In 1804 William Collins led a party of Europeans by boat into the South Esk. His written account of ‘the
beauty of the scene … probably not surpassed in the world’, is the earliest known record of European activity at the Cataract Gorge. From this point forward, the Gorge has
been both appreciated for its beauty and splendour, and an energy source to support development of
agricultural and industrial pursuits of the infant city.
On 10 December 2019, the Heritage Council revised the Tasmanian Heritage Register entry for the Cataract Gorge to better reflect community values and appreciation of the Gorge.
The Cataract Gorge is a unique feature of Launceston on the Esk River. It contains an important collection of built heritage features and historic plantings in the beautiful natural setting of the Cataract Gorge. The Gorge has been entered in the Register since 1998, but the entry was considered to be excessively concise and needed to be updated.
‘Few cities have a ruggedly beautiful white water reserve within a few minutes’ walk of the CBD. Cataract Gorge is an essential element in the character of Launceston—as a place to swim, walk and explore. Development of the Gorge embodies Launceston’s independent spirit, being a high point of municipal achievement. Simultaneously both park and wild place, the Cataract Gorge Reserve mixes native flora and fauna with the exotic, the natural with the man-made, as a rare Australian example of a Victorian pleasure ground. It has a strong and special meaning to the Launceston community and Tasmania generally, for its aesthetic qualities, and its natural, social and recreational values. Collectively these qualities and values create a specific identity and pride of place’, said Ms Brett Torossi, Chair of the Tasmanian Heritage Council.
The Gorge is a truly unique place. It is loved and used frequently by locals and an important part of the visitor experience on offer in Launceston. The Gorge is many things to different people. It is a place to visit, exercise, explore, relax and enjoy. It sits in a delightful natural gorge surrounded by native vegetation. Some of its more notable heritage features highlighted in the entry include the Alexandra Suspension Bridge, Rotunda, Caretaker’s Hut, tea rooms, walking tracks, gardens and stands of exotic trees, all of which are being celebrated and protected by this new entry.
‘Some time ago the Heritage Council recognised the Gorge’s original entry did not fully recognise its historic significance, so it decided to review and update its entry. An extensive assessment process commenced that was subject to a community consultation process. While the proposed replacement entry increased the size of the entry, feedback obtained during this process highlighted the value locals place on the reserved land that surrounds the Gorge and acts as its backdrop. This led the Heritage Council to list a boundary that also recognises the Gorge’s natural setting.'
A copy of the revised Heritage Register entry for Cataract Gorge is available here.