Today, we drove from Stanley, south to the mining town of Zeehan. Our day was rich with mining towns, forests and rivers in this remote part of Western Tasmania.
We began in the morning by driving back along the picturesque north coast of Tasmania to Wynyard. We relocated from the ‘Fresh Air Capital of the World’ at Marrawah to ‘Road Kill Central’ along the northern Tasmania roads. Victoria has potholes in its roads but Tasmania has road kill. In this area it is mainly small animals such as Possums, Pademelons or Wallabies. Large animals, as we see at home, are few and far between. We nearly ran over a black snake ourselves near Marrawah yesterday. We read that roadkill is a recognised issue in Tasmania with, on average, 32 animals being killed on Tasmanian roads every hour.
We found some very attractive scenery along the way today. Some parts reminded us of the rolling hils of South Gippsland in Victoria but the mountains on the horizon were very clearly Tasmanian.
Near the town of Ridgely, we found a signpost pointing to Guide Falls. They were only four kilometres off the road, so we decided to explore and see what we could find. The falls drop into a gorge around 12 metres deep and would be quite spectacular after heavy rain.
Further, on our way back to Waratah, we travelled through many kilometres of managed eucalypt plantations. I’m not sure what speciess of eucalypt they are (perhaps Shining Gum or Eucalyptus Nitens) but they were all growing so tall and proud. Competing for light in a forest certainly produces very straight and tall trees.
Back in Waratah, we stopped for lunch. I was hankering for a good feed of Dim Sims and I enjoyed a bag of them from the local roadhouse and store. Jill had a much healthier ham and salad roll. In the main street, opposite the mining museum, we found a replica of James ‘Philospher’ Smith’s hut. It “commemorates the discovery of tin at Mt Bischoff by him in December, 1871 and his founding of the town of Waratah.” The interior is laid out to give an idea of the equipment a prospector would have possessed in the 1870s when he was searching for minerals. The hut is a replica of a typical miner’s hut from the 1880s and 1890s.
About ten kilometres south of Waratah is the track to Philosphers Falls. For the first twenty minutes of the walk, the track gently descends through the Tarkine Forest to a footbridge over the Arthur River. It then follows an old water race which was built to supply water to the nearby Magnet Mine which closed in 1940. After another 20 minutes, or so, the track descends down a metal stairway to the falls. I visited the falls some time ago but today, I was more interested in photographing some of the rainforest along the early stages of the track. My time was limited and I could have spent twice as long working away with my camera.
A little later, we came to the orginal site of the town of Luina (previously known as Whyte River). Luina was originally developed as a township in 1898 when, following the discovery of copper and tin, miners were brought in to extract these valuable minerals. Shortly afterwards, the Whyte River was the scene of a brief gold rush, but all this activity was short-lived. By the end of World War One, the copper-tin mining operation had closed down.
It eventually reopened and by the 1970s the mine was the second largest producer of tin in Australia. However, with the introduction of aluminium as a more viable product, prices fell and the mine was forced to close again in 1987. The workers left, the buildings were repurposed, and the town forgotten. Today little stands of this town that died twice. Although the bitumen streets are still in place, they are now being reclaimed by moss and myrtle. A tap and electricity box, are the only other signs that a town ever existed here.
One of the mines that is still operating in this area is the mine at Savage River. It is an enormous open-cut iron ore mine The magnetite ore is pelletised and piped as slurry north to the coast at Port Latta near Burnie for export. The mine has a large tailings dam that can be seen from the road.
The country became increasingly rugged as we approached the old mining settlement of Corinna.
Corinna, which was once called Royenrine, was the aboriginal name for a young Tasmanian tiger. It is located on the Pieman River. Corinna’s heyday was in the gold rush of the late 1800’s, when it had two hotels – one on each side of the river. These were the Star Hotel on the south, and the Corinna Hotel (formerly the Trial Harbour Hotel) on the north. Corinna was born when prospectors pushed overland south from Waratah to the Heemskirk, Zeehan and Lyell regions. They cut a track from the river at a point some 19km from its mouth and at this exact crossing point is where Corinna was established when gold was found in the Pieman’s tributaries. I expect that the current hotel in Corinna is vastly different from its predecessor.
The Corinna gold rush was at its peak from the mid 1870’s to the early 1880’s and the largest nugget of gold ever discovered in Tasmania (7.5kg) came from Rocky River, a small tributary of the Whyte River, (itself a tributary of the Pieman) a few kilometres upstream from Corinna in 1883. It aroused considerable excitement and attracted many men from other Tasmanian goldfields.
We paid our fee of $28 to cross the river on the Fatman Barge which is owned and operated by the current hotel.
North of Corinna. the road is a gravel one and made from tailings from the Savage River Mine. It is quite smooth and easy to drive on although very winding. South of the Pieman River, it is bitumised but quite narrow. It eventually connects with the Heemskirk Highway that travels to Zeehan where we are stoppig tonight at a motel inhabited by a large group of miners wiho are working at the local nickel mine.