Russell Falls

Mt Field National Park / Tasmanian Wilderness WHA / Derwent Valley Council, Tasmania, Australia

Rating: 3.5     Difficulty: 2
Russell Falls
Russell Falls could very well be our favorite waterfall in Tasmania. It was certainly the best known and most popular waterfall that we had visited in the state. In fact it had been said that it was often a contest between this waterfall and Liffey Falls for the title of Tasmania's most beautiful waterfall (though we tend to favor Russell given our somewhat suboptimal experience at Liffey). In any case, what made this waterfall stand out to us was its character. As you can see from the photo above, it actually consisted of two main drops, but it was the satisfyingly segmented and vertical appearance along with its size that really drew the camera clicks from us and just about every other visitor who shared the experience at the falls.

Russell Falls was the centerpiece of Mt Field National Park, which was said to be Tasmania's first national park. It was also part of the greater Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area which dominated much of the southern and western sections of the island state. From the large car park (see directions below), we took a short and very-well developed 10-minute track to the lookout that yielded the photo you see at the top of this page. That was the lower of the waterfall's two tiers, which was very photogenic (I was definitely glad I brought my tripod along).

Approaching the peaceful Horseshoe Falls The upper tier was partially hidden amongst the foliage above the lower drop. We continued on the track, which started going up steps and slopes on its way towards another waterfall called Horseshoe Falls further upstream. However, just after one of the switchbacks, there was a somewhat unofficial but well-used track behind the railings flanking the main track. This track (which was probably closed to the public) ultimately led to the bench between the two waterfalls. It was from here that I was able to cross a couple of narrow and shallow streams to get a frontal view of the impressively wide block shape of the Upper Russell Falls.

Meanwhile, I was also able to get fairly impressive views of the forest looking out above the lower drop of the falls. I definitely had to be careful here since it was a sheer drop to the bottom. So I made sure to stay away from the edges and from the running streams (where the footing was the most slippery) as much as possible. This would definitely NOT be the place to be if the falls was flowing a lot more heavily than what you see on this page.

We actually showed up twice at the falls - once in the early afternoon near midday and once near sunset. For the long exposure photographs, clearly the best way to go would be to show up when the shadows would be long enough to keep the sunlight from washing out any part of the scene (i.e. very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon). Of course, it wouldn't be necessary to be as picky about the time of arrival to the falls if it was cloudy, but that wasn't the case on our visit.

Continuing on the main track as it climbed beyond the upper falls, we then eventually made it to the short but wide Horseshoe Falls, which was also on the same watercourse about 100m upstream of the Upper Russell Falls. Even though we visited this waterfall early in the afternoon, there was enough shade around it to enable us to attempt a long exposure photograph, which you can see further down on this page.

In addition to these waterfalls, we could have also extended the hike to take in the Lady Barron Falls as well as the Tall Trees Walk. However, the connecting track that would've made the excursion a two-hour return hike when combined with the one-hour return walk to Horseshoe Falls was closed due to cliff instability. So we had to do that excursion separately, and as a result, we gave that excursion its own separate writeup.

Directions: The way we took (and recommend) was to leave the Lyell Hwy (A10) at Gordon River Rd (B61) about 52km northwest of Hobart. Then we followed the Gordon River Rd westbound for about 23km to the Lake Dobson Rd (I recalled we had to cross a few railroad tracks near the turnoff). Once on Lake Dobson Rd, it was a short drive to the car park for Russell Falls.

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The impressive Upper Russell Falls seen late in the afternoon when the sun was no longer a problem for long exposure photographs like this
This was the Horseshoe Falls about 100m further upstream of Russell Falls.  It was well worth the one-hour return walk to check out this falls
This precarious view was from the top of the Lower Russell Falls, which allowed me to see the forest of Mt Field National Park.  I was careful not to get too close to the edge though
I wasn't sure if this furry little guy was a wallaby or the Tasmanian Pademelon
Some kind of picnic shelter near the visitor centreSome kind of picnic shelter near the visitor centre

Julie on the track at middayJulie on the track at midday

At the lookout platform for the Lower Russell FallsAt the lookout platform for the lower waterfall

We noticed there was more to Russell Falls than what could be seen directly at the Lower Russell Falls, and we were keen to find outWe noticed there was more to Russell Falls than what could be seen directly at the lower waterfall, and we were keen to find out

This was the elusive Upper Russell Falls seen in the early afternoon.  It was a bit bright for long exposure photos at this time of dayThis was the elusive upper waterfall seen in the early afternoon. It was a bit bright for long exposure photos at this time of day

Our first look at Horseshoe FallsOur first look at Horseshoe Falls

Closer look at Horseshoe FallsCloser look at Horseshoe Falls

We returned to Russell Falls later in the day so we could take better photosWe returned to Russell Falls later in the day so we could take better photos

Another look at the upper tier of Russell FallsAnother look at the upper tier of the falls

Another look at Russell Falls from the official lookout, but this time it was in the late afternoon when the lighting was betterAnother look at Russell Falls from the official lookout, but this time it was in the late afternoon when the lighting was better

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Fixated on the upper part of Russell Falls

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For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.

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Looking beyond Russell (Russell Falls) 
I wonder how many "Horseshoe Falls" there are in the world? I've certainly seen a few and here is another to add to your collection. Once you've admired …

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