CATARACT GORGE & FIRST BASIN HISTORY
The earliest recorded visit to this area was in 1804
A TALE TO TELL
Early settler William Collins was the first to record his exploration of the Port in the ship 'Lady Nelson'. He was particularly impressed by the South Esk and its cataract and wrote:
"Upon approaching the entrance I observed a large fall of water over rocks, nearly a quarter of a mile up a straight gully between perpendicular rocks about 150 ft high. THE BEAUTY OF THE SCENE IS PROBABLY NOT SURPASSED IN THE WORLD".
For the early development of this area we are indebted to a private organization called The Launceston City and Suburbs Improvement Association, formed in December 1899. This body constructed an access along the Cataract Gorge, which took eight years to complete.
In 1940, a suspension bridge was constructed across the South Esk River at the head of the First Basin to connect the two sides of the River area.
Further up the river, at Duck Reach , a turbine-driven power station was constructed by the Council and it is understood that Launceston had the distinction of being the first city south of the Equator to be lit by electricity, generated by water power. On the 10th December, 1895, electricity was officially switched on.
In harmony with the magnificent vistas along the cataract there are also enjoyable developed areas in the vicinity of the Cliff Grounds including a cafe, restaurant, BBQ facilities and a swimming pool.
Visitors delight in a diverse range of natural flora species native to the area. The Gorge is also inhabited by many different species of native fauna and approximately 70 different species of birds have been sighted, including nine species endemic to Tasmania.
FORMATION OF THE GORGE
One hundred and eighty million years ago, during the Jurassic period, Australia was part of the super continent of Gondwana. At that time Australia was joined to Antartica, Africa, South America and India.
Over time, continental drift occurred and Australia broke away to become the only island continent on the planet today. During this break up, extensive earthquake activity caused large volumes of dolerite magma to be emplaced in Tasmania and in parts of Antartica, Africa and South America.
The earthquake that created the Cataract Gorge would have been far more powerful and devastating than any earthquakes that occur in the world today.
The dolerite rock you see at the Cataract Gorge Reserve was formed by these magma intrusions.