Cataract Gorge & First Basin History


The earliest recorded visit to this area was made by settler William Collins in 1804 when exploring 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 resort we are indebted to a private organization call The Launceston City and Suburbs Improvement Association, formed in December 1899. This body undertook to construct 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.

Apart from the magnificent vistas along the cataract there are the very enjoyable developed areas in the vicinity of the Cliff Grounds Restaurant and the First Basin swimming pool. There is an extremely interesting variety of natural flora totalling more than 70 species native to the area which is also inhabited by many different species of native fauna and approximately seventy different species of birds have been seen in the Gorge including nine species endemic to Tasmania.
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