West Coast Range

West Coast Range

The West Coast Range (coord|42|05|S|145|36|E|region:AU-TAS_type:mountain) of Tasmania is a group of mountains in the West Coast area of Tasmania in Australia that lies to the west of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park

The range has had a significant number of mines utilising the geologically rich zone of Mount Read Volcanics. A number of adjacent ranges lie to the east: the Engineer Range, the Raglan Range, the Eldon Range, and the Sticht Range but in most cases these are on a west–east alignment, while the West Coast Range runs in a north–south direction, following the Mount Read volcanic arc.

The range has encompassed multiple land uses including the catchment area for Hydro Tasmania dams, mines, transport routes and historical sites. Of the communities that have existed actually in the range itself, Gormanston, is probably the last to remain.

Geographical features

These are determined by a number of factors - the southerly direction of glaciation in the King River Valley and around the Tyndalls. As well as the general north -south orientation of the West Coast Range itself.

*Anthony River on the northern part of the range
*Eldon River on the eastern side of the range
*Henty River on the western side of the range
*King River starting in the Eldon Range and passing between Mount Huxley and Mount Jukes, dammed by The Hydro
*Queen River runs through Queenstown, then to join with the King River to the west of Mount Huxley
*Tofft River runs between the Thureau hills and Mount Owen and Mount Huxley
*Yolande River runs between Lake Margaret and the Henty River

* Basin Lake
* Lake Adam - a tributary lake for Lake Margaret
* Lake Barnabas
* Lake Beatrice - on the eastern edge of Mount Sedgwick
* Lake Burbury - created by the damming of the King River by The Hydro.
* Lake Dora
* Lake Dorothy
* Lake Julia - in the area of the range known as 'The Tyndalls'
*Lake Macintosh, Tasmania - created by damming the Mackintosh River
* Lake Mary, Tasmania - a tributary lake for Lake Margaret
*Lake Margaret on the northern side of Mount Sedgwick
*Lake Murchison, Tasmania - created by the damming of the Murchison River
* Lake Plimsoll
* Lake Polycarp
* Lake Rolleston - between the Tyndall Range and the Sticht Range
* Lake Selina - just west of Lake Plimsoll
* Lake Spicer - just west of Eldon Peak
* Lake Westwood - next to Mount Julia

MountainsIncluding 'Ranges' within the West Coast Range with no specifically named peak - also including subsidiary peaks

* Mount Black 950 metres
*Mount Darwin 1031 metres
** South Darwin 780 metres
*Mount Dundas 1143 metres [furthest west of main peaks]
* Mount Farrell 712 metres
*Mount Geikie 1190 metres
* Mount Hamilton 1075 metres
*Mount Huxley 926 metres
*Mount Jukes 1168 metres
** Proprietary Peak 1103 metres
**Pyramid Peak
** South Jukes Peak 1000 metres
** West Jukes Peak
*Mount Julia 843 metres
*Mount Lyell 920 metres
*Mount Murchison 1275 metres [Tallest in West Coast Range]
*Mount Owen 1146 metres
*Mount Read 1124 metres [2nd Tallest in West Coast Range] - with a current Bureau of Meteorology automatic weather station working on its peak.
*Mount Selina 760 metres
*Mount Sedgwick 1147 metres
*Mount Sorell 1144 metres
*Mount Strahan 855 metres
*Mount Tyndall
*Sticht Range
* Tyndall Range
* Victoria Peak - 949 metres - east of Lake Murchison

Smaller Hills and Features
*Darwin Crater - a probable meteorite impact crater associated with Darwin glass
* Gooseneck Hill
* Henty Glacial Moraine
* Marble Bluff - adjacent to the confluence of the Eldon and South Eldon rivers and the northern edge of Lake Burbury
*Teepookana Plateau
*Thureau Hills - adjacent to the eastern slopes of Mount Owen and Mount Huxley
* Walford Peak - adjacent to Lake Dora


The slopes of Mount Owen, Mount Lyell and Mount Sedgwick are covered in stumps of forest trees killed by fires and smelter fumes from the earlier part of the twentieth century. The devastation of forests close to the mining operations at Queenstown was substantial as early as the 1890s and continued late into the twentieth century.

Some Huon Pine on the slopes of Mount Read have been found that show considerable age.

Due to fire, mining and a range of human activities the vegetation zones along the West Coast range can be considered to be mainly modified, and few pockets of vegetation could be considered unchanged since European presence.

The eastern side of the range is on the western boundary of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, and at these points the forests are in better condition.

Forestry conservation zones exist along its length in accordance with the Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA).


In the average winter the "1,000 metre snowline" sees most of the mountains with snow. In previous decades, Lake Margaret was the main long-term weather-reporting location, however the Mount Read automatic weather station now maintains extremes regularly reported on the Bureau of Meteorology website for extreme conditions. The rainfall records of Lake Margaret were on a par with Tully in Queensland for the highest rainfall in Australia. Approximations for the West Coast Range are made at 2800-3000 mm precipitation per year.

The prevailing weather is due to the location of the West Coast. It has no landmass shielding it from the Southern Ocean or Antarctic weather, and being in the Roaring Forties cold fronts and extreme weather are regular occurrences on the West Coast. The Cape Sorell Waverider Buoy which was initiated by the BOM in 1998 (there had been earlier testing buoys in the early 1990s) has given good indications of the behaviour of ocean swells to correlate with weather conditions.

Earlier weather records were kept for Queenstown and Zeehan. Due to change in population distribution and resources in the west coast, the main weather data is currently from Strahan Airport and Mount Read.

The Following BOM recorded locations are relevant to West Coast Range:

BOM number Location Name Start End South East Height Comments Record 097035 97 Crotty 1917 1929 -42.2000 145.6000 (Compare with Princess River and Lake Burbury Park) 097058 97 DUNDAS 1896 1917 -41.8833 145.4333 097002 97 FARRELL SIDING 1934 1948 -41.7000 145.5500 097003 97 GORMANSTON 1895 2000 -42.0747 145.5986 ... 380.0 (Compare with West Lyell) 097088 97 LAKE BURBURY PARK 1995 1996 -42.0983 145.6733 245.0 097006 97 LAKE MARGARET DAM 1912 .. -41.9939 145.5706 665.0 097020 97 LAKE MARGARET POWER STATION 1945 .. -42.0056 145.5419 320.0 097040 97 MAGNET 1906 1936 -41.5000 145.4500 097085 97 MOUNT READ 1996 .. -41.8444 145.5419 1119.5 (Current Automatic Weather Station) 097039 97 MOUNT READ (MOUNT LYELL M.&R.) 1901 1920 -41.9000 145.5500 097057 97 PILLINGER 1907 1924 -42.3333 145.5333 097033 97 PRINCESS RIVER 1948 1976 -42.0833 145.6667 ....215.0 (Compare with Crotty and Lake Burbury Park) 097034 97 QUEENSTOWN (7XS) 1964 1995 -42.0967 145.5447 ... 129.0 097008 97 QUEENSTOWN (COPPER MINE) 1906 2005 -42.0661 145.5681 191.0 097068 97 QUEENSTOWN AERODROME 1968 1988 -42.0769 145.5294 . 262.0 097086 97 QUEENSTOWN (UPPER PRINCESS CREEK) 1995 1999 -42.0833 145.5286 . 250.0 097091 97 QUEENSTOWN (SOUTH QUEENSTOWN) 1996 .. -42.0972 145.5439 118.0 097087 97 TULLAH (MEREDITH STREET) 1995 .. -41.7383 145.6108 167.0 097056 97 TULLAH MINE SITE 1969 1978 -41.7167 145.6333 . 183.0 097046 97 WILLIAMSFORD (LEVEL 5) 1965 1971 -41.8333 145.5167 . 853.0 097015 97 WEST LYELL 1945 2003 -42.0622 145.5794 421.0 (On south west slope of Mount Lyell Main Source: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/how/sitedat.shtml

History and exploration

Early European exploration of the range was made by explorers, and by convicts escaping from Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island. Most occurred in the late nineteenth century, but as late as the 1940s some government maps had "unexplored" or "insufficient survey" or words to that effect.

Perhaps the most salient sentinels on speedy decisions - of the mountains that are viewable from Macquarie Harbour - most were named after proponents for and against the ideas that Charles Darwin was putting forward in the late 19th century. The irony is those who were against Darwin were given the higher mountain names, while the smaller were named after his supporters.

There were very small mining settlements in the Tyndalls, on Mount Darwin and Mount Jukes, and possibly very small camps of short duration in other locations. Linda in the Linda Valley is probably the only other remaining named location with population in a valley in the range. Queenstown lies in the Queen River valley on the western slopes of Mount Owen, or south western slopes of Mount Lyell, and is in effect 'out' of the range.


The Tasmanian Mines Department (in its various names over the last hundred years) has had guides to the minerals found in Tasmania - most are found in the West Coast region, these include
Barium, Copper, Gold, Pyrites, Silver, Zinc.

Mining sites, in most cases short-lived exist on the upper regions of Mount Darwin, and Mount Jukes. Longer lasting mines existed on the middle slopes of Mount Lyell (North, West and South sides), and on the middle and upper slopes of Mount Read. Mineral exploration has occurred on the slopes of almost all of the named mountains over time. Conservation measures in recent decades have put special restrictions on the activity so as to not replicate the damage of the Mount Lyell operation. A good example of the capacity to mine in a sensitive area is the Henty Gold Mine, at the northern end of the range.See also West Coast Tasmania Mines for mines that occur on the West Coast Range - and the West Coast region.


The West Coast of Tasmania was always attractive to plans for dams for hydro electricity. The King River was surveyed for this at the time of the First World War. Then in the 1960s the early HEC surveys were conducted. The upper part of the Pieman scheme dammed parts of the West Coast Range, and the final major projects of the HEC dam making project were the Henty and King River Schemes.

Pieman River Scheme

The Pieman River Power Scheme involved the damming of rivers that start in the West Coast Range. It was the scheme that followed the Gordon River Scheme - and was to be followed by the Franklin River Scheme - but in reality was followed by the King River and Henty River schemes instead.

Construction commenced in 1974 and the scheme was completed by 1987. It involved dams on the Murchison and Macintosh rivers, as well as the Pieman River. The main construction town and administrative centre for the Hydro was at Tullah.

The Mackintosh Dam and power station were north of Tullah, while the Murchsion Dam and Lake were south. A third dam - the Bastyan Dam was just north of Rosebery, while the Reece Dam was a long way to the west - close to the town of Corinna.

King River Scheme

The Crotty Dam is an 82 metre high Hydro Tasmania dam on the King River between Mount Huxley and Mount Jukes. The Darwin Dam is a saddle dam at the foot of Mount Darwin. Both of the dams contain the 54 square kilometre Lake Burbury water storage area.


Initial access to the west coast region was by foot or by access from the sea - railways progressed further into the region much earlier than roads - the road from Hobart was not connected until the 1930's and the north coast until the 1960's.


To support the Mount Lyell and North Mount Lyell mines, railways were built from ports on Macquarie Harbour and travelled to the edge of the Range. They did not traverse the range.

*North Mount Lyell Railway - port was at Pillinger in Kelly Basin
*Mount Lyell Railway - port was at Regatta Point

Similarly the lines that connected with the Emu Bay Railway - the North East Dundas Tramway for example, did not traverse the range, but travelled to the foot of the mountains where the mines were active.


The Lyell Highway connection running through the West Coast range at the Linda Valley was not constructed until the 1930's.

The road to Crotty from Queenstown (or more correctly the locality of Lynchford), built as the "Mount Jukes Road" by the Hydro as part of the King River dam scheme in the 1980's passed high above the King River Gorge on the northern side of Mount Jukes.

Landing grounds

Although not currently serviced as a registered aerodrome the Queenstown airport (in operation in the 1960's and 1970's) just west of the townsite is the closest air service facility. There have been temporary helicopter landing sites throughout the range used by mineral exploration activities - but no inventory is known of these locations.

Historical features and recent sites

Tramways and Railways
*Comstock Tram around the slopes of Mount Lyell - not to be confused with a tramway with same name out of Zeehan.
*Lake Margaret Tram at western side of Mount Sedgwick
*North Mount Lyell Railway Linda Valley, along King River Valley,through the Crotty and Darwin townsites to Pillinger and Kelly Basin.

*Crotty Townsite, Tasmania on the eastern slopes of Mount Jukes
*Darwin Townsite, Tasmania on the eastern slopes of Mount Darwin
*Gormanston on the northern slopes of Mount Owen
*Lake Margaret precinct
*Linda in the Linda Valley between Mounts Owen and Lyell
*Tullah amidst Lake Rosebery

Mine sites
*Henty Gold Mine
*Mount Jukes Mine sites on the upper slopes -including 'Lake Jukes Mine'

Hydro sites
*Anthony Power Station
*Bastyan Power station
*Crotty Dam
*Darwin Dam
*John Butters Power Station
*Lake Margaret Power Station

*Franklin River proposed power development - cancelled in the 1980s
*Gordon River proposed power development - cancelled in the 1980s

Main Roads
*Lyell Highway [A10] in the Linda Valley between Mounts Owen and Lyell
* The Henty River Rd [B24] From Henty Glacial Moraine to the Lake Murchison Dam (Anthony Power Station) and Tullah

* Walking Tracks: Numerous historic walking tracks blazed in the nineteenth century, and the twentieth century exist throughout the Range - some survive, some are overgrown.

:C. Binks Explorers of Western Tasmania, has an Appendix 'The exploration tracks 1880-1910' which is a thorough examination of the record.

:The most famous of the track makers was Thomas Bather Moore. He named many features including Mount Strahan, the Thureau Hills and the Tofft River.

Geological mapping

Geological maps of Tasmania: Mount Read Volcanics Project P. Komyshan ...et al.Hobart : Geological Survey of Tasmania, Division of Mines and Mineral Resources, Mount Read Volcanics Project, 1986-1993
* Map 2. Geology of Rosebery-Mt. Block area
* Map 3. Geology of the Henty River-Mt. Read area
* Map 5. Geology of the Tyndall Range area
* Map 6. Geological compilation map of the Mount Read volcanics & associated rocks, Hellyer to south Darwin Peak
* Map 13. Geology of the Mt. Jukes-Mt. Darwin area.


* Stringer, I. "The West Coast Range."
*:2003 edition - Queenstown: Municipality of Queenstown. :1949 edition - Hobart: Davies Brothers. OCLC|48825404; ASIN [http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FMPZ80 B000FMPZ80] :1924 edition - Queenstown: Mount Lyell Tourist Association. OCLC|35070001; ASIN [http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0008BM4XC B0008BM4XC]
* Wilkinson, Bill "The Abels/ Tasmania's Mountains over 1100m High"

External links

* [http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=-42.098236,145.650558&spn=0.460533,0.648399&t=k&hl=en West Coast Range on Google Maps]
* http://www.geocities.com/tazydevilbear/westcoastmtns/westcoastmtns.html - for a sample of photos of parts of the range
* http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/wha/wherein/detail.html - context of World Heritage Area
* [http://www.hydro.com.au Hydro Tasmania]

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