Wild by nature
Experience the marvel of Tasmania’s reborn Lake Pedder
Before me lies a vast, serene lake so expansive that its scale can be comprehended only from the loftiest vantage points, and so calm that its tannin-stained water mirrors surrounding giant quartzite peaks.
In Europe or North America, a marvel such as this — Lake Pedder, in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area — would be much visited, and probably much developed. Instead, this stunning 242sq km lake in Southwest Tasmania is largely ignored. In a day’s kayaking we barely see another soul. Instead of being a major tourist attraction, it seems to be a source of regret and discord. For, as many Australians over a certain age will know, Lake Pedder as I admire it today is not the lake that existed before 1972, when a hydroelectric scheme drowned the original, relatively small glacial lake, to create a water body 24 times larger.
The loss of that original, globally unique lake — and its 3km long, almost 1km wide, pink quartzite beach, created by glaciation 10,000 years ago — remains a running sore in the island state. Some still entertain thoughts of draining what they deride as “Fake Pedder”, to reveal the “true Pedder” and its beach, which by all accounts lies intact below 12m of water.
So it is with surprise that I learn a new guided walking and kayaking operation has chosen Lake Pedder as the centrepiece of its four-day experience, and as the inspiration for its business name. Wild Pedder, owned and operated by two experienced local wilderness guides, Cody McCracken and Lou Balcombe, is based around a lodge on the lake’s shores, at Strathgordon, a once thriving town for dam builders now largely reclaimed by bush. The accommodation is comfortable and the evening meals — focused on fresh local produce and matching wines, and consumed overlooking the lake — are superb.
But it’s on the second day of the trip, sitting in a kayak, drinking water directly from the lake in which I’m paddling, that I first begin to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the much-derided manmade Pedder. Its scale, however offensive to some, is impressive. We spend the best part of a day paddling to and from one of the lake’s many islands, Wilmot, and yet are only really tinkering in one corner.
The paddling is easy in perfectly calm, warm conditions. This allows us more time to gaze at the olive and brown buttongrass shores, rising to the knuckled peaks of the Frankland Range and the even more imposing summits further afield.
Islands of myriad shapes and sizes invite exploration. Some, like Wilmot, where we halt for a picnic lunch and short bush walk, feature dazzling white quartzite pebble beaches, formed since 1972 by the lapping water eroding the soil and peat at the new waterline. These may be a shadow of the “old” Pedder beach but are still a joy upon which to laze, while resting paddling arms and studying the expansive vistas. Lunch is conjured miraculously by Lou and Cody from the depths of their backpacks, local cheeses and hot smoked salmon supplementing less exotic mountain breads and dips.
On the slopes of Mount Eliza above Lake Pedder, top; remnants of the past while hiking, left;
Eucalyptus regnans on the Adamsfield track, right