The Blue Tier in Tasmania's North East Highlands was an unknown little part of the world until it became the centre of a forestry operations debate. Friends of the Blue Tier was formed to investigate alternatives to clear-fell logging and protect this beautiful area which has wild forests of giant trees, hidden waterfalls and fabulous wildlife, much of it threatened. The mountain plateau they are seeking to protect, once had the world's largest open-cut tin mine, with miners swarming through the forests, eager to make their fortunes. Now it is a walking destination catering for all levels of experience.
The Blue Tier Forest Reserve's long history in mining and forestry operations adds interest for visitors. The first Europeans came to this area after some miners who were working in the Mathinna goldfields discovered some rich tin deposits in some of the creeks in this area. The news spread quickly and the area was settled in 1878 as a mining town. Back then the town was made up of a pub, two hotels, a blacksmith, butcher, three stores and a few residential cottages. The level of work varied over the years with the fluctuation of tin prices from things such as the Depression. Chinese miners were also employed here for cheap labour until a policy to employ only white labour in the hard rock mines forced them out.
Over the years many mining companies came and went, some of these included Cambria, Wellington, Anchor Company and in more recent years Aberfoyle Ltd (1960s) and Renison Ltd (1977). Between 1875 and 1996 the Blue Tier produced more than 11,000 tonnes of tin. It was in 1958 that the Blue Tier was claimed as a forest reserve, and by 1997 more than 5000 hectares has been included to conserve the flora, fauna and rich heritage.
There are a series of tracks on Blue Tier that offer a variety of experience, duration and level of challenge for walkers. Goblin Forest Walk is the shortest at only 20 minutes return. The walk has a great interpretation of some of the miners who worked here and also shows how the forest is regrowing back after it was cleared for mining all those years ago.
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Pyengana is a rural farming region set among sites of such significant natural beauty and it is well worth leaving the highway that bypasses it, and stopping to savour a little of what it has to offer. Pyengana is not nor has ever been a town, but a community that grew around the home of pioneering settlers George and Margaret Cotton who settled here in 1875 and raised a family of nine children at a property they called St Columba.
The Goblin Forest Walk is the shortest and easiest of a series of tracks on Blue Tier. It is recommended for both walkers and mountain bike riders. These walks offer a variety of experience, duration and level of challenge. Interpretation signs along the walk explore the history of the Blue Tier.
This 20-minute walk is great for those who do not have much time but want to stretch their legs and learn about the 'mountain of tin'. The walk is of wheelchair standard. Another short walk is the 30 minute return to the top of Mt. Poimena. It is a short and steady climb to the summit. Walkers are rewarded with spectacular views over St. Helens and the coastline beyond (follow blue markers to the trig point). Winter snowfalls are rare, but add a special touch to a winter walk if you are lucky enough to be in the area after a snow fall.
Halls Falls is located up near Blue Tier, and is the first attraction along the way to the Anchor Tin Mine Site and Blue Tier. There are also a number of picnic tables near the information booth, and some old mining equipment. The walk to the falls is only 30 minutes return, however if you want the full experience it is recommended that you dedicate about an hour and a half. The falls are one of the prettiest in Tasmania and are well worth leaving the main road to visit. What it lacks in sheer size it makes up for in quiet beauty.
Moon Valley Rim Loop Walk (2 hours): The walk takes you to the summit of Mt. Poimena then along Moon Valley Rim and Blue Tier Battery before returning via the Sun Flats Road. (follow blue markers)
Australia Hill Loop Walk (2 hours): This walk passes through open country and stands of regenerating rainforest and is great for visitors who want to see some remnants of the mining era. Look for abandoned machinery at Summit Mine and Harry Moses (the last Blue Tier miner) sluice box at the Compere Mine. (follow orange markers)
Mt. Michael Loop Track (2 hours): Begins at the Sun Flats Road. The walk passes through rainforest before climbing up to the summit of Mt. Michael. Walkers are rewarded with fantastic views. On the way down stop and look at the Mt. Michael Mine which was one of the largest mines in the area (follow yellow markers).
Wellington Loop Walk (3 hours): Begins at the halfway mark on the Goblin Forest Walk. The walk is great for those interested in the history of the Blue Tier because it takes you past interesting remnants of the mining days. The walk passes through a diversity of vegetation types including regenerating rainforest, patches of remnant rainforest and sphagnum bogs (follow red markers).
Three Notch Track return (6 hours): This, the most difficult of the walks, follows an old pack trail to McGoughs Lookout and return. Walkers are rewarded with spectacular views of the coastline. The walk is long and difficult and should only be attempted by experienced walkers. (follow yellow and red markers). It is now possible to hike from Sun Flats to the bottom end near Pioneer. However this requires having a vehicle at the other end to pick up walkers.
Spanning the rugged North-East from Launceston to St Helens, the Trail of the Tin Dragon winds its way through stunning scenery and historic townships. The Trail tells the story of tin mining in the North East of Tasmania, focusing on the European and Chinese miners who sought their fortune and risked all for this most remarkable metal.
The Trail of the Tin Dragon is the untold story of the North East of Tasmania. It is a Chinese story. It is a story of Tin mining, of boom and bust, flood and drought, riches and poverty, hope and despair. It is also a story of racial hatred and racial harmony; a story of human transience and the power of nature. The trails begins at Launceston, and passes through Branxholm, Derby, Moorina, Pyengana and St Helens.