Arthur River Cruise Through Untouched Ancient Forests

12 February, 2014

The MV George Robinson ready to take us  along the pristine Arthur River


Early start today, we have an 84 km drive from Stanley to Arthur River for our cruise.  We arrived in time to visit the Edge of the World, the westernmost point in Tasmania (left).  In the winter months the winds batter this area with the westerly winds (becomes difficult to even stand!), and the rains swell the Arthur River as it forces its way to the ocean at Edge of the World, bringing with it hundreds of logs and dead trees to be dumped on the beaches.  This timber is collected by the locals and camping visitors to use as firewood, but at the time we were there plenty of logs were evident on the beaches.

We boarded the “MV George Robinson” and left at 10am with our guides “Cagey” and “Mouse”, husband and wife Skipper and Guide, and owners of Arthur River Cruises, to travel up the Arthur River (which was once a glacier) through the ancient forests on its banks.  The Arthur River is one of the State’s seven major rivers, but it is the only one which is completely wild, having never been logged, dammed or had a hot fire through the rainforest for almost 650 years.  Many of the trees would not survive a fire, whereas the eucalypts thrive after a fire.

As we cruise along the river we see three different areas of vegetation, Coastal Heath, followed by Wet Sclerophyll Eucalypt Forest, and then Temperate Rain Forest.  When we approach the Wet Sclerophyll Eucalypt Forest the Sea Eagles are waiting for the boat.  As Mouse throws three fish on to a narrow piece of grassland on the banks of the river, one of the Sea Eagles swooped to collect a fish, then its mate followed.  Their chick, difficult to locate because it still had its grey feathers (by way of camouflage) and will not gain its adult feathers until it is about 5 years old, sat quietly in a large tree waiting for its dinner!  Wedge tailed eagles also live along the river, but we were not fortunate to see any that day.

We did see a Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo, and of course the usual residents of cormorants and ducks came out to greet us.

As the Arthur River joined the Frankland River, we pulled in to Turk’s Landing and went ashore.  This area of land is maintained by Cagey as a cleared area with covered tables and seats.  It is a base to start our walk into the rainforest, and for Mouse to start preparing our bar-b-cue .  Cagey was an informative and amusing guide, telling us stories of his years on the Arthur River.  He led  us to a tree where he said the biggest Bird Eating Spider in Tasmania lived (not true!) and showed us where a mini cyclone had wreaked havoc on parts of the river bank, uprooting trees that were hundreds of years old. One huge tree, an Arctic Beech, was 453 years old (that is true), it is a very ancient forest area.

Mouse had prepared a great bar-b-cue and salads for us, and as we were finishing the meal a friendly Tiger Quoll (or Spotted-tail Quoll) arrived to say hello.  She is apparently a frequent visitor, but Cagey had not seen her for about three weeks.  This cute animal was agile as she jumped up on to the bench where Cagey was sitting, while he offered her bits of sausage.  The tiny pieces she ate immediately, the larger pieces she ran off and buried for later, then came back for more.  All of the party were taking photographs of her, and she seemed to enjoy the attention.  Small in stature, the quoll has a very long tail, and stripes and looks very much like a cat.

On the return voyage Mouse had prepared another fish for the Sea Eagles (who wait in anticipation for the boat to arrive!), this time she bravely held the fish in her hand for the Sea Eagle to pounce to claim it.

A highlight for me was when Cagey allowed me to steer the boat toward home, under his watchful eye!  It was a great feeling to be steering the vessel through the beautiful serene river, and imagining what it must have been like for the early settlers opening up this remote area.

Cagey also told us the story of George Augustus Robinson (after whom the boat is named).  Robinson came to Australia from England in 1824 and spent many years in the Arthur River area.  It is his work with the aborigines of the area, and attempting to understand and respect the way they cared for the environment, that he is best known.

Slight rain had started as we returned to the Arthur River wharf, the ducks again came out to meet us.  We called in to the Arthur River store to buy an icecream, then commenced the long drive back to Strahan, feeling blessed to have had the opportunity to see the untouched Arthur River and some of its inhabitants, and its ancient forests.

It was late afternoon when we arrived back at Strahan so we took the opportunity to drive to the heritage listed Highfields House, set high on a hill overlooking the Nut and Strahan.  We arrived too late to inspect the interior of the house, but were able to have a good look around the grounds and outbuildings and the remains of the convicts’ barracks.

Also time to catch up with the blog back at our accommodation, Stamps of Stanley (a quirky apartment built above the post office), and finished off a perfect day with dinner at Stanleys on the Bay Restaurant, a wonderful old bluestone building overlooking the water, formerly a customs store built in 1835.

Arriving at Turks Landing for a walk through the rainforest before lunch

The Arthur River is one of the State’s seven major rivers, but it is the only one which is completely wild, having never been logged, dammed or had a hot fire through the rainforest for almost 650 years.

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