Exploring Lake St Clair
Beside Lake St Clair is a large and informative board which provides a very detailed history of the area from the settlement of the area by Aborigines through the early explorations by Europeans and the eventual opening up of the area by tourism and the Tasmanian HEC.
'Leeawulenna (the sleeping water). The traditional Aboriginal name for Lake St Clair. The lake and surrounding plains were the western limit of the big Ouse River tribe's territory. Aboriginal people moved into the Tasmanian highlands about 10 000 years ago as the glaciers from the last ice age retreated from the landscape. Sweeping button grass plains are a legacy of their extensive use of fire to clear pathways through the rugged terrain and to aid hunting by attracting animals to the tender young shoots of sprouting vegetation.
'There are only a handful of reliable first hand accounts of the Aborigines by the first Europeans to venture into this country and some of the most reliable are those of escaped convicts and escaped surveyors. All reports tell of recently burnt vegetation and well constructed huts of bark some of which were still standing 25 years after the last of the people had been removed from the region.
'In 1849 surveyor James Calder reported charcoal drawings decorating the inside of some of these huts. Similar reports were made about huts in the Cradle Mountain Region.
'Preliminary archaeological research in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park has revealed many Aboriginal sites consisting of stone tools and quarries which suggests that people moved mainly through the valleys with occasional visits to higher areas.
'Surveyor General George Franklin renamed Leeawulenna in 1835 after the St Clair family of Scotland's Loch Lomond. Later in the century prospectors, trappers and settlers tapped the resources of the area. Pioneer tourism began as early as 1890 when Governor Hamilton had an accommodation house and boat shed built for visitors. Reservation of land began in 1922 when an area from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair was set aside as a 'scenic reserve and wildlife sanctuary'. Known as 'The Reserve' to the generations of bushwalkers an enlarged area of 132 000 hectares became a National Park in 1971.
'In 1937 the hydro electric commission constructed a weir across the outflow of the lake which raised the water level 2.4 m. In 1982 Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park along with the south west and Franklin-Lower Gordon Wild Rivers National Park were placed on the prestigious world heritage list in recognition of their outstanding natural, cultural and wilderness qualities.'
There are several short walks available at the southern end of Lake St Clair ranging from a 30-40 minute walk up to a 7 hour round trip to Mt Rufus. One of the great attractions of the area around Lake St Clair is the fact that there seem to be dozens of Bennets wallabies in the area. For more information check out: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3462
Murray Jessup, who runs the Derwent Bridge Chalets, also offers a range of activities in the area. Check out his website http://www.derwent-bridge.com/ for more information.