Launceston: Cataract Gorge circuit 17km

Cataract Gorge is a popular weekend and holiday destination in Launceston. Rightly so. Not only does the Trevallyn State Recreation Area provide excellent hiking, the area around First Basin is first class including a tea house, chairlift and a swimming pool which is free to use.

Today’s hiking maps:

My book suggested starting hiking from First Basin as ample parking is provided there (you could also finish off your day with a cold drink there later).

However, Good Mrs and I were staying at Old Bakery Inn at the corner of York and Margaret Street in Launceston. From there, the distance to King’s Bridge where you can access the circuit is less than 1 km. So I switched on Runkeeper’s GPS tracking once we left our accommodation.

Below is River Tamar at the end of Margaret Street, into which both South and North Esk River flow. South Esk River is “our river” today.

River Tamar provides the route to the open sea

The narrow staircase off King’s Bridge below is where I connected to the circuit. My guidebook suggested it as an alternative access point if you’re coming from town. Let’s hike…

King’s Bridge and start of trail proper

I will return later in the day through Cataract Gorge by using that trail on the opposite side of South Esk River.

Can you spot Good Mrs across there?

A steady climb up the Zig Zag Reserve offered excellent views, with a few lookouts on the way. In the distance below is the first of today’s two suspension bridges, the one at First Basin.

The Suspension Bridge at First Basin

Excellent trail so far. Compact and well constructed and maintained.

Trail through Zig Zag Reserve

Good Mrs rejoined me at First Basin for… a return chairlift ride across the water. Don’t worry, I paused the Runkeeper app to exclude the “flying” distance. We are ready to take off…

Riding on the chairlift

Thumbs up. Not every day you can incorporate a chairlift ride into a “serious” hike. Spectacular views, of course, and a nice break.

Me on the chairlift

A few pics from the chairlift…

Many vacant chairs. Tuesday may not be peak time, but the price may also be somewhat prohibitive. A $15 cost for a return ticket cannot be considered cheap. Still, loads of fun…

The view from above

The local wallabies knew where the food sources were and some visitors were happy to oblige…

Wallabies – easy feeding

A bunch of peacocks mostly just sat there. Perhaps waiting for somebody to come out and feed them too. They make a screeching sound unpleasant to human ears, but hey, they are beautiful birds.

Peacocks – there were 2 more just outside the frame

A final picture from the chairlift as we returned to the beginning. Fun interlude…

Plenty of walkways around First Basin

Walking towards the first suspension bridge, we passed a young tiger snake. Smaller than the one I saw on the Wineglass Bay Track the other day and yet to develop those stripes. If you leave it alone, it will leave you alone. No reason to worry.

Young tiger snake “sunbathing”

Alexandra Suspension Bridge is where I said goodbye to Good Mrs. She planned to explore First Basin further while I was keen on hiking. No crossing the bridge for me except for a photo. And to test the bridge swingability which was great by the way…

On the bridge

Ooohh… not supposed to test the swingability factor. Oh well, too late. The bridge was still intact when I left…

No bridge swinging, please

I followed the First Basin Track and today’s second suspension bridge soon appeared.

Suspension Bridge number 2

The building on the opposite side of South Esk River is Duck Reach Power Station. The trail finishes on this side and continues over there so I had to cross the suspension bridge regardless.

Bridge across to Duck Reach Power Station

Looking back across the bridge from where I arrived.

View from the bridge

Duck Reach Power Station has long been decommissioned (1955) but is now open for visitors. Inside there is an exhibition about its operations.

Inside Duck Reach Power Station

A couple of plaques provided more information. The Duck Reach Power Station created electricity through water by 1895 already. Impressive!

About Duck Reach Power Station

After the power station, it was all uphill. The trail zigzagged through sets of stairs alongside old pressure pipes which used to drive the power station’s generators. This was the “toughest” section of today’s hike.

Duck Reach Power Station from above

Well, the ascend lasted for 10 minutes or less. Before long, you’re on Duck Reach Road and all is flat. Or flattish.

Trail junction at Ducks Reach Road

I glanced back and noticed a warning sign about the steps down to the power station. Perhaps descending while wet would be a hazard, but climbing up on a dry day like today was no worries.

Steep steps down to Duck Reach Power Station

I turned left/westwards and briefly followed Duck Reach Road before diverting off to Dead Mans Knob Track. You can continue the main track but my book suggested the detour around Deadmans Knob.

Accessing Dead Mans Knob Track

Dead Mans Knob Track was a waste of time. Distinctly unglamorous, with power lines above and cleared land. Limited views. Moving right along…

On Dead Mans Knob Track

Briefly, the vegetation turned more traditional and pleasant. Just for a little while before…

Later on Dead Mans Knob Track

…a few huts alongside parking and toilets appeared. Hoo Hoo Hut, great name. And a great place for a break and away from the sun. So I did.

Hoo Hoo Hut

There were no issues in figuring out where to go next. This may possibly be the largest hiking signage system I have ever seen.

Trevallyn Dam – my next stop…

Before leaving, I needed to check out the views from Deadman Hollows Lookout. Not bad…

Views from Deadman Hollows Lookout

The next close to 2km of the track follows South Esk River westwards, up and down the ridge. Occasional glimpses of water and views. Much pleasant hiking.

Striding through the bush

The track finished where this enclosed land supporting Trevallyn Dam starts. As a walker/pedestrian, there appeared to be no access restrictions. For vehicles, a gate provided access, presumably open during daylight hours. Let’s explore.

Fenceline for Trevallyn Dam

Interesting dam design. A sign described actions taken that enabled elvers (young native eels) to migrate upstream. I didn’t quite get how that worked, so will not try to explain it here.

Trevallyn Dam

There was even a dam lookout. An elevated concrete structure which you can walk up. I had to take a selfie.

Me and Trevallyn Dam

After exploring the area a bit further, I continued towards Aquatic Point. Occasionally from the trail, Travellyn Dam appeared between the trees.

Between Trevallyn Dam and Aquatic Point

Suddenly a couple of picnic tables in the bush. Odd place. The views may have been extensive in the past before the trees grew up. Not so much now.

Picnic table in the woods

Aquatic Point didn’t offer much interest. A boat ramp and access to the water. Behind me, a toilet block and a picnic shelter where I had my lunch were the other facilities. I had my lunch there but didn’t linger long.

Aquatic Point

From Aquatic Point, I started to trek back towards King’s Bridge. Along surfaced roads for the next kilometer or so. Pleasant and quiet enough with only occasional cars passing.

Trevallyn Road away from Aquatic Point

Soon I rejoined a different part of Duck Reach Road until a sign for Snake Gully Track appeared. Off the surfaced roads again.

Sign for Snake Gully Track

Two things about Snake Gully Track:

First, the name Snake Gully has become a household joke for us after sampling its Shiraz(?) in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney some years ago. Snake Gully was the wine special in a pub and it was awful. Hopefully, the winery has improved, although I am unlikely to find out.

Second, a name like Snake Gully points to… a gully with plenty of snakes.

Well, I saw no snakes and no other humans for quite some time either. All by myself on the trail as so often before.

On the Snake Gully Track

Snake Gully Track went on for several kilometers, slowly descending down towards Cataract Gorge and First Basin. You may find some familiar names on the sign below from earlier in this post.

Signpost where Snake Gully Track finishes close to First Basin

I didn’t hang around First Basin this time. Enough exploring there earlier in the day.

The paved Cataract Walk follows the northern side of the gorge and takes you back to King’s Bridge. From there, as earlier, there was a short walk back to our accommodation.

Cataract Gorge with King’s Bridge in the distance

The Cataract Gorge, the First Basin, the Ducks Reach power station, the two suspension bridges, Trevallyn Dam were all fantastic. I didn’t know about First Basin and its facilities until I actually got here. What a surprise!!!

And a ride in a chairlift too…

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