Where we went: Marriotts Falls, near Mt Field
When we went: Late winter, 2020
Estimated time to complete walk: 2 hours
Time spent on walk: 2.5 hours (very long photography break)
During an overnight stay in the Southwest National Park (with the express intention of doing a lot of bushwalking) we were forced to change our plans on account of a severe weather warning. Being people who hike for pleasure and also people who agreed, as a couple, never to stand near exposed cliff faces during strong winds we defaulted to our plan B for the day – leisurely day walks in the region, after most of the foul weather has petered out. Our research brought us to Marriotts Falls, located along the Gordon River road, between the Mt Field visitor centre and The Needles walk we had done the day before. We were informed that the track was short, formed and housed no stairs whatsoever. This, dear reader, is a lie. The track is formed in parts, and easy to follow generally; however there are at least 50 stairs on the walk, which is not a lot of stairs, but if you require any mobility assistance it is important that you know they are there. Furthermore, it must be noted that the path, at least in late winter, following heavy rainfall (literally the best and most reasonable time to be viewing waterfalls) is mud. This was not a deal breaker for us, as we wear Blundstone boots when hiking and they are suitably mud resistant, but it is essential to your general enjoyment of this walk that you follow suit and wear sturdy, mud-tolerant boots. There are no rest-stops or dedicated places to sit, so those who require frequent rests along the way please keep this in mind. There is a lot of fantastic birdwatching to be had and we were thrilled at the opportunity to take our new long lens out for a spin.
The turn off to the falls from the main road is signposted, after the railroad the falls carpark is located to the right and is marked with a post labelled “Falls”. The carpark is small and there are no amenities of any kind.
The track starts with a small bridge crossing before following along Tyenna River, there are a few hazards and warnings signs along the way, which require your attention.
The trail is occasionally boarded, there are a few stairs and the river raged to our right while fairy wrens danced in the muted sunlight and mossy groves to the left. There was also a pink breasted robin who got very close to us while he foraged, but we failed to photograph him on account of the light drizzle and the long lens being mortal enemies.
This lightly forested river walk took us about 20 minutes before the track veered left, over a bridge and through to a broad, open plain. Here there are only low lying plants and the way is marked with star pickets and reflective arrows. We found this to be a particularly wonderful section for bird-watching although the fact that it was nearly spring may have been a contributing factor. We watched many handsome robins and wrens wooing the ladies with song and dance.
The plains are bordered by forest and it is not long before the path plunges into it. Man ferns hug this section of track their fronds tenderly trailed across our backs as we ducked and wove our way along.
It was also here that our relationship with mud was truly tested. The path was – I cannot stress this enough – muddy. There are boarded sections and a few areas where major obstacles are made more passable with the aid of light infrastructure, but, for the most part, our feet were fully submerged and we were generally extremely grateful for the fact that the day had started with strong winds and there was a lot of leaf litter and fallen fern fronds which we found to be the most effective means by which to gain footing. This is a common issue when one has a vested interest in watching water fall from a height. Our advice is to wear sensible shoes and embrace the mud squelching. Our way was made much more pleasant by the warm honeyed smell of Tasmania black-hearted sassafras trees in flower. The delicate white flowers with soft pale-pink centres and a cluster of yellow stamen are strewn across the forest floor from the end of august through most of September. They stand out gloriously against the mud and lush green mosses of the understorey.
Our progress through the man fern grove was slow on account of the narrow path, the deep mud, and my instance on pointing out every sassafras flower along the way (these were invariably met with a non-committal comment of “very pretty” from Sommelier, who was definitely more focused on not slipping in mud than he was in examining every single one of hundreds of flowers strewn about).
Just before the falls the way gets much more challenging in terms of obstacles. There is a fallen tree near the end (which a sign warned us about at the beginning). And the path gets a little zigzag to it, and there is a small decent. Curiously, we didn’t hear the falls until we were very near them. The forest muted it and the wind carried what little sound could have reached us away. We were almost worried that this would be a rather pusillanimous sight, based on the lack of noise.
The stream from which the falls is birthed disappears into the understorey no doubt to join the Tyenna River at a secret rendezvous point. The falls are a broad sheet standing in a small opening in the forest which forms a brilliant beam of light. It makes a soft sound, rather than a thundering, but the collection of broken trees scattered at the base suggest that she can, occasionally, put on a spectacular show. While we stood and admired her the wind grew wild again, the trees, visible above us through our little clearing bowed and bent in the draft, sassafras flowers were rained down on our heads and the misted droplets of Marriotts Falls were scattered into shards of rainbow.
Once the wind had quieted once more we set off back to safety, stopping for a very long photography break in the plains. We were very muddy by the time we were out of the forest and we took a moment to rinse off a little in the river before getting back into the car. While it wasn’t quite the extreme challenge we had hoped for when the day began, Marriotts Falls was an adequately humbling nature foray that made us feel like we were on a glorious adventure, exploring the deep wilds of fairy country.