About Nelson Falls
Nelson Falls was a gorgeous 30m high wall of water shaped like an inverted wine glass.
In addition to the waterfall itself, the short walk took us through a temperate rainforest that was probably amidst the healthiest ecosystem we had encountered in both of our visits to this part of Tasmania.
Not only were the ferns and mossy trees dripping with dew and displaying a vibrant green, but the flow of the Nelson River was also vigorous.
Indeed, when the river was as voluminous as you see in the photo above, we were getting sprayed at the lookouts.
That was something we couldn’t say about any other waterfall during our trips to Southeastern Australia in 2006 and later in 2017.
Nelson Falls – luck with the timing?
Julie and I were very pleasantly surprised to see Nelson Falls pumping the way it did on our first visit in November 2006.
That was because we were pre-conditioned to expect poor flow due to a bad drought that had adversely affected so many other waterfalls throughout that trip.
However, its invigorated flow might have had to do with the rain we had received the previous night while we were staying in Queenstown (some 27km to the west).
When we came back to Nelson Falls in November 2017, given its wishbone shape (as opposed to the inverted wine glass shape), it actually had less flow than on our November 2006 visit.
Whether the latter trip was also adversely impacted by an unusually dry Winter and Spring before an odd storm here and there re-invigorated it, we weren’t sure.
Walking to Nelson Falls
Even though the signs said it was merely a 700m 20-minute return walk to take in Nelson Falls, Julie and I spent about 40-45 minutes in both of our visits here.
The track was flat pretty much the whole way with boardwalks set up in the most sensitive spots while meandering alongside the Nelson River.
In sunny and warm weather (like on our second visit), there was ample forest cover to prevent the harsh sun from beating down on us.
Overall, it was a relaxing stroll and one that rejuvenated us while breaking up the long drive between Queenstown and Hobart.
The History of the Nelson Falls area
The interpretive signs along the track had us imagine we were in a time machine.
By playing this mind game, we learned that this part of Tasmania was once under water, then later under ice, and then split up into neighbouring forests that would tectonically drift as far as New Zealand and even South America.
Indeed, the species of fern that were along the walking track also happened to occur in those distant places attesting to the existence of the former Gondwanaland supercontinent.
In fact, the primal and wild feel of the rainforest here was aided by its inclusion in the undeveloped Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.
This was part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area seeking to protect these ancient tracts of land.
This reserve (dominating much of the western and southern parts of the state) was one of the largest contiguous tracts of undeveloped wilderness left in Tasmania.
Although the legislative protections helped to maintain the health of this area since the 1980s, we could see that prior efforts to find mineral riches as well as a way to traverse the boggy and rugged wilderness took its toll on the landscape.
However, in the 30+ years since the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was established, we found ourselves in a far different place than what the old photos from the signs at the trailhead had shown.
Indeed, it seemed like Nature quickly took back what had been undisturbed well before the advent of European settlement.
Perhaps the enduring legacy of the human activity of the past was the current Lyell Highway.
Nelson Falls resides in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park near Queenstown, Tasmania. It is administered by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
The car park was well signposted on the north side of the highway.
Since Nelson Falls was in national park land, park fees applied through the self-help payment kiosks at the car park.
That said, we had paid for the eight-week/eight-person pass (back at the Mt Field Visitor Centre or at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre).
At first glance, that might have been overkill for Julie and I since we only expected to stay in Tassie for at most a little over a week.
However, it was good for all national parks in the state (including the three that we visited at Cradle Mountain, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers, and Mt Field).
Therefore, we wound up saving a few bucks over the pay-as-you-go method.
For some geographical context, Queenstown was 42km (about 45 minutes drive) east of Strahan, 91km (under 90 minutes drive) west of Lake St Clair, 110km (over 90 minutes drive) southwest of Cradle Mountain, and 260km (over 3.5 hours drive) northwest of Hobart.
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