Lake Pedder - A Jewel In The Wilderness

Tasmania is famous for it’s wilderness regions and among the amazing forests is Lake Pedder

When I was a young student at the Australian National University, back in the early 1970s, the Canberra campus atmosphere was heady with social consciousness, and student activism was seen and heard on a wide range of issues, like Australia’s continued involvement in Vietnam, apartheid in South Africa and the plunder of Tasmania’s wilderness environment. In particular, the building of the Gordon Dam and the flooding of Lake Pedder in 1972 triggered a series of protests, locally and nationally, and were the subject of learned dissertation by eminent constitutional lawyers. They were exciting times that brought southwest Tasmania into sharp focus and set in train events that would lead to the creation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. These momentous events have since passed into environmental folklore but the idea of experiencing these iconic places remained indelibly printed on my bucket list, an item that got a great big tick during a summer tour of the Apple Isle.

At over 600,000 hectares, the Southwest National Park is the largest in Tasmania, encompassing almost half of the Tasmanian Wilderness WHA. A region of wild rivers and jagged mountain ranges, rolling button grass plains and pristine, old-growth rainforests, the South West contains some of the finest wilderness country in Australia. It is among the last remaining temperate wilderness areas on the planet. In terms of global heritage significance, it is comparable to the Fiordland region of southwest New Zealand and the Patagonian Andes of South America, all united in evolutionary history with strong links to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana.

Much of the park is remote and far removed from the modern ‘rat race’, in a place where nature reigns and where its beauty and elements are powerful sources of inspiration and reflection. Many people place great value in simply knowing that such a place still exists in Australia. For an intrepid minority (in numbers that grow annually), the region offers the challenge of exploring wild areas in recreational activities such as bushwalking, rafting, canoeing, climbing, boating and fishing. The majority of visitors to the area, however, are day-trippers, combining vehicle-based sightseeing with picnicking and short nature walks.

And so it was for Elizabeth and me, with barely enough time to spare on a ten-week tour of the island. Our base at the Land of the Giants Campground, near the tiny village of National Park, had three main advantages – location, location, location. It was on the very doorstep of Mt Field NP, justifiably the most popular park in Tasmania, only two hours from Hobart, and was a handy springboard for a day trip into the wilds of the magnificent Southwest National Park.

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