Ralph’s Falls is a great short walk with a proud community history
Ringarooma January 5th 2015: Ralphs Falls is promoted as one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks. The Ringarooma community can be proud of making this spectacular walk on Mount Victoria available for tourists (opened in1998). The casual visitor would not be aware of the huge community effort—spanning some 50 years—needed to make Ralph Falls accessible. I will give you a short history of their efforts.
Where is Ralphs Falls?
Situated between Ringarooma and Pyengana the Falls are a 30 minute drive from the Tasman Highway. Turn left out of Tin Dragon Trail Cottages’ front drive. Drive out of Branxholm to the turn-off to Legerwood (see the carved soldier pointing the way) and keep going though Ringarooma—straight ahead. At a T intersection you will drive left past the Ringarooma cemetery, next you will turn right onto the Link gravel road which takes you to the Falls. The walk is 20 minute return to the Falls or 60 minute 4km circuit via Cashs Gorge loop.
Want to see my photos of the Ralphs Falls (summer) flowering plants? See them here…
In January 2015 the Tin Dragon Cottages team: Graham, James, Aya (our latest WWOOFer) and I revisited this delightful place. The 4km easy circuit walk passes though lush myrtle rain forest, tea tree and button-grass plains and features Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall. Ralph’s Falls plummets down 100m of vertical dolerite fault to the valley floor. Unfortunately the short section to Norm’s Lookout was still closed, but we were amply compensated by the clear views out through Cash’s Gorge to the productive New River Valley.
One of the undersold benefits of walking in Tassie is its moderate climate. Mt Victoria was very pleasant for a summer walk. Tassie has a most civilised climate (mostly).The panoramas and show of mid-summer wild flowers made our day out memorable. We enjoyed a slow walk, with lots of happy-snapping and close viewing of interesting plants along the way. We saw wattle birds, parrots, wrens and finches. The insects were buzzing and there was the scent of honey in the still warm air.
Picnic facilities at Ralph’s Falls
Although there were a few cars in the car park, we didn’t encounter other bushwalkers. We had the picnic facilities to ourselves. I never cease to be amazed at how good a simple ham and cheese sandwich with a hot cuppa tastes after a slow ramble.
Facilities here include picnic tables, a stone shelter with a fire place and composting toilet. After our lunch we continued on the Link Road to Pyengana for an icecream, then back to Branxholm via Weldborough. Having left home mid-morning we were back again by mid-afternoon.
View from Cash’s Gorge
Norm Brown Memorial
The old timber-getters and miners had known about the falls since the early 1900’s. Ralphs was a local timber-mill, so perhaps it was the owner who first described the falls. In 1916 the local paper recounts an excursion made by a party of nine on horse-back to visit Mount Victoria for the enjoyment of the views. During the early 20’s the paper also records the Pyengana residents’ desire for a link road to Ringarooma. A Federal Government unemployment project to construct the link road commenced in 1925 but halted without completion in 1927. Modern signage commemorates the amazing hand-built dry stone wall. In 1951 a petition to the State Minister for Works and Land by the Portland Council also supported by the Ringarooma Council failed to see the road completed. The proponents pointed out that the road would, be a valuable tourist asset, being a scenic road with new access to the magnificent St. Columba Falls and substantially shortening the distance between Launceston and St. Helens.
In 1979 the Ringarooma Progress Development League became determined to complete the link road and to construct a walking track to Ralph’s Falls. Ringarooma resident and timber-worker Norm Brown spear-headed the campaign. Despite local bureaucratic opposition, in 1983 the Mt Victoria Reserve was gazetted. Over the next 2 decades many local farming and business families chipped in to work on the road, then the walking track. Trees had to removed land-slips and large holes repaired on the original abandoned road. A local resident remembers this being rather scary—a narrow track with precipitous drops. A local mining contractor donated his time and heavy machinery on the proviso the group supply the diesel. A new road was pushed across the mountain to meet up with the rough track coming up from Pyengana. Other volunteers then worked on constructing a walking track out to Ralph’s Falls. It was hard going as all the cement, sand and stone had to be carried in using wheelbarrows and buckets. Volunteers included parents and children—in some cases three generations of the same family and even included three generations of a family volunteering from Victoria.
In Norm’s words the group, fought petty minded professional bureaucratic obstructionists to eventually achieve the State Government support needed to complete the project. The State Government provided grant funding and encouraged FT to complete the project. FT built Norm’s Lookout, provided picnic tables, a composting toilet and on-going maintenance.
The track, which includes Norm’s Lookout over the spectacular falls, was officially opened by the Deputy Premier John Beswick in 1998. In 2015—under new land tenure—the Parks and Wildlife Service now maintains this asset. They are currently repairing the damage caused by a severe storm in 2014.