160kms from Hobart, Strathgordon was built in 1969, servicing a population of about 2,000 residents during construction of the Gordon Dam for the hydro scheme. These days Strathgordon is a tiny settlement, the permanent population consisting mainly of Hydro Tasmania employees. The entire area is popular with tourists keen on fishing, picnics, barbecues, camping and bush-walking.
Gordon Dam: Hydro Tasmania
by Pauline and John
12kms beyond Strathgordon is the Gordon Dam, an extremely impressive feat of engineering built forty years ago, in 1974. The concrete dam wall, the tallest in Tasmania, stretches 140 metres high and is arched both horizontally and vertically.
Our photos clearly depict the horizontal curvature of the 192-metre wall, but not so much the vertical arch. Perhaps if we’d ventured down the many, many steps to the wall itself, we might have captured a more definitive image. But we didn’t, sorry!
The Dam wall is higher than the Sydney Harbour Bridge and holds back thirty times more water than Sydney Harbour. Adrenalin junkies have the opportunity to abseil down the Gordon Dam, but that’s not our cup of tea either. We didn’t see anyone in abseiling action, but we did wonder how they managed the 140-metre climb back UP the wall.
Gordon River to Lake Gordon
The damming of the Gordon River formed Lake Gordon, which has a surface area of 272 square kms. Lake Gordon combines with Lake Pedder to provide the largest supply of fresh water in Australia. Water levels fluctuate, and the levels were quite low when we were visiting in mid-February. The underground Gordon Power Station is apparently controlled mostly automatically from Hobart 170kms away.
South West Tasmania records an enormous annual rainfall, and extra care would be required when driving in wet and slippery conditions. We were lucky, able to choose a beautiful summer’s day for our journey. The drive from Hobart to Gordon Dam should be even more popular with tourists than it is. Those just traversing the loop around the outside of the state miss some amazing scenery. But we can understand the method in their madness!
We’re fortunate to have family living in Tasmania and visit often, so we’re always looking for new and interesting things to do each trip from our base in Hobart. If we were on a once-in-a-lifetime, week-long holiday, we’d probably stick to MONA, Port Arthur and Salamanca Market too!
South West Tasmania: World Heritage Wilderness
From Gordon River Road, avid bush-walkers can trek through the spectacular World Heritage Area of Tasmania’s south west wilderness, including famous peaks and lakes of the Upper Florentine. We met a couple of outdoorsy-type dudes about to embark on the reportedly-challenging Mt Anne walk. We were content to look out over the magnificent landscape of rugged mountain wilderness and dense forests from the roadside vantage points provided.
Gordon River Road was built as an avenue of access to the Gordon Dam, and also services both the tourism and the forestry industries. The road is surfaced for all-weather and we’d rate the quality of the road as good, if not great. It’s sufficiently good anyway, for drivers adhering to recommended speeds and taking necessary care when meeting log trucks. In some sections there’s virtually no shoulder run-off zone.
You have to take the same road back from Gordon Dam to Hobart; there’s no loop option. However, there’s plenty of opportunity to break the almost three-hour journey. We stopped at Ted’s Beach, a campground on the north-western edge of Lake Pedder, and again just a few kms away in Strathgordon.
Ted’s Beach is a typical bush campground with little more than toilets and rainwater tanks, but it does have very decent views over the large Peddar Lake. With no other tourists or campers in sight, we had the entire picturesque location all to ourselves. Only in Tasmania could you enjoy the peace and tranquility of a solitary picnic on the way to a popular tourist attraction.
Gordon River Road
We’d packed our own food for the trip, because we weren’t sure about supplies and facilities along the Gordon River Road. We also bought petrol at the service station in Bushy Park, where food supplies were plentiful, just so you know! Maydena was another option, the final bowser en route to our destination. Although we didn’t go inside, Lake Peddar Chalet appeared to offer refreshments to visitors too.
If you’re lucky to have spare time in Tasmania, this is one drive we’d recommend. The Gordon River Road section commences just west of Maydena, and it’s been described as “one of Australia’s most awesome road trips”.
We’re not sure we’d go that far… there’s some pretty spectacular drives in Tasmania alone. Think the Old Coast Road from Penguin to Ulverstone; or the Tasman Highway on the east coast. Regardless of its standing in the “best drive” rankings though, the trip to Gordon Dam does provide a unique experience with wonderful scenery.