West Coast Range

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This article is about the Tasmanian mountains. For mountain range of the West Coast of North America, see Coast Mountains. For other uses, see Coast Range.
Not to be confused with Western Ranges or Western Range.

West Coast range from the air

The West Coast Range (42°05′S 145°36′E / 42.083°S 145.600°E / -42.083; 145.600) of Tasmania is a group of mountains in the West Coast area of Tasmania in Australia.

The range lies to the west and north of the main parts 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[edit]

These are determined by a number of factors - the southerly direction of glaciation in the King River Valley [1] and around the Tyndalls [2] 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 Rive 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 Huntley - on the eastern side of Mount Tyndall
  • Lake Julia - in the area of the range known as 'The Tyndalls'
  • Lake Mackintosh - created by damming the Mackintosh River
  • Lake Magdala - a tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • Lake Martha - tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • Lake Mary, Tasmania - a tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • Lake Margaret on the northern side of Mount Sedgwick
  • Lake Monica - tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • Lake Murchison - created by the damming of the Murchison River
  • Lake Myra - tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • Lake Paul - tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • Lake Peter - tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • Lake Philip - a tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • Lake Plimsoll
  • Lake Polycarp - a tributary lake for Lake Margaret
  • 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 Tyndall - south of Mount Tyndall
  • Lake Westwood - next to Mount Julia


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

Smaller Hills and Features[edit]

  • 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 Record End Record Southings Eastings Height Comments
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[edit]

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.

Of the mountains that are viewable from Macquarie Harbour - most were names associated with the proponents for and against the ideas that Charles Darwin was putting forward in the late 19th century.

Thomas Bather Moore named Darwin, Geikie and Read and the Tyndall Range. Charles Gould named 1860 between 1862 Murchison, Sedgwick, Lyell and Owen; Huxley and Jukes were named later. [3]

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.

Hydro Dams[edit]

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 1950s and early 1960s the early HEC surveys were conducted.[4] 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[edit]

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[edit]

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 1930s and the north coast until the 1960s.


See also:Railways on the West Coast of Tasmania

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.

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 1930s.

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 1980s passed high above the King River Gorge on the northern side of Mount Jukes.

The Anthony Road constructed by the Hydro during the construction of the Anthony Power Scheme also cuts through the northern part of the range, as well as access to the glacial lakes in The Tyndalls - Lake Westwood, Lake Selina and Lake Julia.

Landing grounds[edit]

Although not currently serviced as a registered aerodrome the Queenstown airport (in operation in the 1960s and 1970s) just west of the townsite is the closest air service facility. Strahan Airport is the closest registered airport.[5]

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[edit]

Tramways and Railways

through the Crotty and Darwin townsites to Pillinger and Kelly Basin.


Mine sites

Hydro sites

  • 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[edit]

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 - 13 maps : col. ; 92 x 96 cm. or smaller.

  • Map 1. Geology of the Mt. Charter-Hellyer area
  • Map 2. Geology of Rosebery-Mt. Block area
  • Map 3. Geology of the Henty River-Mt. Read area
  • Map 4. Geology of the Mt. Murchison 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 7. Geology of the Back Peak-Cradle Mountain Link Road area (not West Coast Range area)
  • Map 8. Geology of the Mt. Cattley-Mt. Tor area (not West Coast Range area)
  • Map 9. Geology of the Winterbrook-Moina area (not West Coast Range area)
  • Map 10. Geology of the Elliott Bay-Mt. Osmund area (not West Coast Range area)
  • Map 11. Geology of the Wanderer River-Moores Valley area (not West Coast Range area)
  • Map 12. Geology of the D'Aguilar Range area (not West Coast Range area)
  • Map 13. Geology of the Mt. Jukes-Mt. Darwin area.


  1. ^ Sean J. Fitzsimons and Eric A. Colhoun Pleistocene glaciation of the King Valley, Western Tasmania, Australia Quaternary Research Volume 36, Issue 2, September 1991, Pages 135-156
  2. ^ Eric A. Colhoun Glaciations of the West Coast Range, Tasmania Quaternary Research Volume 24, Issue 1, July 1985, Pages 39-59 From abstract: Geomorphic, stratigraphic, palynologic and 14C evidence indicates that the West Coast Range, Tasmania, was glaciated at least three times during the late Cenozoic. The last or Margaret Glaciation commenced after 30,000 yr B.P., culminated about 19,000 yr B.P., and ended by 10,000 yr B.P. During this period a small ice cap, ca. 250 m thick, and cirque and valley glaciers covered 108 km2.
  3. ^ Baillie, PW (2010), The West Coast range, Tasmania: mountains and geological giants, retrieved 23 February 2015 
  4. ^ Russ Ashtons photos are a good example of the locations they were investigating, some very close to the West Coast Range
  5. ^ http://www.westcoast.tas.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=238


  • Banks, M.R. and Kirkpatrick, J.B. Editors (1977). Landscape and Man, the interaction between man and environment in Western Tasmania. Royal Society of Tasmania, Tasmania. 
  • Binks, C.J. (1980). Explorers of Western Tasmania. Launceston: Mary Fisher Bookshop. ISBN 0-908291-16-7. 
  • Blainey, Geoffrey (2000). The Peaks of Lyell (6th ed. ed.). Hobart: St. David's Park Publishing. ISBN 0-7246-2265-9. 
  • Crawford, Patsy (2000). King: Story of a River. Montpelier Press. ISBN 1-876597-02-X. 
  • Rae, Lou (2001). The Abt Railway and Railways of the Lyell region. Sandy Bay: Lou Rae. ISBN 0-9592098-7-5. 
  • Stoddart, D.Michael, ed. (1993). Walk to the West. Hobart: The Royal Society of Tasmania. ISBN 0-9598679-9-6. 
  • Stringer, I. (2001). The West Coast Range: a photographic odyssey. Queenstown, Tas.: I. Stringer, J. Perkins. 
  • Whitham, Charles (2003). Western Tasmania - A land of riches and beauty (Reprint 2003 ed.). Queenstown: Municipality of Queenstown. 
2003 edition - Queenstown: Municipality of Queenstown.
1949 edition - Hobart: Davies Brothers. OCLC 48825404; ASIN B000FMPZ80
1924 edition - Queenstown: Mount Lyell Tourist Association. OCLC 35070001; ASIN B0008BM4XC
  • Whitham, Lindsay (2002). Railways, Mines, Pubs and People and other historical research. Sandy Bay: Tasmanian Historical Research Association. ISBN 0-909479-21-6. 
  • Wilkinson, Bill (1994). The Abels: Tasmania's Mountains over 1100m High. Launceston: Regal Publications. ISBN 0-949457-67-1. 

External links[edit]