Go West – part 2

Russell Falls
Russell Falls in Mount Field National Park. Tasmania.

 

Lady Baron Falls
Lady Baron Falls in Mount Field National Park, Tasmania.

 

Mount Field National Park is one of Tasmania’s oldest and most popular parks. The reason why is that within the park there are rain forest, alpine moorland, glacial lakes and snow gums. In summer the park is a blaze with flowers and in autumn it is a glorious golden hue as the vagus trees (Tasmanian deciduous beech) prepares to shed its leaves. There are a variety of walks within the park that go from being just a 30 minute stroll to 8 hours Alpine walks which require cross country skies in winter. The Russell Falls walk is one one of the most popular walks in Tassie, it takes you through a forest of ferns, eucalypts and myrtles on the way out to the water fall. It is only takes 25 minutes return and is suitable for for wheelchairs and prams. Another popular walk is the Russell Falls / Horseshoe Falls / Tall Trees Circuit / Lady Baron Falls walk. An unwieldy name for for a very pleasant 2 1/2 hour walk that connects three waterfalls and the Tall Trees Walk. It requires a bit more effort but is worth it as it gives you a very good look at the ecosystem of the lower park. My favourite walks the Pandani Grove Nature Walk which is located on the Mawson Plateau in the alpine areas of the park. This is the best way to experience the alpine ecosystem of the park and as you walk around the glacially formed Lake Dobson you pass through a forest of pencil pine and and pandani. This walk takes about 40 minutes. Last time we went to the park we did the Pandani but also tacked on a side trip to Platypus Tarn in the hope of seeing a platypus. This adds another 20 minutes on the walk but takes you on a quite steep and rough path and I’d recommend it only if you have proper walking boots and are prepared for cold and wet weather. We didn’t see any platypuses, but nothing in life is guaranteed.

Forest At The Mountain's Feet
The look out point on the drive up to the Mawson Plateau in Mount Field National Park, From here you can look out over the Derwent Valley and see how the forest changes from dry eucalypt (which is the typical Australian bush) to the wet eucalypt forest which is dominated by trees that can grow up to 90 metres.

 

Lake Dobson
The Pandani Grove Nature Walk follows the shoreline of Lake Dobson. Mount Field National Park, Tasmania.

 

Bennetts Wallaby
Bennetts Wallabies regularly can be found grazing near the picnic areas of Mount Field National Park. This was was seen near the information hut on the shore of Lake Dobson on the Mawson Plateau in Mount Field National Park.

 

What can you see in the park? Well Bennetts Wallaby and pademelon can often be seen grazing in the late afternoon and early evening at the picnic areas. Barred bandicoots are seldom seen in daylight hours but can be seen around the campsite and picnic areas at night looking for insects and worms. Also active at night are brush, ringtail, and pigmy possums. In the more remote areas of the park it may be possible to see Tasmanian Devils, eastern quolls and spotted tailed quolls. Again these animals are only active at night. All of Tasmania’s snake species are active within the park and caution should be exercised if you should see one as they are all venomous. A lot of bird species inhabit Mount Field, with the majority being found in the eucalyptus forest. Here you can see green rosellas, yellow tailed black cockatoos, yellow wattle birds, crescent honeyeaters, grey shrikes and currawongs. Harder to see, but still present in the undergrowth are scarlet and dusky robins and blue wrens. If you are lucky and in the alpine areas you may see wedge tailed eagles soaring on the thermals looking for prey. In terms of flora – basically you have three distinct ecosystems, dry eucalyptus forest, wet euclaypt forest (or rain forest) and the alpine heath. Below 670m you see dry eucalyptus forest which is your typical Australian bushland and is identified by the tall growing trees such as the swamp gum (the tallest hardwood tree in the world growing up to 100m tall) the white gum and the stringy bark. The understory comprises of native musk, and hazel or dogwood. Up to 940m is either closed rainforest or in the transition areas mixed forest. This is dominated myrtle-beech and sassafras with an understory of native laurel. In the gullies formed by the numerous creeks are several species of tree ferns and it is these most people think of when they hear the term temperate rainforest. At 880m and above the Tasmanian snow gum starts to dominate the sub-alpine forest. Past this and you see alpine heath of the pandani which with its palm tree looks can grow to heights of 9m. As you explore the areas around the lakes or tarns ( a tarn is a lake that was formed during the ice age when a glacier created a cirque, corrie or cwm which later fills with water) many shrubs grow mountain berries which introduce a splash of colour to the undergrowth.

Pandani Grove
Walking through the wet forest on the Pandani Grove Nature Walk you can see the stands of pandani for which the walk is named. Pandani (Richea pandanifolia) can grow as tall as 9 metres

 

Snow Berries
Snow Berries (Gaultheria hispida), Mount Field National Park, Tasmania.

 

If you want to spend more than a day in the park there is a campground for vehicle based campers near the visitor centre. It has a camp kitchen, shower block with laundry and barbecues. There are some basic huts for walkers in the alpine area, and these have basic facilities such as running water, a wood heater, and bunks with mattresses. All accommodation can be booked through the visitors centre on (03) 6288 11149. There is also some private accommodation outside the park.

 

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Pandani Grove Nature Walk

 

Lake Dobson
Lake Dobson

 

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