Headwaters of the Mersey River

Back in 2020 I had a go at cycling from Mole Creek up to Lake Rowallan in the headwaters of the Mersey River. That time I didn’t get past Lake Parangana, would this time be different?

I decided to include a leisurely 2 night camp at Mole Creek in the trip and looked for some good weather. The weather window appeared and stuff was loaded into car and trailer.

Camp by the creek

I pre-booked a camp spot by the side of Sassafras Creek and, on arrival, found I had been allotted Site 7. Quite a good space overall but long and narrow. I didn’t fancy unhooking the trailer and some space was taken up with a useful wooden camp table so, how best to fit the longer-than-normal tent in? I parked the car and trailer along the outside of the spot, shoved the table away to one end and the tent just fitted with one end budged up against the car, the other almost in the creek. In fact the tent pegs at that end were into the downside of the creek bank and I had visions of going head-over-heels into the creek while tensioning the guy ropes.

No matter, it all fitted in and the way it worked with hedges on either side gave some privacy.

The creek road bridge is a mixture of old and new
The only platypus seen this visit

I have spotted platypus in the creek on previous stays but this time the above was it. When I first saw it I thought it might be real. When I poked it the chink gave the game away – it was a pottery beast.

The afternoon was hot and then the wind blew up. I could see the tent was going to be side on to the wind – not ideal. It was also stretching loose and the fly was touching the inner tent. I repositioned and tightened pegs and guy ropes and improved things. Then settled down to cook tea.

By 6pm the wind was cold and the sun had ducked under cover so I tested out sitting in the camp chair in the vestibule of the tent. It was just possible. Out of the wind it felt quite a bit warmer and I had a good book to read via the phone app. Eventually it was too cold there too so, to bed.

At 5.30am I was awakened by a nearby and very loud Blackbird talking to another Blackbird in the distance. The conversation went on long enough to get me out from under the quilt and into some warm clothes. The first thing I found was an upended box of longline milk, nibbled all along one side and empty. I had stood it up in a ‘safe’ position last night. Something got to it and I hadn’t heard a thing!!

Devondale Extra Light must be rattys favourite

Overnight it had rained. Yes, the YouTube advisers re Naturehike tents were correct – it stretches when wet . This morning I had a floppy tent but no leaks. I bustled around further tensioning the guy ropes getting the water on top to shed nicely. 

After a cup of tea I began readying the trike for the uphill ride. The trailer is a noisy thing to open, drop tailgate etc so I tried very hard not to bug the others in the park with various crashing and banging. By 7am I had breakfasted, coffee’d (Aeropress) and loaded up the panniers on the trike all without any complaints.

Included in the load were 3 batteries filled to the top with electrons harvested at home from the sun via the shed solar panel. The system works very well and each battery read the optimum 41.7 volts.

One 16ah battery was on the trike, the other 2 (16ah and 13ah tucked each into a pannier, my teeth were cleaned, people were spoken to (“Where are you going”, “What are you doing”, ‘That’s an interesting looking … um …. thing”) and then we were away.

The start of today’s climb – dull lighting due to mist / low cloud
The type of bush on the initial part of the ride

The above is an example of the type of bush along the wayside. The day was grey with low cloud and mist. Not a lot of light for photography but the moisture brings out the bush colours (for the eye and not the camera) and smells. My climbing speed was slow at 5-6 kph to climb without burning up too much battery power. At this speed there was plenty of time to take in the view and smell the smells. I particularly like the musky bushy odours.

Dotted amongst the eucalypts are man ferns. Recent wet weather has produced a lot of new growth on them. With the eucalypts the new growth is often a browny-red colour while the man ferns are a light green. The mixture is a delight to view.

It was quiet. Birds could be heard all over – Grey Shrike Thrushes, Spotted Pardelotes, Tasmanian Ravens to name but a few. The Birdlife Australia website says “The Grey Shrike-thrush is considered to be one of the best songsters in Australia. It was formerly known as the ‘Harmonious Thrush’, and little wonder, as the species has hundreds, if not thousands, of different songs, most of which are musical masterpieces.”. They were in full song this morning.

All along the route were signs of damage due to recent rains. Everywhere the small creeks usually running under the road had obviously run over the road in the floods and had damaged the road surface. After the ride I read that an estimated 3,500 square metres of road surface have been damaged in the Meander Council area alone. Most have been re-gravelled and the tarmac surface will be added in all good time.

As an aside, I also read that the suspension bridge in Deloraine is closed as it has been damaged by the powerful waters of the Meander river that swept through the lower parts of the town. I won’t be cycling over it for a while then.

The ride from the camp begins with a climb for 7-8 kilometres. Then things flattened out a bit as it goes past the access roads to Marakoopa and King Solomon’s Cave in the Mole Creek Karst National Park. From the National Parks website : The Mole Creek Karst National Park, features an extensive karst landscape of caves, sinkholes, gorges, streams and springs that weave their way below the surface

Then the uphill takes over for a while.

The road curves around following the bottom of the trees

The section above is some of the steepest climbing of the day. It also proved to be the fastest descent on the way back. This section I certainly remembered from my previous attempt.

Cows in the open paddock – hunkering down next to a lot of silage bales. They didn’t appear to be eating it.
Maybe Halfway? Parked next to a eucalypt plantation. Dense and no birds. Not being logged yet thank goodness, so no log trucks to share the road.

I stopped for a bite to eat and drink some water. Didn’t really feel like either but it’s best to keep on top of these things. Opposite was a stand of trees and I watched as a Flame Robin selected a branch to sit on and observe me. They are so bright red, they really stand out. I moved to find the camera and it flew off.

After that some more climbing as the road returned to a more bushy aspect.

The light green of new ferns can be seen here
These man ferns climb the hill, the land filled in by “normal” ferns. It’s just so lush at the moment

What occurs then are two surprisingly long descents into the valley of Mill Creek. Although expected, it’s still irritating to climb for so long and then lose significant altitude!

Just before starting the next climb I heard the whine of something. Plane?  Helicopter???   Ah no, it was a gravel truck plus trailer boring down the hill I had just descended. I pulled over to let the heavily laden truck plus large trailer go past.  It then made heavy weather of the climb blowing out a cloud of black diesel particulates as it lumbered up the hill.

Once over the river and climbing the countryside changes and becomes dryer and more alpine. Along the way we passed this Apiary site.

I couldn’t see a lot of flower here. Must be up in the canopy of the trees
A very quiet set of hives

Our bee keepers are worried about Varroa Mite at the moment. It is not established in Australia but was detected in NSW in June this year. As a result all Tasmanian beekeepers are advised to remain vigilant in closely monitoring their colonies for any signs of the mite.  From a home gardener point of view Sue and I have both commented on the scarcity of bees so far this spring and summer. Maybe the extra damp and cool conditions are keeping their numbers down?

Finally I got to Lake Parangana. The rubble walls plus the tailrace (penstock?) of the dam come into view and but I couldn’t see the actual hydro power station. I thought about taking a picture. A thought is all it was because I was feeling a bit tired at this point.

Note 1 : I since checked the map of the area and found that the power station is some way to the east – Fisher Power Station. Water from the Fisher flows into Lake Parangana. No wonder I couldn’t see a power station.

Note 2 : Researching the Mersey River I found that water from Lake Paranaga transfers west into the Lemonthyme Power Station. It’s quite a network.

Then I spotted the truck plus trailer. It was dumping its load seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I stopped to watch. The tipping trailer is dumped first, then the truck pulls away and jackknifes the trailer so the truck itself can be tipped and emptied onto the same pile. I had heard of this manoeuvre and was interested to see it happen. It would be fun to watch a learner driver being taught the skills required. Perhaps on YouTube!

Here is a picture of Parangana from my 2020 trip

I started cycling again wondering just how far was it from the end of Lake Parangana to Lake Rowallan. Probably should have had a map with me! I continued to crank uphill and got to the Arm River confluence. From the signs it would seem there is camping on Arm River plus canoeing. Something for checking another day.

Just after that the road changed to gravel. It was a pretty good surface as long as the rear wheel ran on the smooth bit formed by the inside wheels of vehicular traffic. The two front wheels ran in crappier gravel and this was bouncy but not a problem. To my left was a drop to the Mersey River while on my right were cliffs formed when cutting the road, eating into the foothills of Maggs Mountain.

The rock in the area obviously breaks up – no doubt through the eroding effect of water and expanding ice. Is it Dolerite? I was unable to confirm so need to do further research. Whatever it is there are areas of netting installed to stop rocks getting onto the road – so falling rocks must be a common problem.

What’s this? Asphalt again? So soon? Perhaps someone lives here. No – it was a public day-use site with access to walking tracks and toilets. That was convenient. After using the facilities, which were as spotless as you can get with a long drop dunny in the bush, I had a look at the view.

Up River
Down River

The sky was still grey and cloudy but even with that it’s a feel good area. I think I will be bringing Sue up here and we can check out the walks. Perhaps have a BBQ too.

The asphalt lasted until just around the corner and then we were back to gravel. Gently then not so gently climbing, the road carried on. An Alfa car drove past hands waving wildly out the window. I recognised it as a neighbouring car at the Mole Creek campsite and responded appropriately.

Finally, through the trees, is it? Yes, it is!! Another rubble dam wall with (penstock? Not sure of the term) and somewhere nearby is the Lake Rowallan hydro power station.

The road became steeper and the back wheel threatened to slip. A lengthy climb to become level with and the higher than the power station / dam wall needed to be conquered. At the top I had some thoughts about the journey back down – the trike has drum brakes but only on the front wheels. Oh well, let’s deal with that later.

A few more kilometres and there was a boat ramp plus camp ground. Hmmm. Well, a camp ground if you have a wheeled camper. The surface was all rocky and sloping so, not good for tents.

About this time the sun started to poke through.

Lake Rowallan !! We’re there.
There are a lot of dead trees in the lake – must be tricky fishing from a boat
Lunch time

The lakes are stocked with trout by the Fisheries dept and the signs hold a lot of info re bag limits, legal fishing methods, boat handling etc. I can see that you would have to be careful with all the drowned trees out there.

Lunch was cheese and biscuits. The packet announced the contents was proudly packed in Australia using 0% Australian ingredients.  What, don’t we make cheese and biscuits in Australia?

To this point I had used one battery which was now reading close to 33 volts – near the cut off point. So, it was time for a change. The second 16ah battery was slotted in and I felt good that, on the way back, with 2 batteries to go I could afford to use a bit more power on the hills.

It is often the case that the return ride seems shorter. This time the ride back along the gravel was over surprisingly quickly. The steep downhill by the power station was OK, the front brakes held and the wheels didn’t slip too much. The length of the gravel was ever slightly downhill and any hills were soared over using high power levels. It was soon finished. After that I thought it wouldn’t be far to Lake Parangana but that was wrong. This part of the ride was faster than going but by the time the lake appeared I was wondering if I had blinked and missed it.  How come the gravel was despatched so quickly but the asphalt part seemed so long? What happened in my brain?

After Parangana the ride was a switchback to start with but I remembered how it fitted together. I enjoyed the descents and rode out the climbs hitting that power button. After a while another battery swap. There are three main descents that take the trike to around the 50 kph mark. One took the trike up to 53/54 kph. They are nice – it’s always a buzz to get a trike over 40kph and needing to lean when cornering to keep the inside wheel on the ground.

By 3pm I had returned to Mole Creek which was now bathed in sunshine.

The campgrounds were filling again as I pulled in. Tired but delighted to have met the goal. A shower, a cup of tea and a chat with Sue as the kettle boiled was just the ticket. The wind rose, the 4 pm sun was strong and I found some shade by the side of the trailer. 

The tent, retention’d this morning, was now dry and drum tight in the sun but the pegs were holding so I left it alone.

By 6pm I was looking for a warm jacket!!  The sun had gone, the wind still blew through the camp and it was decidedly cold again!!  Another early night driven under the quilt by outside temperatures. Hey, summer started yesterday!!

Final morning.

Woken by Ravens “Ark Arking” in the trees this time and my thoughts turned to Graham Kennedy and his famous live on air crow calls that led to trouble – Fark, Fark. The sun was coming up and I indulged in some day dreaming about possible trips to come. I put the kettle on and positioned the chair so the shadow from a tree trunk on the bank opposite was just keeping the sun from my eyes. As my spot on the earth rotated towards the sun, the Sun climbed higher up the tree trunk while some rays permeated the screen of crack willow leaves to land on the tent to begin the drying process.

Last night something chewed through the bottom of the rubbish bag tied to a guy rope to get at another milk box. Rats with a taste for milk box outers?

The tent was wet inside (condensation) and outside (dew) and I doubted it would dry by 9.30 and it didn’t. Oh well – it will dry at home.

AA short video of the ride :

’til next time ……………………………

Author: antc1946

Born in 1946 I learnt to cycle about 10 years later. On a bike with rods connecting brake levers to the brakes - anyone remember those? I emigrated to Australia (from the UK) in 1974 and moved to Tasmania in 1984. Bicycles were in my life for most of that time although sometimes they were replaced by motorised two wheels for a bit more excitement. On reaching 70 I decided to stick to pedal power but in 2019 an electric recumbent made an appearance. it's now 2023 and I have 3 bikes. 2 e-recumbents and the Brompton.

4 thoughts on “Headwaters of the Mersey River”

  1. This looks like it was a really nice ride and the photos are gorgeous. Glad the traffic wasn’t as bad as the last one and that the tent is doing well. You seem to have the battery thing really figured out now, too, which should give you some confidence for future tours. Is Edge of the World a possibility after the summer school holidays?


    1. The Edge of The World – is still a possibility but I’m not thinking about it al the moment. I showed my riding mate Colin a video by the Melbourne Brompton Group of a ride along the renovated Gippsland Rail Trail. He wants to go over for a ride now! That may be after the school holidays. We are getting Christmas / New Year over before making plans. I also seem to be booking several medical appointments up to mid Feb! Nothing serious but it all takes time. All the best for your ride – may the weather improve from here on in.


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