Ben Lomond rises above rural
pastures and forestry land.
Ben Lomond National Park is dominated by an alpine plateau over 1500 metres high and surrounded on all sides by precipitous escarpments. The basement rocks comprise slates, siltstones, greywackes and quartzite. These were intruded by granite and, later, by dolerite during the Jurassic Period. Dolerite predominates on the plateau. The only exception is a highly localised area under Coalmine Crag and around the flanks of the Ben Lomond Plateau. This exposure includes a narrow coal sequence, which was once worked commercially.
During the Pleistocene Ice Age, a small ice-cap existed on Ben Lomond, which was the only plateau in the north-east to be glaciated. The effects of these glaciers account for much of the contrast between the alpine scenery of Ben Lomond and that of the other mountains in the north-east. The most notable relict periglacial depositional features are the blockfields, which cover over a quarter of the Ben Lomond plateau.
Much of the plateau is devoid of soils. Organic soils (peats), including deep peats, are most extensively developed on the western side of Rodway Valley. Mineral soils are also found, particularly in the better drained sites.
Ben Lomond with Mountain Rocket,
a colourful alpine plant, in the foreground
Ben Lomond National Park protects a representative cross-section of Tasmania's north-east alpine plant communities. Although much of the plateau is stony with areas of low and often stunted forms of vegetation, the remainder of the mountain contains a wide variety of habitats ranging from alpine moorland to dense forest.
A total of 222 plant species have been recorded on the Ben Lomond plateau, represented by 152 dicotyledons, 62 monocotyledons, 1 gymnosperm and 7 fern and fern ally families. The five most common families (Asteraceae, Poaceae, Epacridaceae, Cyperaceae and Proteaceae) account for about half the total number of species recorded. Most families, however, are only represented by one or two species. Some introduced plants have naturalised on the plateau from introduced grasses, clovers and straw used to stabilise soil and revegetate areas affected by slope grooming, road works and other site disturbances.
The most common native species recorded on the plateau are the herbs Poa gunnii (tussock grass) and Gentianella diemensis, the shrubs, Richea scoparia, Orites acicularis and Pentachondra pumila, Baeckea gunniana and Epacris serpyllifolia.
Rock cushion plant (Photo by Peter Grant)
Cushion plants are abundant throughout the plateau. One species, the rock cushion plant Chionohebe ciliolata,
is known only from a small localised area within the Park.
Other rare and threatened species include the rare endemic Oreomyrrhis sessiliflora, and the endangered Colobanthus curtisiae.
Below the escarpment edge, the shrubs Tasmannia lanceolata (mountain pepper) Westringia rubiaefolia, and Orites revolutaare abundant and also occur in the higher forests. A narrow band of Eucalyptus archeri forms the upper limit of tree growth at altitudes varying from 1175 to 1300m. Just below, nearly pure stands of E. delegatensis (gummed-topped stringy bark) occur. Below these, extensive E. amygdalina (black peppermint) forests occur.
Because of the decreasing area of natural habitat available in north-eastern Tasmania, the national park plays an invaluable role in regional wildlife conservation.
Of the larger mammals, Bennett's wallabies and wombats are common, and are regularly seen in the ski village during summer and winter, even under blizzard conditions. Pademelons are abundant in the wet gullies and areas with thick undergrowth. Forester kangaroos have been recorded along the south-west edge of the park.
Eastern quolls inhabit the ski village during winter, and are sometimes sighted during daylight hours. Dusky antechinus occasionally visit lodges. The echidna has been recorded and the platypus has been sighted in the Upper Ford River
Various other species, including the long-nosed potoroo, Tasmanian bettong, brushtail possum, ringtail possum , sugar glider, native rodents such as the velvet-furred rat and the long-tailed mouse, and six species of bat have all been recorded in the park.
Among the birds, no systematic study has been made. Wedge-tailed eagles are regularly reported, as is the noisy yellow-tailed black cockatoo. Among the endemic species recorded are the green rosella, scrubtit, brown thornbill, yellow wattlebird, yellow-throated honeyeater, black-headed honeyeater, strong-billed honeyeater and the black currawong.
Little is known of the reptiles from Ben Lomond. Of particular interest is the endemic northern snow skink Niveoscincus greeni which is an alpine species restricted to several other mountain top areas in the State.
Amphibians recorded from Ben Lomond include the brown tree frog, common eastern froglet and the endemic Tasmanian froglet.
In 1988, research by the Inland Fisheries Commission found no fish in Lake Youl or Lake Baker. Trout are likely in streams below the plateau.
There has been some study of the limited range of invertebrate animals in the Park. An undescribed stone fly Austropentura sp. occurs in the park and is restricted to the highland regions of north-east Tasmania. Another undescribed stone fly Cardioperla n. sp. is considered rare.
The Ben Lomond National Park lies within the territory of the Ben Lomond tribe, which occupied some 260 square kilometres of terrain around Ben Lomond. It is estimated that the Ben Lomond tribe comprised some three of four bands with an estimated total population of between 150 to 200 people.
A notable member of the Ben Lomond tribe was Walter George Arthur, son of Rolepa, a leading man of the tribe. Walter Arthur was an activist for the rights of Aboriginal people at Wybalenna on Flinders Island. At one time, with seven others, he petitioned Queen Victoria noting that they were free people who had defended themselves before giving up their country and making an agreement with Governor Arthur.
European Exploration, Recreation and Skifield Development
Ben Lomond was named after the Scottish mountain of the same name by Colonel Patterson, the founder, in 1804, of the first settlement in northern Tasmania. Although a fair amount of rural development took place in the surrounding country side, the mountain itself remained comparatively unknown till the summer of 1805-6, when Colonel Legge explored the plateau five times, and assessed the heights of the principal crags. He regarded the Ben Lomond Plateau as "the most remarkable physiographical feature in the State", and accordingly bestowed historically significant names for many of the features of the plateau - names which mainly relate to the exploration of the Nile River in Africa, governors, officials and surveyors in Tasmania, and the Colonel's fellow explorers in the survey.
After its formation in 1929, the Northern Tasmanian Alpine Club pioneered trips to the mountain. Club members began improving a track, formerly used by landowners, trappers and others, which ran from the Upper Blessington road through Satan's Gully to Carr Villa.
In the autumn of 1932, a chalet was built at Carr Villa, and in the following summer members began construction of a road from Upper Blessington to Carr Villa, which was finally completed in 1953.
In 1950 a Parlimentary Standing Committee recommended that Ben Lomond should be developed as a ski resort. In 1955 the Australian National Championships were held on the mountain and Ben Bullen, the last of the lodges in the summit area was built to accommodate competitors. In 1963 the road was extended to the top of the plateau via the steep "Jacobs Ladder".
There have been considerable subsequent developments in the park. New ski lifts, visitor facilities including a public shelter, a licenced inn and accommodation, sewerage system, road and access improvements. and other developments have been undertaken. The Ben Lomond Skifield Management Authority was established in 1995 to manage the Skifield Development Area.