Derby Tunnel & Cascade Gorge

Allow a minimum of three hours for this activity: 10 minutes drive each way, 30 minute walk, an hour exploring. Why not make it a longer visit? Check out the Tin Dragon Interpretation Centre and the community museum, the interesting craft shops and the Painted Door Art Café for a cake and coffee!

How to get there: From Tin Dragon Trail Cottages turn right onto the Tasman Highway. Drive up over the hill out of Branxholm. Continue on the Tasman Highway to Derby, which is about 8 km from Branxholm. Drive through the town and over the bridge you will see the sign and track (RHS) to the tunnel.

Find a car park on the side of the road. Take the lower (right) road for a short walk to the tunnel.

You will see recent earthworks revealing the start of the Cascade MTB track construction. Across the deep ravine small houses appear to cling to the cliff face—part of the charm of Derby. Terrific views for the mountain bikers, if they have time to see it!

Myrtle Forest walk

Look out for the sign just over the bridge

entrance to the Don mine

Short track to the tunnel

This is a short easy walk. You will need to wear gum boots, because as the tunnel slopes downwards it fills with water. The tunnel was opened up in recent years so that it is possible to walk to its end; however the water can get mid-calf deep. You need a reliable torch!

This tunnel was a mighty folly built in the 1880’s by one miner to get his tailings moved from his lease, beneath another miner´s lease.

Apparently his neighbour wouldn’t permit him an easement to remove his tailings! You can certainly see huge piles of tailings rocks near the tunnel.

Remember to be careful because you walk at your own risk.

There are some unique inhabitants in the tunnel—the Tasmanian Cave Spider! The Tasmanian Cave Spider is the last of an old Gondwanan lineage of spiders and its nearest relatives are found in South America. The Tasmanian Cave Spider is confined to Tasmania where it is widely distributed. The Tasmanian Cave Spider is significant ecologically as a major predator in caves. It is also important both as a relict species whose nearest relatives are in South America and as a species showing some of the primitive features typical of the earliest araneomorphs (spiders in which the jaws open and close sideways). It is an icon species for faunal conservation in Tasmania, especially in relation to the management of caves.

Back at the fork in the road take the top road. You can walk up to the monument above Derby. Work off your indulgent morning tea! This gives a terrific view across Derby and into the now water-filled Briseis mine. The monument was erected for William Allan, a manager at the mine, who died in Victoria in 1902.

inside the tunnel

Tunnel entrance

Derby monument

Derby monument looking out over the town

Now follow the top road 2 to 3 km (4WD or walk) till the road condition deteriorates—stick to the top road, ignoring other small tracks. Here the valley widens out. You can see great sheets of moss and lichen-encrusted granite rock with zig-zagging streams of clear flowing water. This is the Cascade river gorge. Noticeable are the alpine-like re-growth scrub and high tree-line. Beautiful in the evening light.

You are standing several kms below the (renamed) Cascade dam. In 1929 the old Briseis Dam failed after torrential rain, releasing a 30m wall of water and mud into this narrow gorge removing trees, rocks and soil, scrubbing the bedrock clean. The flood was the worst in modern Tasmanian history lasting several days. Many buildings were destroyed and 14 people were known to have drowned. Nature is slowly repairing the damage. The Cascade Dam was rebuilt in 1936 covering an area of 49 hectares.

Read more and download the article

inside the tunnel

Cascade River Gorge

Derby monument

Beautiful in the evening light

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