In one spectacular day we ventured in a loop down from Forth, and south, inland into the Canyon Region. Our aim was to explore the Gunns Plains Caves and it was a true delight. The caves travel deep under the mountain through to the other side and much of their length is still unchartered with extensive wet caves, sinkholes and active underground streams. Geoff our guide was a wonderful, full of tales and anecdotes, he was as entertaining as the caves were beautiful.
We have explored many of Australia’s caverns, from Jenolan in the Blue Mountains out from Sydney through to Margaret River south of Perth and even those hidden deep under the Nullabor but I found the Gunns Plains Caves to be the most active and living out of so many others. The formations were breathtaking with sheer veils, majestic domes of glittering light and the mystique of the glow worm to decorate the dark rock overhead. Though strictly not a worm, the glow grub simply doesn’t cut it somehow does it?. The paths were sure and simple and of course included a number of steps but even though I generally hate steps, I found them easy to manage with a secure hold and occasionally the need to bend beneath the wild calcite flows and rock formations.
The caves were just breathtakingly beautiful and afford the opportunity to become part of the mysterious underworld for a very reasonably cost, and all barely 45 minutes from Devonport.
The Man’s next base was the Leven Canyon, found on the same inland loop. This canyon is the deepest and most accessible limestone gulch to be found anywhere. The looping walk can take 45 minutes and you need to decide if you want to break the walk down to a choice of either of two viewing platforms or the full loop. If you decide on the loop that takes in over 600 bush steps, then first take the walk to Cruickshanks Lookout and in this way the Forest Stairs head down the mountain (rather than up) and on through the Fern forest eventually taking you back to the car park. There are a number of rest stops along the way and the paths are wide and sound. Remember to take along a drink bottle and a walking stick helps. The outlook though is spectacular and the view deep into the canyon and the swift cutting river is one not to be forgotten.
What I liked most about the Leven Canyon walk was that for the first time I gained an appreciation of just what an ‘old growth forest’ means and what it is. I have walked the great redwood forests of California and the wonderful Kauri pine forest of the SW corner of Western Australia and New Zealand, among so many other wonderful forest regions. Yet even in these places I didn’t gain the insight I gained in my walk through the Leven Canyon. Perhaps I was more dazzled by the mighty trees. Old growth forests are not simply about preserving the ancient and tall men of the forests, but about imparting a sense of immense age, of continuity, and of the birth of plants that unroll their fronds into life slowly under the shadow of giants. Preserved and possible to find here in the Leven Canyon walks are the majesty of these giants of the forest and the evidence of their natural passing as they fall and become part of the forest floor which feeds the new growth. In time they becoming carpeted in brilliant forest mosses, feeding ferns and saplings, which will in the eons that pass go on to become the giants of the forest themselves once more. This is what an ‘Old Growth Forest’ is all about, it is the cycle of forest life and preserving this to wonder at.
The Leven Gorge was one of the last area’s to be settled in Tasmania due largely to the steep slopes and thick forest as well as the river itself, which was too shallow to navigate. Even today it is recommended for only experienced kayakers, who can take on the canyons rapids and waterfalls. The loggers who found the pristine forests in the 1850’s found it impossible to clear the giant timbers readily and many remain to this day, slowly feeding the life around them in a natural cycle of birth, life and death.
On the Canyon floor the Penguin Cradle Trail can be found, part of one of the great Tasmanian Bush Walks, which passes through the Canyon to the summit of nearby Black Buff on its way to Cradle Mountain. It is a 5-7 day walk, though you can access the canyon floor on a walk down from the day area, which takes 1 ½ hours return.
There is also the nearby Preston Falls which has a picnic table with a view to die for and is only a short 10 minute walk down from the winding mountain road.
There are picnic tables also to be found at the public area in the Leven Canyon Visitors Park. There is also fishing at the nearby Taylors Flats for the elusive trout when in season. There is simply plenty to discover in the arms of the canyon, so close to Devonport and it is really worth the effort to venture along the many well-groomed tracks. We had a ball and it has truly whet our appetites for the wonderful wilderness of Tasmania.
Jan is a Traveller and an Author. You can find out more about her books on travel on the page dedicated to Oldies at Large, where you will also find a list of her blog postings in topic.
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