Leven Canyon is one of Tassies 60 great short walks and it surely lives up to its name with stunning views into ruggered gorges where a hard and fast flowing river is sitting through age old rock creating its own path. The canyon is only an hour from the hustle and bustle of Devonport and well worth the drive through fertile rolling hills to one of Tasmania’s greatest natural wonders.
Its rare to find a place like this that is so powerful yet has very easy access where you can enjoy the serenity, walk through huge ferns yet at your feet delicate petite ferns line the undergrowth that mixes with coloured fungi with massive gums towering overhead. It was a guy called Stephen McTurk who saw a vision and took on the task to open the area up with an amazing loop circuit through a fern forest from the main carpark down to the canyon wall and return. The facts of this build are quite staggering that Stephen and his team completed. Apart from the straight pieces of path they cut in they installed 697 steps between the two lookouts, carried in 132 posts, 550 litres of water to mix the concrete and enough bags of cement weighting the total of 3 cars !, the weather conditions definatly weren’t kind as they worked in conditions ranging from -2 up to 30 degrees and often in frost during winter time. All this in just 12 months.
It takes a good hour to complete the loop but I’d allow 2 to sit down to enjoy the view and to soak up the whole area. During the day if your quiet these always wildlife around from a stack of birds like Wrens, Wattle birds, Rosellas to eagles soaring through the canyon, on the floor keep still and you may see and Echidna or during dusk a spotted Quoll or the ever elusive Tassie Devil. The walk begins at the carpark where you can use this as a base for the day and enjoy the parklands where there’s free BBQ’s, toilets, lots of grass for the kids to run amuck, shelters and for the campers you can camp for free.
As you head along the fern glade these prehistoric like tree ferns that are up to 150 years old that tower over you along the sealed path to Cruickshank's Lookout. The views from here down into the gorge are no less than stunning where the raging river is forever making its path through the hard rock on the canyon floor. Keep an eye out for Devils Elbow, a near left hand perfect bend where years ago a huge landslide created a new path for the river and towering in front of you is Black Bluff, this 1400 metre mountain is something to behold. Often covered in snow during winter its covered with windswept gums that’s typical to any alpine area. The walk to here is pretty cruisey but if your fit enough, head down the 697 steps to complete the loop.
Heading down the steps is ok thanks to the amazing work the team did installing the steps and rope landlines across to the Edge lookout and from here the views are truly as spectacular. This lookout features a counter-lever type platform poking out to the valley where you can lookup and see Cruickshanks, more of the Leven River below and a closer look up at Black Bluff and its amazing rock formations. According to the rock experts this area was alive with volcanoes around 400-500 million years ago to an era they call Ordovician period. After many eruptions layers of rocks sealed the landscape with rock fragments, pebbles then through to sandstone. With a few major eruptions layers of lava covered the area then over the next million years the extreme withering from huge floods and weathering winds have worn it down to what we see today. Huge Basalt rock perforations can be seen around the area and deep down in the river below that is a sure sign from the eruptions. Looking down to the river you can see where huge floods have moved boulders, worn different paths around the rock and even jammed massive logs between the banks.
From the edge lookout is an uphill stroll back to the carpark for a well earned break and maybe tackle the canyon floor trek. There’s two ways to approach the floor trek, either walk the 1 km along the tar road to the entrance or simply drive to the gate. The Canyon floor walk is a 2km return walk down to the Leven River where the sheer power of the water comes apparent as well as the absolute ruggedness and remoteness of this area. The walk isn’t an easy one so if you’ve got any health or fitness concerns best to sit this one out. The path twists and winds its way down through old growth forests and around huge boulders, plus it seems they are abundant everywhere are the little Tasmanian Pademelons, just like a baby wallaby but with shorter legs. The closer you get to the river the more it roars and when you finally round the obstacle to the river I can assure you that you’ll be blown away. A steel foot bridge has been built above the waterline that gives you un-relentless and raw views of this untamed river. Just watching the river from the bridge you can feel the power from the water raging past, its noisey too where the river just downs everything else out. A cool fact is that you’ve just walk down into Tasmania’s deepest limestone ravine and looking up you can see the other two lookouts on the Leven Gorge loop walk high above. A local walking club cut the walking trail in and commissioned the bridge to be flown in by helicopter due to the difficult terrain. The river has enough water running through it everyday that experts have estimated its enough water for around 350,000 people daily. Across the other side of the bridge is a point of the walk from the coast to the amazing Cradle Mountain which incorporates around a solid 80 km over 7 days but its only for the most experienced walkers who can deal with the most extreme conditions and track variants. Warning signs make sure that you need to be very well prepared in either direction along the un-maintained track where sometimes you’ll need to rely heavily on map reading and compass skills. This has to be one of Tassie’s little know secrets as its so close to Cradle Mountain that it's often missed. With free camping in an absolute stunning location where 5 metre tree ferns give an almost magical feel, the chance to spot unique animals and to admire a gem of a spot, the Leven Canyon area needs to be on anyones bucket list when in the area.