By Road & Track
Published in

By Road & Track

Gorge in the city

IN THE SHADE of a ginko (Ginko biloba) tree, Fi contemplates the landscape unaware that a large and voracious female peacock and chick are sneaking up behind her. Other cities have pigeons and seagulls. Cataract Gorge had a mob of loud and audacious peacocks inhabiting the area around the cafe parkland.

The parkland around the restaurant and kiosk at First Basin, so called for the large lake held in place by a barrage, was cleared from the bush and converted into what the people of the Victorian era of the 1890s regarded as a recreational reserve. There is a bandstand, lawn, hydrangeas, ferns, walking tracks, a suspension bridge spanning the Gorge and a collection of exotic trees, all now tall and mature. And peacocks.

A short walk

Cataract Gorge is a short walk from the town centre. There are three ways to get into First Basin. You can drive to the carpark a short walk above the restaurant. More interesting is walking in. The lower, paved path starts on the north side of the South Esk River, which runs through the Gorge, at Kings Bridge. It is suitable for the less-fit and those with walking aids or wheelchairs.

The foot track that climbs from the city end of Kings Bridge on the south side is steeper and rougher and takes you to First Basin near the swimming pool. There is a cafe here, a childrens’ playground, picnic sheletrs and change rooms for those using the pool. There is also a carpark for those approaching First Basin from the south. Cross via the suspension bridge to the restaurant and parkland on the northern side to make a circuit.

Across the suspension bridge.

For the more adventurous, a 2.5km foot track traverses the southern side of the Gorge from First Basin to the old hydroelectric station at Duck Reach, now an interpretive display. A rough track connects back to First Basin through bushland on the northern side after a steep climb.

The tracks around First Basin are used by locals for running, that to Duck Reach and beyond for bushwalking, the sheer dolerite walls of the canyon for rock climbing. Further on are mountain bike trails.

It’s not bad, all these trails, all that adventure opportunity so close to Launceston’s central business district. Well worth chencking out next you’re in town with an afternoon to spare.

The steeper, rougher track along the southern edge of Cataract Gorge.

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Russ Grayson

I'm an independent online and photojournalist living on the Tasmanian coast after nine months on the road in a minivan.