Mt Field National Park 100th Anniversary 2016

Mt Field is Tasmania’s oldest National park. 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Park and because of  the philatelic significance of the iconic Russell Falls, we have selected this anniversary as one of the themes of our exhibition. Russell Falls, located near the entrance to the Park,is one of the most iconic images of Tasmanian wildness and was used in the design of the  4d Pictorial Tasmanian stamp.

Mt Field National Park 100th Anniversary – in 1916, the area surrounding Mt Field, about 64 Km from Hobart, was declared a National Park, making it Tasmania’s first National Park, along with the Freycinet Peninsular. Russell Falls had already been proclaimed as a Nature Reserve in 1885 due to its natural beauty. Until 1945, the Mt Field National park was called simply “National Park”.

This area was the last place of capture of the now extinct Tasmanian Tiger – the Thylacine.

This National Park is  the most significant of all Tasmania’s Parks  for stamp and postcard collectors. The 4d value of the Tasmanian Pictorial Issues ( 1899  -1913) shows Russel Falls, an iconic Tasmanian scene, and the Falls feature in many Tasmanian Postcards from the Golden era from the early 1900’s to the first World War.

4d-Pictorial-Tasmania

Tasmanian 4d Pictorial 1899 – 1912 showing a view of Russell Falls at Mt Field National Park .

Prior to 1910 access to the highland areas of the park was by rough track from Elendale, a route used by trappers who worked the area for skins of native animals. Early naturalists such as Leonard Rodway and Baron Von Meuller made visits to the area but at least a week was required for such a visit.

The scenic beauty of Russell Falls lead to the creation in 1885 of a 300 acre reserve. By 1911 the etxension of the Derwent Valley railway line to the area opened up the falls to visitors and guest houses were established, including Marriots Guest House at the entrance to the reserve. The nearby towns of Westerway and Tyenna also began to offer visitor accommodation.

Trout fry were released into Lakes within the Mt Field area in 1898 and thrived in the cool but fertile waters. Trout fishing was very popular and provided another reason to visit Mt Field.

Such was the popularity of the area that in 1916 a National Park was proclaimed by Governor Sir Francis Newdegate . The Park covered an area of 27,000 acres. The Park was officially opened in 1917 and the opening speech gives a good idea of the concepts that motivated the founders.

“By this reservation a typical example of Tasmanian forest will be retained in its natural state, in order that generations yet unborn may see for themselves what virgin Tasmania was like … it is also to serve as a sanctuary for the flora and fauna, so as to guard against total extinction in some cases threatened … Again, the park will be a scenic and pleasure resort not only for Tasmanians themselves, but for the countless thousands of tourists who will visit our island as time goes on, and its charms become more widely known and appreciated. In this respect it may truly be said that the park will be a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”

Mt Field was named after Barron Field who was an early judge of the NSW Supreme Court. He was a keen amateur naturalist and in 1819 presided at the first sitting of the Supreme Court.
Bill Belcher was the first park ranger from 1917 until shortly before his death in 1934 and a lake deep in the glacial cirque surrounded by K-col and Tyenna Peak bears his name.

Real Photo Postcard - J. W. Beattie

Real Photo Postcard of Russel Falls – J. W. Beattie