Targa Australia. I certainly wasn’t racing.
The Wall in the Wilderness
Near Derwent Bridge is The Wall in the Wilderness—a 100-metre-long sculpture carved by one man—Greg Duncan. The wall is housed in a large building, well-lit and with warming fires burning. The sculpture is carved from Huon Pine and depicts scenes relating to the history of the area. It’s amazing.
Unfortunately, you are not allowed to touch it or to take photographs, and I really wanted to reach out and touch those beautiful surfaces and textures. There are other wood sculptures surrounding The Wall—coats and hats and Tasmanian Tigers. It is well worth a visit. No photographs are permitted but you can visit the official site for a glimpse of the sculpture.
Waddamana Power Station
While in the area, I visited Waddamana Power Station. It was the first power station in the area, although it has long been closed. Both the power station and town are now a heritage area; the power station operates as a museum with a few remaining cottages used for guests and school camps. I enjoyed meandering through the power station. It really is part of a bygone era, with timber furniture in the office and examples of early electrical appliances, as well as the solid equipment used to generate electricity.
I did have ideas about trout fishing, but a taste of the weather persuaded me that this is not for the faint-hearted. Did I mention that it was cold? After a few days, I decided to head to lower altitudes, driving through thick mist with minimal visibility to Deloraine where the temperature was a sunny 17 degrees. Phew!
I continued to Pump-House Bay campsite on the shores of Arthurs Lake. It had stopped raining by now, but the wind was blowing across the lake. It was bitterly cold. The camp manager told me that he hoped it wouldn’t snow but from the feel of the wind, he was pretty sure it would. Thankfully, the camp had hot showers (accessed by feeding a gold coin into the machine) because it did snow that evening. Not much, just some soft falling flakes that melted as soon as they touched the ground.
And it snowed again in the morning. My two dogs were sitting out watching with fascination as the flakes slowly descended. They hightailed into the tent as soon as the flakes began to land on them. Yep, it sure was cold.
Which made me think of the living conditions workers endured when working on the construction of the hydro-lakes and power stations. I was there in March when the weather is relatively mild. In winter, you can be snowed in for weeks. There are few facilities, even now, and in the early 1900s, there would have been very little indeed. Old shacks remaining from the construction era have been repurposed as holiday accommodation, and there are other, newer holiday shacks, most of which are used seasonally over the summer months.
Carting equipment and materials to the area was done by horse and cart during construction of the scheme. Workers minimized the quantity of materials required and used materials such as rocks which were close at hand. It's easy to see that rocks were quarried out and used to build walls to dam existing lakes and create new ones. The remains of trees can be seen standing in some of the areas which were flooded as part of the scheme.Iit’s a scarred landscape with damage from snow, construction, and bush fires that blaze at times during summer.
© 2019 Nan Hewitt