February 3, 2010
The Gordon River is inside Tasmania’s World Heritage Area.
A couple of maps for you to see just why WHA listing is a big deal in Tassie.
The Franklin River flows into the Gordon River & the waters make their way out to Macquarie Harbour.
In 1979 the Hydro-Electric Commission (HEC) released a proposal to build a power scheme (i.e. a big dam) which would inundate long portions of the middle reaches of the Gordon River and Franklin River valley. The construction project would have brought many jobs to an area suffering high unemployment.
The summer of 1982-3 saw the village of Strahan become the focus of the largest conservation battle ever fought in Australia: the battle to save the Franklin River. This issue dominated Tasmanian politics (and to a fair extent, Australian mainland politics too) throughout the late 70s and early 80s. This issue tore great rifts between those who supported the construction of the dam and those who wanted to preserve the region for its wilderness values. Families and friends were torn apart in their passion.
That rift is still felt in many families in Strahan & the rest of the island.
The conservationists won.
A good summary of the Franklin below Gordon conservation battle can be found at Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service.
We cruised up the Gordon River at a very sedate pace as required by law. The banks of the river are quite delicate and the wash of the boats as they travel at speed along the water cause irreparable damage. And thus strict speed restrictions, determined quite scientifically, were imposed. It makes for very leisurely sightseeing.
The large cruise boats are permitted to travel only as far as Heritage Landing on the Gordon River. This is to preserve the delicate ecosystems of the river inside the wilderness area.
We disembarked at the Landing for a brief tour of a very small portion of thickly wooded forest. It was quite magical.
Yet still more thickly wooded scenery, moss, lichens & fungi amongst the Huon Pines & other tall trees of Heritage Landing on the Gordon River:
Have you noticed how thickly wooded this whole area is? And it’s been this way for thousands of years. How the hell did those convicts who escaped from Sarah Island manage to push their way through this area & navigate themselves back to Hobart? But a number of them did. Of course, a lot of them died trying too.
Okay, we’ve lunched (mighty fine dining on board), we’ve toured, we’ve touched, we’ve smelt. Time to cruise quietly back down the river.