The Overland Track is one of Australia's most famous bushwalking (hiking) tracks, situated in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania. More than nine thousand walkers each year complete the track. Officially, the track runs for 65 kilometres (40 mi) from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. However, many choose to add the hike along Lake St Clair as a natural extension, bringing the length to 82 kilometres (51 mi). The track winds through terrain ranging from sheer mountains, temperate rainforest, wild rivers and alpine plains all in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
|The Overland Track|
Track passing by Kitchen Hut west of Cradle Mountain
|Length||65 km (40 mi)|
|Location||Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia|
|Highest point||Alpine plateau between Marions Lookout and Kitchen Hut, 1,250 m (4,100 ft)|
|Lowest point||Forth River crossing, 720 m (2,360 ft)|
|Sights||Mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, wildlife|
|Hazards||Hypothermia, snakebites, cliffs|
|Map of The Overland Track|
Aside from the main track there are also several alternative side tracks, including to the summits of Cradle Mountain and Mount Ossa, the tallest mountain in Tasmania. Also within reach are a group of tarns called The Labyrinth and Lake St Clair (the deepest lake in Australia). World-renowned for its pristine environment and beauty, the walk is listed by Lonely Planet as one of the best in the world.
Walkers usually complete the track in five or six days. This is normally done from north to south, which is the mandatory direction between 1 October and 31 May. The record time is seven hours and 25 minutes, achieved by Andy Kromar during the Cradle Mountain Run.
The Overland Track spans the boundary between the Big River and Northern Tasmanian Aboriginal nations and may have been used as an access route. Several artifacts and campsites containing various stone types and tools have been discovered Pelion Plains and Lake St Clair, and early surveyors saw huts in the area. Aboriginal Tasmanians were persecuted by the European settlers upon their arrival, and the last free Aboriginals in the area were seen between Barn Bluff and Lake Windemere in 1836.
Early European DevelopmentEdit
Europeans first explored Cradle Mountain in 1827 and 1828 with Joseph Fossey and Henry Hellyer surveying for the Van Diemen's Land Company. Lake St Clair was sighted by surveyor William Sharland in 1832, with George Frankland leading an expedition to it three years later.
During the later 1800s there was an effort to build a railway to the West Coast of the state, which at the time was only accessible by boat. Railway engineer Allan Stewart began surveying a route which led up the Mersey Valley up to what is now the middle of the Overland Track, but ran out of money before it could be completed. Parts of his trail were used by the Innes track (est. 1897), which led to the mining town of Rosebery. The Overland Track itself follows the original Innes track across Pelion Plains.
These tracks encouraged prospecting, and several mines were set up. Coal mined near Barn Bluff, copper in Pelion Plains, Lake Windemere and Commonwealth Creek, tin in Mount Inglis, and tungsten in the Forth Valley. Lake Windemere and Old Pelion huts were established during this mining effort.
Trappers worked in the area from the 1860s until the collapse of the fur trade in the 1950s, although hunting in the park was declared illegal after 1927. They established huts, including Du Cane and Pine Valley, and burned the land to encourage fresh growth and game.
During the same timeframe Pelion Plains was used by sheep and cattle for grazing in the summer, and wild cattle lived in the area until 1948. The cattle were reportedly quite aggressive, and known to attack early bushwalkers.
Environmental Protection and TourismEdit
Both Lake St Clair and Cradle mountain were regarded as beautiful tourist destinations, with lodges at each location.
In the 1910s Gustav and Kate Weindorfer began campaigning for the area from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair to be a national park. It was declared a scenic reserve in 1922, a wildlife reserve in 1927 and its current designation of national park from 1947. During this transition, former trappers began building huts and guiding bushwalkers, including Paddy Hartnett, Weindorfer and Bob Quaile.
By 1937 it was officially named the Overland Track and the track had been upgraded to be used for guided tours and pack horses. Shortly after Kitchen Hut was built, now used for as an emergency shelter.
In the 1970s management of the park passed to the newly formed Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service after the controversial flooding of Lake Pedder and commercially guided tours were reintroduced.
The track was in poor condition by the 1980s with significant mud and erosion. In 1982 major Tasmanian national parks were recognised as a World Heritage Area, and federal funding was allocated to hut and track upgrades.
Between 1971 and 2004 the number of walkers increased from 1500 to 8800, and a booking system was implemented in 2005 to manage its increased popularity.
The Overland Track is managed by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service whose purpose is to both improve access, and conserve the World Heritage areas.
They manage track maintenance, hut maintenance and upgrades, toilet waste removal and staff rangers along the track during the summer.
The track goes through sensitive alpine regions and peat bogs, and is prone to degradation. In 1980 a study found that 29% of the track was in poor condition, characterised by knee-deep mud and track widening but by 2015 this has been reduced to 4%. This is mostly due to duckboarding, and laying cordwood over muddy sections of the track which in 2011 covered 40% of the track.
In 2014 an international student from Victoria died from hypothermia between Kitchen Hut and Waterfall Valley due to inclement weather and inadequate clothing. It led to stricter guidelines for bushwalker preparedness.
The climate is generally unstable, with temperatures ranging from hot (in excess of 35 °C or 95 °F) in summer to below 0 °C (32 °F) in winter. Snow can fall at any time and is common during the winter, especially on the Cradle Mountain Plateau and around Mount Ossa. Rain is very common, sometimes torrential though often settling to days of drizzle. Additionally, the climate varies significantly between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair, with Cradle Mountain subject to almost twice as much annual rainfall despite having the same number of rainy days. This informed the practice (now policy) of bushwalkers departing from the north.
|Climate data for Cradle Valley, Tasmania|
|Record high °C (°F)||30.0
|Average high °C (°F)||16.6
|Average low °C (°F)||5.2
|Record low °C (°F)||−1.0
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||148.8
|Source: Bureau of Meteorology |
|Climate data for Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania|
|Record high °C (°F)||33.0
|Average high °C (°F)||19.3
|Average low °C (°F)||6.3
|Record low °C (°F)||−2.5
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||101.7
|Source: Bureau of Meteorology |
Flora and FaunaEdit
The Overland Track traverses Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, which is a significant habitat for Tasmania's endemic species. An estimated 40–55% of the parks documented alpine flora is endemic. Furthermore, 68% of the higher rainforest species recorded in alpine areas in Tasmania are present in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The park's alpine vegetation is very diverse and has largely escaped forest fires that have caused neighbouring regions to suffer.
The most common fauna are Tasmanian Pademelons (native), possums and small rodents most of which are native. Also decidedly present, but not necessarily seen, are quolls, echidnas, tasmanian devils and wombats. There are also the famous Tasmanian leeches. The track traverses areas of many types of vegetation, including Myrtle Beech forest, Eucalypts forest, Button Grass plains, alpine herb fields and shrubs and mosses.
The park has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it provides habitat for 11 of Tasmania's endemic bird species, as well as for the flame and pink robins and the striated fieldwren. The IBA is important as a representative protected area in north-central Tasmania for those species.
Button Grass plainsEdit
Large segments of the track pass across buttongrass plains, a landscape that is unique to Tasmania. It's been theorised that the extent of buttongrass plains could be due to Aboriginal fire-stick farming before European settlement.
Human interactions with wildlifeEdit
Some wildlife, especially possums, currawongs and quolls have become to associate humans with food and are quite adept at stealing from tents, huts and packs. Although the vast majority of people are against feeding wildlife, during a Tasmanian study 7.4% of people eating lunch in national parks were observed to feed animals in addition to currawongs scavenging food after they left. It's recommended that bushwalkers suspend food from the roof within huts, and store food in rigid containers inside tents as eating human food has caused lumpy jaw in wildlife.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2007)
The Overland Track contains some spectacular scenery created by glacier action.
The track is mostly well defined and adequately marked. The track condition, however, varies greatly. There are long sections of duckboard (boardwalk) which consist of split logs embedded in the ground, held together with wire and nails. Where there is no duckboard, the conditions can sometimes be very muddy. In winter, the mud is frozen solid early in the morning, however offsetting this is the problem of slippery ice on the duckboard. The mud is not nearly as frequent or deep as hikes in the southwest, due mainly to the duckboard.
Inexperienced walkers are advised to undertake the walk in summer when the days are longer and the weather milder. During this time the number of visitors is controlled by the 'Overland Pass' a limited number of which are available, with revenue going towards maintaining the track. The walk is not challenging provided that walkers are adequately prepared with proper equipment. The track is covered by the Tasmap Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair 1:100000 map.
|Location in Tasmania|
There are a number of side trips that can be undertaken while on the Overland Track. From north to south these are:
- Cradle Mountain Summit – 2 km, 2–3 hours return.
- Barn Bluff – 7 km, 3–4 hours return.
- Lake Will – 3 km, 1 hour return.
- Mount Pelion West – 6 km, 5–6 hours return.
- Old Pelion Hut (with swimming hole) – 1 km, 25 minutes return
- Mount Oakleigh – 8 km, 4–5 hours return.
- Mount Ossa – 6 km, 3.5–4.5 hours return.
- Mount Pelion East
- Pine Valley, Tasmania
- Ferguson Falls and D'alton Falls – 1 km, 1-1.5 hours return.
- Hartnett Falls – 1.5 km, 1 hour return.
- Mount Rufus
The track has many huts, enabling hikers to stay indoors every night. There is no booking system for huts, so it is mandatory for hikers to carry a tent in case there is no space available or there is an incident on the track. Commercial groups are not encouraged to use the huts overnight and while one company operates from a set of five private huts, all other operators use the designated group camping areas near each of the main huts.
Main Trail HutsEdit
|Waterfall Valley Hut|
|New Pelion Hut|
|Kia Ora Hut|
|Burt Nichols Hut|
|Echo Point Hut|
Side Route HutsEdit
|Pine Valley Hut|
|Scott-Kilvert Memorial Hut|
Day Use and Emergency sheltersEdit
Overnight use of these is prohibited except in an emergency
|Du Cane Hut|
|Old Pelion Hut|
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- "Climate Statistics for Cradle Valley, Tasmania". Retrieved 6 March 2019.
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- "IBA: Cradle Mountain". Birdata. Birds Australia. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
- "Daily Walk Notes". Parks and Wildife Service Tasmania.
- Leah McBey (4 August 2018). "Tasmanias intriguing button grass mystery". The Advocate.
- "Food Raiders of the Overland Track". 2014-04-14.
- Mallick, Stephen A.; Driessen, Michael M. (2003). "Feeding of wildlife: How effective are the 'Keep Wildlife Wild' signs in Tasmania's National Parks?". Ecological Management and Restoration. 4 (3): 199–204. doi:10.1046/j.1442-8903.2003.00157.x.
- "Walking Notes: Cooking and Food Tips". Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania. 2003.
- "Overland Track Booking". Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
- "Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park Map". Information and Land Services: Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water. 2005.
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