Lake Pedder Adventures
Start - Lake Pedder Wilderness Resort
Length - 1.2km (One Way)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 44m
Time - 30 Mins
Signed - Occasional Wooden Sign
Date Hiked - 7th April 2021
Best Time - Spring to Autumn
Traditional Custodians - Lairmairrener People
Directions - Located just over two hours west of Hobart, take the Brooker Hwy north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Pass through the town and follow the signs for Westerway and then Mount Field National Park. Pass through Maydena and continue on Gordon River Road all the way to Strathgordon.
The Hike - After a fantastic first leg to our Tasmanian road trip exploring Mount Field National Park and surrounds, it was time to move on. Next on the itinerary was a visit to Lake Pedder, a place that Candy and Hal were keen to kayak and was also a bit special to Candy as she was here protesting the hydro scheme back in the day. With a whole day to get from Mount Field to the Lake Pedder Wilderness Lodge where we were staying, I scheduled in a visit to the Tolkien Track to break up the journey. With a lovely time exploring the forest we headed out on the hilly and winding Gordon River Road, spotting a wombat along the way.
During my research and planning for the trip, Strathgordon was a bit of a black hole for trails with a lack of day hike options close to the small hamlet. This was further reduced when I spotted at the Mount Field Visitor Centre that the Eliza Plateau Track had been closed. For our three night stay here I really only had two trails planned and the Mount Sprent hike was very dependant on weather. Unfortunately the forecast wasn't good with lots of rain headed this way so it would be a wait and see approach to this leg of the trip. There was still plenty to do and sights to see around the Strathgordon/Lake Pedder region and it would be a good opportunity to bunker down in the lodge to enjoy the rain. With good weather on the day that we arrived, I was keen to get exploring while we could. After checking in and catching up with Candy and Hal who had left earlier than us due to the need to attend a board meeting via Zoom, we made plans for the afternoon. This post will essentially be a repository for our time at Lake Pedder and everything we did/saw apart from my expedition up to the summit of Mount Sprent.
Candy and Hal were keen to get out on the kayaks for a few hours while conditions were calm so we headed down to the boat ramp below the lodge to see them off. The views from the lodge are fantastic with a little lawn stretching out towards the helipad and out over the lake. There is a lower section with access to the various jetties and fishing spots on the lakes edge and over the course of our stay there I spent a lot of time photographing the views looking across to the distant mountains. Watching them get into their touring kayaks, Candy set off first and was a dot on the horizon before Hal had stopped faffing and went about paddling after her. It certainly was a scenic photo opportunity with the two of them heading off towards the various islands with the mountains in the background. With Candy and Hal now well out of sight I suggested to Caris that we go and check out the forest walk that starts and finishes opposite the entrance to the lodge car park. The best source of information I could find about it was from this website that refers to it as Jack's Track but further research revealed Jack's Track to be located further south along Gordon River Road near Ted's Beach Camping Area and a lot longer in length.
For the purposes of this post I will refer to it as the Strathgordon Forest Walk as it's located in Strathgordon (which is really just the Lake Pedder Wilderness Lodge and some other houses) and the only sings refer to it as the "Forest Trail". With fading light, I dragged Caris across the road from the lodge and set about finding the start of the trail. I believe the small loop road on the other side of Gordon River Road is called Spring Street and you want to head to the north west corner to find the entry point. It's fairly obvious and you cross a wooden bridge to enter the walk. It didn't take long for a smile to hit my face as you leave the fairly drab looking urban environment of Strathgordon behind and enter a world of closed in forest, fungi and damp smells. Immediately we were both in fungi search mode and this would begin a ritual on our hikes where Caris would be up the front and putting her keen eye for fun guys to good use while I was bringing up the rear and photographing what she pointed out. We made a good team over the course of the trip and this was the first fungi heavy hike to test out the system. All throughout the walk there is a very enclosed and overgrown feel to the trail and I am a big fan of this style of walk. Being a short walk I didn't think to change out of my casual shoes and this turned out to be a bit of an issue on the slippery sections that contained a bit of mud. Going slowly was the theme of this walk though so it wasn't really an issue as we started to come across some cool fungi finds.
One of the early ones that caught our eye was a Mauve Splitting Waxcap (hygrocybe lewelliniae) and several others that I'm having trouble locating on my FungiFlip reference guide. The walk is essentially a bit of an amble up the side of the hill and then back down to the other side where you come out onto Gordon River Road. Progress was slow as we kept finding new and more interesting fungi plus the odd patch of lichen and moss covered tree matter. We were excited when we came across our first Red Coral fungi for the trip and it would be a fun exercise to spot them on future hikes in varying conditions ranging from poor to pretty cool. Starting to descend we found the typical wooden steps replaced by minimalistic metal structures in the steeper places so we took our time negotiating their slippery surfaces. Coming across a wooden boardwalk, Caris let me know she had found a good display of shrooms with a large fomes hemitephrus clinging to the end of a cut log with what I believe was a large and bright clumping of pycnoporus coccineus just below it. This walk was turning out much better than I expected and with all the fungi hunting, it felt like a much longer trail. Heading down the hill further, Caris did make a remark about how long we had left and I was secretly hoping it would last much longer than the information I found suggested it would.
My only concern was that it was getting late in the afternoon and when the sun disappeared behind some darker clouds then the lighting became an issue. While photographing the rainforest in full sun is not ideal, the opposite end of the scale with cloudy conditions can lead to issues this late in the day. Holding my camera very still as the shutter stayed open long enough to let in the light was a fun game to play and I even reverted to putting the flash on for the important fungi photos, something I really didn't like doing before this trip. It all worked out in the end as suddenly we reached a bright spot where the road appeared below us. It wasn't nearly as dark as I thought it was walking through the forest and it's a short walk along the road back to the lodge. With a fantastic walk under our belts we headed back to the lodge to get ready for dinner. The following day was not the best for going on long hikes (Mount Sprent was really the only option anyway) with overnight rain lingering into the morning so we lounged around the lodge playing scrabble and chess while we drank tea and hot chocolate by the fire. Candy and Hal decided to drive back to Maydena to check out The Needles, a hike that is described as needing "minimal physical exertion required" by TasTrails. Hal regaled how unimpressed he was with that statement at dinner that night after arriving there and finding a steep climb up to the summit. That afternoon Hal offered the kayaks for us to use and it was an opportunity too good to pass up. With the weather approaching, we got a quick set of instructions on how to use the touring kayaks and set off on a mini adventure.
The water was reasonable calm so we made our way to one of the closest islands first. Being out on the water was a great way to see the lake and it was a really relaxing time just paddling to the next spot. With limited time and not wanting to get caught out in the weather we circled the first island we came across and then explored one of the little bays that is surrounded by forest. While I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to hike Mount Sprent due to the poor weather forecast the next day, this was a fun experience that substituted in nicely. After returning to the boat jetty and dragging the kayaks to an out of sight location, I decided it would be a good idea to go see Gordon Dam. It's a short drive to the end of Gordon River Road to the impressive engineering feat that is Gordon Dam and you can take a set of stairs down to walk along the dam wall. The controversial nature of how Lake Pedder became much larger than it used to be following the damming of the Gordon and Serpentine Rivers is a long an complex story and many decades later it's still a hard issue to come to grips with. On one hand there was a lot of wilderness destroyed when the lakes were created but Gordon Dam is responsible for 13% of Tasmania's electricity supply, reducing the need for a gas or coal power since it's introduction. It's a pretty awe-inspiring place to be and the depths of the valleys downstream from the dam wall is really what blew my mind. It wouldn't be my last visit to Gordon Dam on this leg of the trip and it really is as special as it looks in every photo you've seen.
Final Thoughts - While Lake Pedder is lacking somewhat in activities to do during your visit, it's still a really pretty place with an interesting, if checkered history.
Even the short forest walk outside the lodge highlights what beauty lies just off the road so it's really baffling that there aren't more hikes (or at least a greater variety away from the super steep or long mountain hikes) catering to those visiting the Wilderness Lodge.
From what I gathered the lodge mainly caters to a mix of hydro workers and seasonal tourists with the rooms converted from old workers accommodation. It's not the most luxurious of lodgings and the sound deadening and insulation needs a serious upgrade (you can hear your neighbours speaking and/or snoring quite clearly).
We tended to only use the room when required as the restaurant, bar and lounge area was a much nicer place to be. The food was lovely, the lounges comfortable and it's always warm thanks to the fireplace.