Tarkine, World Heritage Area, Tasmania

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 The Tarkine region (map courtesy of DiscovertheTarkine.com)

The Tarkine region (map courtesy of DiscovertheTarkine.com)

In the far north west of Tasmania is a 370,000 hectare, region known as the Tarkine, after the Aboriginal people who first populated it. For many, even in Tasmania, it is thought to be all rain forest. In fact it is much more.

Though the Tarkine, has no official boundaries, it is largely recognised to be the area between the Arthur River in the north, the Pieman River in the south and the Midland Highway to the east and is one of the most hotly contested landscapes in Tasmania's political forum. For as long as the settlers have been in Tasmania there have been people felling the forests and mining minerals. Today the Australian government is still fighting against conservationists and the World Heritage listing to enable foresters and miners to access the unique, endemic hard woods and mineral riches that lie within. A battle that has had the Tasmanian population fiercely divided for decades.

 Tree clearing

Tree clearing

There is no doubt it is a unique area. Tourism, is a major growth industry. Despite this figures suggest that only 1 in 10,000 Australians have visited the region. The lichen and moss clad forests, are amongst the oldest in the world. A walk amongst them is often silent. Many of the trees and plants do not flower. Their evolution pre-dates pollination by birds. The Tarkine, is not just rain forest. It is an intricate network of rivers, waterfalls, grass plains, peat bogs, mountains and a ragged coastline interspersed with beautiful sandy bays. All stand in the firing line of the Roaring Forties that have 11,000 uninterrupted miles over the Southern Ocean, to gather pace. Many of the trees and plants outside the forests, particularly the coastal species are brutally stunted, weather beaten and often bearing razor sharp edges or thorns. Trekking this region is not for the faint hearted.

Below ground, the Tarkine vegetation sits on the largest Basalt plain in Tasmania, which in turn stands above cave systems running through magnesite and dolomite rocks. The Magnesite systems have drawn worldwide attention being rock that forms in very few places globally, producing an Opal like stone. In addition to the cave systems is the largest basalt plain in Tasmania, that supports the Tarkine vegetation

 Button Grass plains leading to Mt Heemskirk, cover the treacherous peat bogs and rivulets underfoot.

Button Grass plains leading to Mt Heemskirk, cover the treacherous peat bogs and rivulets underfoot.

Flora and fauna here includes over 60 threatened, endanged or rare species, found nowhere else in the world. The Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) was hunted into extinction in the early part of the 1900s), the Tasmanian Devil is now threatened with a cancerous facial tumour. The region now World Heritage listed, has attracted major players including the World Wildlife Fund into the fray. All trying to establish harmony and garner ways forward to enable business and nature to coexist.

 The relentless fight for light and space.

The relentless fight for light and space.

It is truly spectacular and very wild country. The coast is no exception with vicious rocks lining every bay. The beaches near Arthur River, are littered with logs where fallen trees have been washed down stream and out to sea, only to be smashed into pieces on the shores.

 Smashed logs from fallen trees, washed down stream, litter the beaches round Arthur River

Smashed logs from fallen trees, washed down stream, litter the beaches round Arthur River

Fishing in this area is perilous. Trawlers are dragged up ramps, well above high water lines to ensure their safety when crews return to shore. Amongst the many fish that can be caught in these waters there is also the world's largest crab; the Giant Crab that measures up to 1.2m across. Unfortunately there are trawlers that have paid the highest price for tackling the seas of the Roaring Forties, with both crew and vessels being lost.

 A fishing trawler, sits high and dry at a very calm low tide

A fishing trawler, sits high and dry at a very calm low tide

At the very south of the Tarkine you return back into the forests and find the Whyte, Savage and Pieman Rivers, that run like liquid treacle. They are rich in Tannins from the forest trees, giving a rich brown colour that makes their waters almost impossible to see through, creating perfect mirrors for the surrounding forests. On the banks of Whyte's River, the township of Corinna, hails back to the early settlers and still remains a jump off point for walks, river tours and two gravel road routes that access the northern and western boundaries of the Tarkine. For those heading south to Strahan or returning to Hobart, a ferry that has been here almost as long as the settlers, still operates across Whyte's River.

 Tannin rich waters in the rivers, provide perfect mirror reflections of all around them

Tannin rich waters in the rivers, provide perfect mirror reflections of all around them

To view more of the Tarkine or to purchase images, please click here

My thanks to the Tourist Information office at Burnie, the publicans at Marrawah and the Hotieliers at Corinna, for assisting in sourcing information for this article.

© Robert Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography Travel and Events Photography and Editorials