Cradle Mountain from Marions
Lookout - an autumn view
For many, a highlight of their trip to the northern end of the Cradle Mountain -- Lake St Clair National Park is the view across Dove Lake to Cradle Mountain, one of Tasmania's natural highlights. The mountain itself is a jagged, dolerite peak which dominates the area. Its name, supposedly, is derived from the mountain's resemblance to a miner's cradle. This dramatic vista can be seen either on foot as you walk along the shores of the Lake, or from the carpark at Dove Lake. Visitors should bear in mind, however, that the wild weather of the Tasmanian highlands often shrouds the mountain in cloud.
There are a number of excellent walks in the area, including the Dove Lake Loop Track which takes you through the stunning Ballroom Forest, an area of cool temperate rainforest nestled against the slopes of the mountain. Other walks include the Weindorfers Forest walk. Of course, the area also marks the start of the famous Overland Track, one of Australia's premier wilderness walks. See our section on what you can do at Cradle for further details.
The area around Weindorfer's Chalet is well worth a look. Rich in history, the rustic chalet was once home for Gustav Weindorfer, the founding father of the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park. Stop by, and let the displays inside the building tell you the story of its past. The area in which the chalet is set is simply beautiful. You will soon understand why Gustav dedicated his life to ensuring the preservation of the Cradle Mountain area for all the people, for all time.
The Visitor Centre at the entrance to the park provides details on walks and other activities in the area. Interpretation displays reveal the many natural wonders of the area. Many of the natural and cultural values of the area have been recognised through the listing of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Aboriginal values are inclusive of all things associated with the land. All have importance to the Aboriginal community. The remnants of Aboriginal occupation of the land are only a small indication of Aboriginal values associated with an area.
Aboriginal use of the Cradle Mountain area is presently dated from the last ice age (from 10,000 years ago) and is thought to have been non-permanent, probably consisting mostly of seasonal hunting excursions during the summer months.
Cradle Valley and the surrounding areas contain many Aboriginal living areas or sites. These living areas are generally identified by the stone tools still present, caves or rock shelters that contain evidence of Aboriginal use and stone sources or quarries, where people sourced the stone for making stone tools.
The unique Pleistocene archaeological sites are of great antiquity and demonstrate the sequence of human occupation at high southern latitudes during the last ice age. They are testimony to the adaptation and survival of human societies to glacial climatic cycles and periods of long isolation from other communities. The human societies in Tasmania were the most southerly known peoples on earth during the last ice age.
Little evidence survives of the early European activities of hunting, surveying and mineral exploration. By the 1860s logging was being carried out along Pencil Pine River. Some mining was carried out from about 1890 to 1920 between Cradle Mountain and the Pelion area. Several of the present-day walking tracks in this area are tracks that were originally blazed during this period. In about 1930, a small copper mine was worked along the Dove River, about 1km from the junction of Dove River and Pencil Pine Creek. However, mining in the area proved uneconomic and was eventually abandoned.
Trappers and hunters frequented the area. Snarers and prospectors constructed many huts in the area prior to the 1920s. The death from exposure of one such trapper, a sixteen year old boy, Bert Hanson, in 1906 was the first recorded death of a European in the area and the naming of Hanson's Peak, to the east of Cradle Mountain, recalls this event.
In 1912 Kate and Gustav Weindorfer built a rustic home and guest chalet at Cradle Valley on purchased crown land. The chalet, which they named 'Waldheim' , was sited in a sheltered position on the fringe of a forest near a running stream and was constructed from local materials using traditional bush carpentry. Weindorfer and a small group of ardent supporters, including Major R E Smith and Fred Smithies, campaigned actively to have the Cradle Mountain area reserved. A detailed history of the Weindorfers and Walheim Chalet is available at our Visitors Guides to Historic Places.
In May 1922, an area of 158 000 acres (63 943 hectares) between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair was gazetted as Scenic Reserve under the Scenery Preservation Act 1915. In 1935 the Scenery Preservation Board appointed Lionel Connell as the first permanent ranger at Cradle Mountain. Connell bought the Weindorfer land and continued to upgrade the facilities at Waldheim. Connell was responsible for the construction of the Trailside Museum and several other buildings and tracks at Waldheim and in the surrounding area.
A timber mill for King Billy pine operated in the valley from the 1930s through to the 1970s. It is estimated that in the five-year period between 1964 and 1969, over 1 million super feet of native pine were felled in the area.
The road to Dove Lake was constructed in 1965 by the Scenery Preservation Board to provide access for motorists to the magnificent view of Cradle Mountain from the shore of Dove Lake. (During 2003 the road from Pencil Pine Creek to Waldheim and Dove Lake was upgraded and sealed to improve traffic flow and drainage, and to reduce erosion and dust pollution).
In 1971 the reserve was proclaimed a State Reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1970, and responsibility for the area was transferred from the Scenery Preservation Board to the newly formed National Parks and Wildlife Service. In 1982 the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park became a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area which today encompasses 21% of the land area of Tasmania.
Cradle Mountain greets the visitor
on arrival at Dove Lake
The Cradle Mountain region is an area of marked geological contrasts.
In the area of the visitor centre and north and northeast across the Middlesex Plains, basalt flows formed an extensive plain about 8 to 16 million years ago, a portion of which outcrops at Pencil Pine Falls.
The region has been extensively shaped by glacial erosion and deposition over the past 2 million years. The various glaciers which covered the area have left behind a variety of glacial features including the U-shaped valley of the Dove River (the river is a relatively unusual example of a glacial "u" shaped valley superimposed by a fluvially eroded "v" shaped valley), kettle and kame moraines, numerous lakes and tarns, meltwash channels, circular disintegration mounds, drainage diversions and outwash deposits/patterns.
The geomorphological evolution of the region continues to this day, with periglaciation, fluvial deposition and development of peat soils and blanket bogs. The blanket bogs of the WHA are considered to be the most extensive of their type in the southern hemisphere and that those of the Cradle area occur at a particularly high altitude.
The vegetation of the Cradle Mountain area comprises a diverse and beautiful mosaic of vegetation communities from rainforest to grassland.
The area contains ancient plants which reveal their Gondwanan origins, including the long-lived and endemic conifers (such as King Billy pine, Athrotaxis selaginoides, pencil pine, Athrotaxis cupressoides, the hybrid Athrotaxis laxifolia and celery top pine, Phyllocladus aspleniifolius); plant species in the families Cunoniaceae Bauera rubioides), Winteraceae (Tasmannia lanceolata), Stylidiaceae (Stylidium graminifolium) and other plants with Gondwanan links such as deciduous beech, Nothofagus gunnii and and myrtle beech, N. cunninghamii.
The Cradle area contains a wide range of habitats that are home to a diversity of animals. These species live in a reasonably undisturbed environment and include a number of Tasmanian endemic mammals, birds and invertebrates. The area is home to an assemblage of the world's largest carnivorous marsupials including the Tasmanian devil , the spotted-tailed quoll and the eastern quoll. Two of the world's only three surviving monotremes - the most primitive group of mammals in the world - are also found in the area, the platypus and the echidna
Many of the species found in the area reveal their Gonwanan heritage, including marsupials, velvet worms, fish in the family Galaxiidae; aquatic insect groups such as dragonflies, stoneflies and caddis-flies; and crustaceans (e.g. Anaspidacea, and the burrowing crayfish Engaeus sp.)
Other invertebrates reveal a more ancient origin. The pencil pine moth (Dirce aesiodora), a day-flying alpine moth is among the most primitive of the large, cosmopolitan family of moths, the Geometrid moths, whose closest relatives live on mountains in South America, Europe and North America, thus implying links to the ancient super-continent Pangea.