Devils Gullet: The Great Western Tiers

Devils Gullet - Great West Tiers, Tasmania
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Magnificent alpine terrain, scenery and vegetation of Devils Gullet Tasmania

Devils Gullet

by Carol Haberle

Not a bushwalker, but have a wish to see a glimpse of the remote alpine world of Tasmania’s Central Plateau? Then the drive to experience Devils Gullet Viewing Platform is for you, where you will view a dramatic world of raw, stark beauty on the northern rim of The Great Western Tiers Touring Route.  It’s a world shaped by ice and rain over millions of years, where only nature decides whether you can have a tranquil peaceful landscape or one so wild you can only but imagine why it’s called “Devils Gullet”. To get there, take the B12 (C38) west from Mole Creek, past Marakoopa and King Solomons Caves, then onto Mersey Forest Road for a very short distance, turning left at the signposted road to Devils Gullet. There is about 14km of good gravel road, easily suited to 2WD.  And truly worth travelling a gravel road to see!

Devils Gullet - Dentral Plateau & Dolerite Cliffs
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Views to the Central Plateau from Devils Gullet ~ Inset: Dolerite Cliffs of the Fisher Valley

On the Road to Devils Gullet

Once on the Devils Gullet road, a steady uphill climb, one enjoys a very scenic drive through mainly eucalypt forests, ever changing as you gain altitude. Views across treetops to magnificent mountain ranges on the right.  On the left the ever changing understory of beautiful forests, mosses, thick lush ferns and sub-alpine shrubs, all fighting for survival in this rocky terrain.  Small water cascades… the higher you travel the more dramatic the changes.


 

At about the half way point, one comes to a scenic lookout, a stop being a must here. Fisher River Scenic Lookout provides stunning views across the forests, valleys, mountain summits and the nunatak peaks of Cradle Mountain and beyond.

A 15 Minute Walk to the Gullet…

A little further on and one reaches the plateau, visible proof of the last ice age when this area lay covered in ice  A dramatic raw beauty lies before you, a landscape of rocks and boulders, alpine flora and eucalypts growing harshly crippled in their fight for survival under the harshest of conditions: extremes of heat in summer and bitter cold in winter. Devils Gullet State Reserve is located in one of Tasmania’s ‘United Nations-recognised’ World Heritage Areas. Signposted clearly, a turnoff leads you off the main road a very short distance to the Devils Gullet car park, from where a short 15 minute, moderately easy alpine walk is needed to reach the viewing platform of Devils Gullet. Over 60% of alpine flora in this region is endemic to Tasmania. The walk to the platform is a delight in summer; the alpine flora attracts many insects and beautiful butterflies to the region, plants such as cushion plants (Donatia, Dracophyllum and Abrotanella spp.) and scoparia (Richea scoparia).

Devils Gullet - Butterfly
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One of the unique butterflies to the alpine region of Devils Gullet during a Tasmanian summer

In winter, while it can be bitterly cold (rug up, thermals needed!), it is equally as delightful.  The beautiful Snow Gum puts on her best display, the rich colours of the bark providing a stark contrast against the whiteness of the snow. The bark of the snow gum is smooth and white to light grey or sometimes brown-red, shedding in patches or strips to give a mottled appearance. Rather than losing its leaves in winter/autumn, the tree adapts to the weight of snow by progressively bending its branches so that the outermost branches extend vertically down and snow is shed from the leaves. The Snow Gum is the most cold tolerant of all the eucalypt species, can withstand snow and ice, and prospers in well-drained soil and colder areas, but is also able to grow in the most diverse of areas, from shallow rocky soils in very exposed dry areas to wet snowy areas on high cliff tops.

Devils Gullet - Snow Gums
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The contrasting colours of snow gums found in Tasmania’s alpine climates

Views of True Tasmanian Wilderness

The viewing platform of metal grille work overhangs a sheer cliff face over 220 metres high and provides magnificent 180° views of the Fisher River Valley, a gorge before you of sheer dolerite cliffs, carved out by ice and water moving off the plateau and down the valley, shaped by ice and rain over millions of years. This landscape has been evolving for about 200 million years, since long before Tasmania broke away from the great southern landmass called Gondwana. You will see forests before you; valleys and mountainous ranges. Directly across the valley you will see Clumner Bluff at 1559 metres, while in the distance to the west one sees the vista of Cradle MountainLake St Clair National Park, views to Mt. Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak at 1617 metres which lies in the heart of the national park and many more mountain peaks across an area of over 100 000 hectares of Tasmania’s Central Plateau. An information board on the Devils Gullet Lookout will have you naming the mountains you see. The floor of the gullet shows the fragility of the dolerite cliffs, dolerite boulders litter the valley where the extremes of weather and erosion have had them falling from the cliffs over thousands of years. To stand on the platform on a stormy winter’s day, as the dolerite cliffs channel freezing south westerly winds up into the gullet is truly an exhilarating experience.  One truly feels how wild this wilderness really is!

Devils Gullet - Viewing Platform and Snow-Covered Steps
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The viewing platform at Devils Gullet and the snow-covered steps

A Nunatak Peak…

The end of the last glacial period was almost 20 000 years ago, when Tasmania was part of a great land mass known as Gondwanaland. Much of this island is composed of dolerite intrusions, (upwellings of magma, the molten or semi molten rock, that is found beneath the surface of the earth), through other rock types, sometimes forming large columnar joints. Tasmania has the world’s largest areas of dolerite with many of our distinctive cliffs and peaks being formed of this rock type, including much of the Great Western Tiers, and also Cradle Mountain in the Central Plateau. Cradle Mountain is one of what is known as a nunatak peak, this dolerite capped peak was one of many formed during the ice age. A nunatak peak was left exposed to the harsh weather conditions above the ice, leaving them weathered and jagged looking, while those peaks buried beneath the ice look more smoothly rugged.

Devils Gullet - Cradle Mountain Nunatak Peak
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Cradle Mountain National Park: an example of nunatak peaks in Tasmania

All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography.
You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards

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Map: Devils Gullet, Tasmania…