Balfour is an isolated former mining town deep in the heart of the forests of north western Tasmania dating between 1902 to 1912. Prospecting and Mining was one of the biggest drawcards to the region for early settlers, with tin mining set up at Balfour, Gold at Corinna, and Tin at Waratah also. Prospectors often searched the rivers in years between 1850 and 1950 quite unsuccessfully. Current historical areas include; Balfour, Magnet (ghost mining town), Corinna (former gold mining boom town), and Waratah.
The Balfour mining field was the scene of the greatest activity in the western zone from 1901 when copper was discovered. The largest mine was the Murray Brothers Reward Mine, yielding 1286 tons of copper, iron pyrites and alluvial tin up to 1910.
High grade ore was transported to the coast for shipment to Sydney for smelting, access being by horse drawn tram via the 21 km long Temma tramway, built in 1911. After the deduction of travel costs, the mine still made over 25 shillings a ton. Temma was not regarded as a secure anchorage, and its use entailed a lengthy and expensive sea voyage, so it did not develop into the primary access point for miners.
The mine was abandoned before WWI, and the track does not appear to have been much used after the last major explorations in the 1940s. As the copper petered out and the town died.
Interesting features at Balfour are the unique settlement, historic cemetery and old mine sites. Mt. Balfour Mine, a copper and tin mine, was one of the westernmost mines in Tasmania. Balfour is close to Julius River Forest Reserve, Arthur-Pieman Conservation area, Mr Frankland (433 metres), Mt. Hazelton (871 metres) and the coastal settlement of Temma.
Julius River Forest Reserve has recently been upgraded and has excellent picnic facilities. A half hour return walk winds through the cool temperate rainforest. Interpretive signs provide an insight into the nature of this forest.
Julius River Rainforest Walk: From Milkshakes Hills, continue on to the 30 minute Julius River Rainforest Walk, situated in a beautiful reserve, set in sinkhole country. There are two easy walks into the mossy, myrtle forests, found throughout the Tarkine. BBQ facilities, picnic shelter and a toilet are provided.
Where Is it?: 50 km south of Smithton via Blackwater Rd (unsealed); north of Corinna via Norfolk Road; 270km northwest of Hobart. Whilst 2 wheel drive vehicles have been known to make the drive to Balfour, 4WD is recommended, particularly if there are wet conditions.
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In The Area
This three hour return walk is relatively flat and fairly easy. This track was cut at the start of the century for packhorses and prospectors wanting to reach the remote (and since largely abandoned) mining township of Balfour. The walk starts and ends on Blackwater Road. If you are short of time, park a car at each end to halve the time of your walk. For those who photograph or have an interest in Fungii, this walk is a delight of colours and shapes in the wet autumn months.
The Tarkine is Tasmania's largest unprotected wilderness area. It hosts the only wilderness landscape dominated by rainforest in Australia. Its rainforests form the largest continuous tract of rainforest in Australia, they being the largest temperate rainforests in Australia. There is a rich pioneer/exploring history of the Tarkine region, which was regarded as one of Tasmania s toughest and most impenetrable regions. Emu Bay Railway, regarded as possibly Tasmania s most spectacular railway, was built nearly a century ago, and winds through spectacular rainforest gorges in the eastern fringes of the Tarkine.
The Tarkine has a spectacularly wild coastline, battered by the winds of the roaring 40s. The purest air in the world. Huge dunes that stretch inland up to several kilometres. Rocky, jagged coastal stretches. Incredible Granite Tor formations (especially at Conical Rocks south of the Pieman River), extensive long sandy beaches, lagoons, grassy woodland, coastal heathland, marshes and swampland. Sandy cape forms a dominant and spectacular feature of the Tarkine s coast.
The tiny mining settlement of Corinna was first settled in 1881, and has a colourful history. It was a rip-roaring gold mining town with a population of 2,500 spread over an 8 kilometre area. The largest nugget of gold ever found in Tasmania weighed 243 ounces and was found in the nearby Rocky River in 1883. The eco-friendly village of Corinna is right in the middle of the Tarkine wilderness. It is an oasis in the wild, that clings to the banks of a beautiful river. The Corinna Wilderness Experience provides an escape from mass tourism, to one of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world, where guests are at home in the wilderness.
The Western Explorer Road is the gravel highway between Zeehan and Smithton that takes you over the Pieman River by barge and winds idly through the beautiful Tarkine Rainforest and button grass plains. It is becoming a popular two-and-a-half day ride for bike and bike riding clubs. The Fat Man Barge crosses the Pieman to allow vehicles over, but has working hours, which change accordingly to the time of the year.