Montezuma Falls had to have been one of the more impressive and memorable waterfalls that Julie and I visited during our drought-stricken trip to Tasmania in November 2006. In fact, it could very well have been up there as one of the best waterfalls we had seen on that entire trip, which also encompassed New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. Indeed, the falls tumbled at a cumulative height of 104m making it one of the highest waterfalls in the state. We also had to earn our visit with a bit of a long walk through a former tramway route that included mine shafts, old growth forest, and even some harrowing swinging bridges spanning high up the gorge carved out by the Ring River. The old North East Dundas Tramway used to run between Zeehan and the old site of Williamsford in the 1890s.
Prior to visiting the falls, I often wondered how the name of the last Aztec emperor made its way to the West Coast of Tasmania, but then a sign along the track informed us that the name came from the Montezuma Mining Company, which used to mine for silver here in the 1980s. It was said that during the mining heyday, much of the forest around the tramway had been cleared, but we hardly knew this was case these days as it seemed the forest had recovered around the track nicely.
Speaking of the hike, Julie and I earned our visit to Montezuma Falls as the hiking track was said to be about 3 hours return. I've seen varying reports of the actual length of the track such as 7km, 9.6km or even 11km. It actually took us about 3 hours and 15 minutes though we took our time. In any case, the track was wide and had a gentle grade, and we could probably thank the old tramway for such benign hiking conditions. Indeed, even though the hike was long, it didn't feel like a taxing bushwhack or undulating obstacle course. All throughout the walk, there were interpretive signs to help us better appreciate what we were seeing and experiencing. That said, the wide track also accommodated mountain bikes and even 4wd vehicles (as evidenced by tyre tracks in the muddier spots)! Fortunately, we didn't really encounter bikers or 4wd vehicles during our hike so the experience remained peaceful.
Most of the long hike was shaded within the forest cover, which was very welcome considering that the day we visited was a fairly warm sunny day. The length of the walk allowed the subtleties of the forest sounds and rhythms sink into us. We even saw a snake go across the track in front of us as it hastily slithered away from us and into the bush. Towards the latter part of the hike, we started to notice abandoned mine shafts though we didn't bother going inside them (we're not even sure if you could even go in them or if they were blocked off in the darkness).
When we finally made it to the waterfall itself, the track ended right at its base where we could get a neck-cranking view up at the tall column of water before us. We were also able to cross a harrowing suspension bridge spanning the tall gorge right before the falls for a totally different (butterflies-in-the-stomach-inducing) perspective. Beyond this suspension bridge, it looked like the track kept going though we didn't proceed any further to find out where it went.
When we returned to the car park, we were actually recharged and continued the long drive from Burnie towards Queenstown and Strahan. Indeed, this hike was the perfect way to break up that drive, and it seemed like the drought that had affected other parts of the country didn't seem to have really hit the western side of Tasmania as hard. Thus, we saw a Montezuma Falls that was flowing fairly well.
Directions: The main throughfare of Western Tasmania (and Montezuma Falls) was the Murchison-Zeehan Hwy (A10) between Queenstown and Burnie. We actually connected with the A10 from Cradle Valley so we can describe our approach from there.
From the Cradle Valley Rd, we turned left onto the C132 and drove for about 26km to the Murchison Hwy (A10). We then turned left to go south on the highway and continued for about 40km to the town of Rosebery. Inside the town, we left the A10 and turned left onto Williamsford Rd. We followed the unsealed Williamsford Rd for just under 6km to the car park that apparently was the former site of the town of Williamsford. We had to watch out for a few deep potholes on Williamsford Rd.
Going in the other direction from Queenstown, it was about 50km north along the Zeehan Hwy (A10) towards the town of Rosebery. The unsealed Williamsford Rd would be on the right.
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