Natural Tasmania: Rivers


Longest Rivers (length)

South Esk: 252 km
Derwent: 215 km
Arthur: 189 km
Gordon: 186 km
Huon: 169 km
Mersey: 158 km
Franklin: 129 km
North Esk: 97 km
Pieman: 38 km

The rivers featured are some of the more well known or most visited in Tasmania.



Franklin River


The Franklin lies in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The Franklin River itself has become synonymous with Australia's largest conservation battle - the battle to save the Franklin from a proposed hydro-electric power scheme, the Franklin Dam. This saw Robin Gray's Liberal Government come up against the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, led by its director Bob Brown and a variety of other groups, in a battle that lasted four years. The river was eventually saved after a ruling of the High Court of Australia.




Gordon River


One of the major rivers of Tasmania. It rises in the centre of the island and flows westward. Major tributaries include the Serpentine River and the Franklin River. The Gordon River empties into Macquarie Harbour on the wild west coast of Tasmania. The course of the Gordon River is mainly an uninhabited wilderness area. Gordon Dam was constructed to impound the upper reaches of the Gordon River, forming Lake Gordon for hydro-electric power generation. Additional dams, to be part of a hydro electricity scheme, were proposed for the lower part of the river but the plans were dropped due to changing public opinion.




Huon River


Located to the south of Hobart, the Huon River flows via an estuary through some of the most fertile farmlands of Tasmania and the southern most local government district in Australia. The municipality encompasses the town of Huonville, on the Huon River, some surrounding towns, and many protected areas and forestry plantations. The Huon River is the fourth longest river in Tasmania. It was named after Jean-Michel Huon De Kermadec (1748-1793), a French mariner who visited Van Diemen's Land with Bruny D'Entrecasteaux in 1792 and 1793. He lead an expedition which explored the river.




River Mersey


Located on the north-west coast of Tasmania, the city of Devonport is situated at the river's mouth on Bass Strait. The river is fed by the Dasher and Fisher Rivers. Whitewater rafting is popular on the river. The Rowallan Dam hydro-electric station is also located on the Mersey. It is named for the River Mersey in the United Kingdom.




Pieman River


The Pieman River is one of the major rivers on the wild west coast of Tasmania. It was dammed with the 122m high Reece Dam in 1986 - creating Lake Pieman after a major struggle between conservation groups and Hydro Tasmania. The once-common suggestion that it was named after a convict "The Pieman" Alexander Pearce who was responsible for one of the few recorded instances of cannibalism in Australia, is not correct. "The Pieman" was in fact Thomas Kent of Southampton, a pastry-cook who was transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1816. After a long series of offences in the colony, he was sent to the Macquarie Harbour penal settlement in 1822 but subsequently escaped, and was recaptured near the mouth of the river which now bears his nickname. The river has significant timber, mining and industrial heritage along its shores.




Tamar River


The Tamar River in northern Tasmania is Australia's longest navigable estuarine river. More than 70 km long, its many sheltered coves and inlets provide sanctuary for thousands of native water birds. The valley's history is steeped with romance and studded with bushrangers, explorers, gold diggers and events of national and international significance. The river once served the City of Launceston as a major shipping and transport 'highway' and remains central to the lifestyle of more than a quarter of Tasmania's population. Its tributaries are the North Esk and South Esk Rivers. The latter, at 245 km, is Tasmania's longest river.




River Derwent


It is known the river was named after one of a number of English rivers named Derwent, but which one is not known. The name - which apparently means "valley thick with oaks" - is especially appropriate. When first explored by Europeans, the lower parts of the picturesque valley were clad in thick she-oak forests, remnants of which remain in a few places. 180 km long with flows ranging from 50 to 300 tonnes per second, its large estuary forms the Port of the City of Hobart - often claimed to be the deepest sheltered harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. It is the only Australian river to have the word "river" at the front of its name, in the English tradition, rather than after it.