Bennets wallaby at Lake St. Clair
Derwent Bridge (including Lake St Clair)
Tiny settlement near the beautiful Lake St
Located 171 km northwest of Hobart and 83 km
east of Queenstown, Derwent Bridge is a strange
and isolated little settlement (to call it a
town would be to overstate its importance) which
literally comprises a very ordinary bridge (the
town's name results from the fact that it is a
bridge closest to the headwaters of the Derwent
River), a hotel and a few houses. The town's
major appeal is that it is only 5 km from the
beautiful and dramatic Lake St Clair.
Things to see:
Exploring Lake St Clair
Beside Lake St Clair is a large and informative
board which provides a very detailed history of
the area from the settlement of the area by
Aborigines through the early explorations by
Europeans and the eventual opening up of the
area by tourism and the Tasmanian HEC.
'Leeawulenna (the sleeping water). The
traditional Aboriginal name for Lake St Clair.
The lake and surrounding plains were the western
limit of the big Ouse River tribe's territory.
Aboriginal people moved into the Tasmanian
highlands about 10 000 years ago as the glaciers
from the last ice age retreated from the
landscape. Sweeping button grass plains are a
legacy of their extensive use of fire to clear
pathways through the rugged terrain and to aid
hunting by attracting animals to the tender
young shoots of sprouting vegetation.
'There are only a handful of reliable first
hand accounts of the Aborigines by the first
Europeans to venture into this country and some
of the most reliable are those of escaped
convicts and escaped surveyors. All reports tell
of recently burnt vegetation and well
constructed huts of bark some of which were
still standing 25 years after the last of the
people had been removed from the region.
'In 1849 surveyor James Calder reported
charcoal drawings decorating the inside of some
of these huts. Similar reports were made about
huts in the Cradle Mountain Region.
'Preliminary archaeological research in the
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park has
revealed many Aboriginal sites consisting of
stone tools and quarries which suggests that
people moved mainly through the valleys with
occasional visits to higher areas.
'Surveyor General George Franklin renamed
Leeawulenna in 1835 after the St Clair family of
Scotland's Loch Lomond. Later in the century
prospectors, trappers and settlers tapped the
resources of the area. Pioneer tourism began as
early as 1890 when Governor Hamilton had an
accommodation house and boat shed built for
visitors. Reservation of land began in 1922 when
an area from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair
was set aside as a 'scenic reserve and wildlife
sanctuary'. Known as 'The Reserve' to the
generations of bushwalkers an enlarged area of
132 000 hectares became a National Park in 1971.
'In 1937 the hydro electric commission
constructed a weir across the outflow of the
lake which raised the water level 2.4 m. In 1982
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
along with the south west and Franklin-Lower
Gordon Wild Rivers National Park were placed on
the prestigious world heritage list in
recognition of their outstanding natural,
cultural and wilderness qualities.'
There are several short walks available at
the southern end of Lake St Clair ranging from a
30-40 minute walk up to a 7 hour round trip to
Mt Rufus. One of the great attractions of the
area around Lake St Clair is the fact that there
seem to be dozens of Bennets wallabies in the
Murray Jessup, who runs the Derwent Bridge
Chalets, also offers a range of activities in
the area. Check out his website
www.troutwalks.com.au for more information.