April 19 Pieman River Cruise (Day 205)

We woke to a misty morning and enjoyed a continental breakfast at the restaurant, toasting our bread over a gas burner on an antique toast grill! Then we strolled outdoors and along the short Huon Pine walk into the rainforest. Huon Pine (not a true pine at all, but the only species in it’s own genus) is found only in the south and west rainforest of Tasmania and was nearly wiped out by logging in the mid 1800’s up to 1970. It is prized for it’s golden hue, fine grain and rot resistant oils. It was especially prized for boat building due to it’s rot resistance. “Extensive logging in the past has removed nearly all large trees, but there is regrowth nearly everywhere. One stand of the species has been made available for access to craft wood from dead and downed timber under a strict licensing system. It is illegal to cut living trees.” per Wikipedia. A great story about the magnificent trees is HERE!

The mist over the Pieman River. You can see a faint ‘fogbow’ above the trees on the right.

We had booked a 3 hour cruise on the Arcadia II on the Pieman River to Pieman Heads where the river empties into the Great Southern Ocean. The only Huon Pine river cruiser operating in the world!

The mist was lifting and the sun was shining as we 19 passengers boarded and we set off down stream at 10 am.

The trees of the rainforest crowded down to the river and were reflected in it’s dark tannin rich waters.
The skipper Norm pointed out features; tributary inlets where miners worked the river bed for gold, huon pine trees that were too gnarled for the mill and were spared the axe and saw, young huon pines beginning their long and slow growth along the bank, while his wife Lorainne served us coffee or tea and a plate of cakes and fruit.

The golden huon pine was evident everywhere. The boat was built as a pleasure craft in 1939.

We reached the dock at Pieman Heads, a tiny community of shacks that have been there since the early 1830’s, self sufficient, now with solar panels and rugged 4WD vehicles. There is a track along the beach and through the forest, but the easiest mode of transport is by river. We disembarked with a bag lunch and had 1.5 hours to meander, explore and eat our lunch before boarding for the return journey.

A boot tree at Pieman Heads.

We walked along the river bank to the windy sandy beach at the river entrance. The bar at Pieman Heads was difficult to navigate in the sailing ships and steamers of the 1800’s and boats would be moored in the river, or tacking outside, maybe for days, before conditions were suitable to cross. The huon pine logged and bucked in the forest with hand saws and axes were rafted down the river then loaded onto ships for the cross then shipped around the bottom of the island to Hobart for milling. The beach was littered with old logs, some we could even see on the tops of the rocky outcrops extending out to sea, attesting to the storms that must batter this coast!

Binoculars revealed logs up on the rocks and the color difference between the dark tannin rich river water and the blue seawater meeting in the rough waves.

We reboarded our boat minus 2 passengers who were waiting for friends to pick them up for a visit across the river. What a fantastic remote place to visit friends!

I don’t think this dingy would hold all 17 of us and the skipper and crew in case of emergency!

It was a wonderful cruise! We had to continue on our way, taking the one vehicle barge-ferry across the river to the road to Zeehan, another mining town, which usurped Corinna’s crown, and population, when a railroad was completed from there to the north coast in 1900.

Views of the wonderful buildings from the early 1900’s and the importance of mining in the area.

We took a side road from Zeehan to a free campsite on the coast at Trial Harbour, a tiny community that in the past was a bustling port serving Zeehan. We had a fantastic, rugged site overlooking the rocky coast at sunset!

The waves rocked us to sleep!

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