Welcome to the Tarkine – Australia’s best kept secret.
The rain forests of the Tarkine wilderness, some 177 000 hectares, include the largest unbroken stand of rain forest in Australia. These rain forests are recognised as being one of the most significant tracts of temperate rain forest on earth.
The basalt soils of North-West Tasmania provide prime conditions for luxuriant rain forest growth, and the rain forests of the Tarkine make up the largest tract of tall rain forest in Tasmania. In tall (Callidendrous) rain forest, Myrtle trees can grow up to 50m tall and 4m in diameter, providing a dense canopy and open under story.
Callidendrous forests are typically carpeted by a vast array of mosses, lichens and ferns, resembling well tended botanical gardens. This area was assessed as ‘high-quality wilderness’ as part of the Regional Forest Agreement and has been recommended for protection and World Heritage nomination on a number of occasions. The Tarkine currently has a nomination for National Heritage with the Federal Environment Minister.
The Tarkine and its rain forests, having survived unchanged for many millenia before white man arrived, are a global treasure.
The word Tarkine is adapted from the name of one of three bands of Aboriginal people (Tarkineer) that made up a tribe that once lived in north-west Tasmania. Evidence of Aboriginal occupation in the region includes innumerable middens, hut depressions, artefact scatters, ceremonial stone arrangements, petroglyph’s, and spongolite (a particular rock used to make stone tools). At least 244 archaeological sites have been identified in the area, and although surveys have been less than comprehensive, estimations of up to 1000 sites have been made (Richards and Sutherland-Richards 1992).
The Australian Heritage Commission has assessed the Tarkine as “one of the world’s great archaeological regions” (1990, cited in Richards and Sutherland-Richards 1992).
The sheer size and diversity of ecosystems found within the Tarkine wilderness makes it a refuge in which many Tasmanian endemic, threatened, migratory and vagrant species can feed, breed, disperse and recolonise other areas where their populations have fared poorly.
As a wilderness travel company we ensure that our business has a minimal impact on the environment through how we organise and conduct our tours.
The Tarkine Wilderness hosts Tasmania’s greatest density of high quality wild rivers remaining outside existing World Heritage Areas (Commonwealth of Australia 1997). The entire catchments and sub-catchments of several major rivers remain remote and largely inaccessible.
These include the:
- Pedder, Wild Wave, Thornton, Lagoon and Interview Rivers on the west coast
- Donaldson, Little Donaldson, Upper Rapid and Savage Rivers further inland, and Huskisson and Wilson Rivers in the south-east
The ecological integrity and continued evolution in these catchments have remained unaffected by human development. Our wilderness travel company is proud to be involved in drawing attention to this unique habitat and helping to support the organisations that strive to protect it.
A number of the Tarkine’s landscapes are exemplary and include:
- The largest tract of temperate rainforest in Australia. Located in the Tarkine’s north-east in the upper reaches of the Rapid, Keith, Donaldson and Savage Rivers, the vastness of this rainforest is impressive. The densely rain forested upper Savage River is exceptional due to its deeply incised gorge system.
- The Meredith Range – an undulating granite plateau comprising the Meredith Batholith, the largest exposed area of granite in
- The Norfolk Range – a feature of the Western Coastal Platform characterised by an undulating to flat topography. This region is blanketed in a tapestry of heath and button grass (Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus) moorland, pockets of a variety of forest types at differing stages of succession, and gorge-like drainage lines.
- The Tarkine’s coastline is broadly linear with a contrasting arrangement of jagged rocky headlands and cliffs, extensive dunal systems, long sandy beaches, small coves, lagoons, grassy woodland, and coastal heath land and swamp. It includes Sandy Cape, a picturesque area with a high density of archaeological sites.
- In so far as any undisturbed patchwork of diverse ecosystems and geomorphology can be considered beautiful or aesthetically pleasing, the Tarkine Wilderness undoubtedly qualifies.
The natural beauty of the region not only relates to the high degree of biophysical naturalness (Commonwealth of Australia 1997), but also to the changing nature of landscapes.
Any experience of natural landscapes depends on a range of factors including the season, weather, and the quality of ambient light. Nature’s beauty has a somewhat elusive quality described by Smith (cited in Dixon 1982) as being “characterised by the complete dominance of nature”. This is intrinsic to the human experience of the Tarkine Wilderness.
The Tarkine Wilderness has an astonishing variety of animal species and sub-species. Slater (1992) identified 267 animal species, of which 193 are vertebrates and 74 invertebrates. The vertebrates include 122 bird species, 27 mammal species, 11 reptile species, 8 amphibian species, and 25 species of fish (13 freshwater and 12 marine).
The invertebrate figures almost entirely neglect insects for which there is a paucity of data. A recent review of insect genera recorded 47 in the Savage River National Park and Regional Reserve – an area representing less than 10% of the total area of the Tarkine Wilderness and almost wholly one particular type of ecosystem (Parks and Wildlife Service 2001).
- Twenty-seven species of terrestrial fauna located in the Tarkine Wilderness have been identified as in some way threatened. The area has experienced little permanent human development and settlement. From a conservation perspective its integrity and size makes the Tarkine Wilderness an ideal refuge for threatened species of fauna.
|Type||Latin Name||Common Name||Status*|
|Mammal||Dasyurus maculatus maculatus||Spotted-tailed Quoll||Vulnerable (A)|
|Peramelesgunnii||Eastern Barred Bandicoot||Vulnerable (A)|
|Mastacomys fuscus fuscus||Broad-toothed Rat||Endangered (T)|
|Bird||Aquila audax fleayi||Tas. Wedge-tailed Eagle||Endangered (A)|
|Accipter novehollandiae||Grey Goshawk||Rare (T)|
|Diomedea epomophora||Southern Royal Albatross||Vulnerable (A)|
|Diomedea exulans||Wandering Albatross||Endangered (T)|
|Lathamus discolor||Swift Parrot||Endangered (A)|
|Macronectes giganteus||Southern Giant Petrel||Endangered (A)|
|Macronectes halli||Northern Giant Petrel||Vulnerable (A)|
|Neophema chrysogaster||Orange-bellied Parrot||Endangered (A/T)|
|Thinornis rubricollis||Hooded Plover||Vulnerable (A)|
|Invertebrate||Beddomeia angulata||Freshwater Snail||Rare (T)|
|Phrantela annamurrayae||Freshwater Snail||Rare (T)|
|Amphibian||Littoria raniformis||Southern Bell Frog||Vulnerable (T)|
|Crustacean||Astacopsis gouldi||Giant Freshwater Crayfish||Vulnerable (A/T)|
Threatened Animal Species (*A = Australian status, T = Tasmanian Status)
Bass Strait separates Tasmania from mainland Australia, but a number of bird species seasonally migrate between both islands. These include the Blue-winged and Orange-bellied Parrots (Neophema chrysostoma and N. chrysogaster), and the Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor). The first is uncommon, while the other parrots are endangered and breed only in Tasmania. Their habitat is critical for their continued survival in the wild.
A subspecies of the Wedge-tailed Eagle (found in relative abundance on mainland Australia), the Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax fleayi), is the largest eagle in the world. There are an estimated 130 pairs successfully breeding each year in Tasmania, the wedge-tailed eagle is listed as endangered. The major threats to the species include habitat loss, nest disturbance, collisions and electrocutions with powerlines and persecution through shooting, trapping and poisoning by thoughtless persons.
The Giant Freshwater Crayfish (Astacopsis gouldi), or Tayatea as it is known by its Aboriginal name, is the largest freshwater crustacean in the world. It can grow to one metre (3′3″), in length and is believed to live for up to 40 years. Its existence is highly dependent on undisturbed old-growth forest adjacent to its riverine habitat. Its optimum habitat is deep shaded water clear of siltation and sediment, with a suitable water temperature.
To date 444 species of plants have been recorded (Askey-Doran et al 1992) in the Tarkine. Of these, 207 are vascular and 239 non-vascular. No published surveys of fungal species for the Tarkine Wilderness could be found, but anecdotal evidence suggests that numbers of fungal species are high.
The Tarkine Wilderness is host to a high diversity of plant communities with expressions of most broad vegetation types found in Tasmania.
Twenty-seven species of flora found in the Tarkine Wilderness have been identified as in some way threatened, representing a
|Latin Name||Common Name||Status*|
|Acacia mucronata var. dependens||Variable Sallow Wattle||Rare (T)|
|Caladenia pusilla||Tiny Caladenia||Rare (T)|
|Centrolepis plaudicola||Madam Howardís Centrolepis||Rare (T)|
|Cyathea cunninghamii||Slender Tree Fern||Single specimen|
|Deyeuxia densa||Bent Grass||Rare (T)|
|Dichelachne inaequiglumis||Asymetrical Plume Grass||Rare (T)|
|Diuris palustris||Swamp Diurus||Rare (T)|
|Ehrhata juncea||Rare (A)|
|Epacris curtisiae||Curtisí Heath||Rare (T)|
|Epacris glabella||Endangered (A)|
|Helichrysum bicolor||Everlasting Daisy||Rare (T)|
|Lagarostrobus franklinii||Huon Pine||Northern population|
|Lindsaea trichomanoides||Oval Wedge-fern||Rare (A)|
|Lotus australis||Austral Trefoil||Rare (T)|
|Micrantheum serpentinum||Serpentine Micrantheum||Endangered (T)|
|Persoonia muelleri var. augustifolia||Muellerís Geebung||Rare (T)|
|Pimelia filiformis||Trailing Rice-flower||Rare (T)|
|Pneumatopteris penningera||Lime Fern||Vulnerable (T)|
|Psoralea adscendens||Mountain Psoralea||Rare (T)|
|Pterostylis falcata||Sickle Greenhood Orchid||Rare (T)|
|Ranunculus acaulis||Dune Buttercup||Rare (T)|
|Senecio squarrosus||Rigid Grassland Groundsel||Rare (T)|
|Senecio velleioides||Forest Groudsel||Rare (T)|
|Spyridium vexilliferum||Winged Spyridium||Rare (A)|
|Stackhousia viminea||Slender Stackhousia||Rare (T)|
|Stylidium inundatum||Swamp Trigger Plant||Rare (T)|
|Thelymitra circumsepta||Naked Sun Orchid||Rare (T)|
|Veronica novæ-hollandiae||New Holland Veronica||Vulnerable (T)|
Threatened Animal Species (*A = Australian status, T = Tasmanian Status)
With regard to threatened species of flora, it is worth noting the Slender Tree Fern (Cyathea cunninghamii), and the Huon Pine (Lagarostrobus franklinii).
The Slender Tree-Fern is represented in the Tarkine by two solitary specimens – one on the north bank of the Pieman River a short walk from Corinna, and the other in the Pedder Forests inland from Sandy Cape on the west coast. The Slender Tree-Fern grows a trunk some 20cm (8″) or so in diameter and can a height of some 6m (20′).
The southern Tarkine just north of the Pieman River represents the Huon Pines northern range. These are extremely slow growing conifers, increasing their girth by only 2mm (1/8″) or so per annum. The timber has a high oil content and because of their relative scarcity and slow growth, timber prices for Huon Pine are a premium. These trees are extremely fire sensitive but otherwise may live to a very old age, one specimen has been estimated at 10,000 years of age, making it the oldest tree in the world. The Huon Pine’s longevity and ability to withstand rot has also provided scientists with dendrochronological sequences of outstanding importance (Bird et al 1990 cited in Askey-Doran, M et al 1992), especially from a climatological perspective.
The Tarkine Wilderness has been described as representing a microcosm of Tasmanian geology and geomorphology and its dominant features include:
- The Rocky Cape Region of the north-west which is largely Precambrian unmetamorphosed rocks.
- The Arthur Lineament which is a linear belt of Precambrian metamorphics cutting through the Tarkine along a north-east/south-west axis.
- The Dundas Trough in the south-west which is an area of late Precambrian to Devonian sequences.
- A linear belt of Devonian-Carboniferous granites along the coast south of Sandy Cape, as well as east of the lower end of the
- Some tertiary basalts in the north-east.
The Tarkine Wilderness hosts outstanding examples of magnesite karst geomorphology. This is expressed within the Arthur Lineament as small undecorated caves, sub-surface cavities, sinkholes, springs, and surface features including gorges and pinnacle type formations.
Another exceptional example of the local geomorphology is the Huskisson Syncline – a fold structure “composed of Siluro-Devonian clastic sedimentary rocks underlain by Ordovician limestones and Cambrian ultramifics” (Sharples 1992a). It features two concentric ridges formed on resistant Siluro-Devonian quartz sandstones. A section of the syncline has been offset by a fault which also controls the course of the Alfred River.
The Rapid River is a particularly well-expressed example of a fluvial system influenced by geological lineament. According to Sharples (1992a) “[T]he river channel diverts along fold trends for short distances” but follows a generally linear course, “cutting directly across regional fold trends for some twenty kilometres”. It is recognised as the largest example of a fault-controlled river channel in north-west Tasmania.
In summary, the Tarkine Tasmania region is an area of international significance. Its ecological, cultural and financial values combine to powerfully justify its long term protection as a National Park- World heritage area. Whilst the Tarkine wilderness remains divided in its current form, (being several different reserves and only 5% of it as National Park), it remains susceptible and open to continued resource extraction which further devalues the above mentioned attributes.
By joining us for guided walking tours in the Tarkine, Tasmania you not only enjoy its natural brilliance, you also make a positive contribution to its full protection for generations to come.