Sadly, the area was badly affected by the Riveaux Road bushfires in January 2019 and the site was shut for a number of months for reconstruction. It’s now back open so we decided to visit on Sunday.
I didn’t know what to expect, having last seen it as a very lush and green forest area. There was so much fire damage to the area from the 2019 fire, it looked totally different from when we went there in 2015.
As well as the regular signs that describe the landscape and the species of vegetation that you can see, the site has signs scattered round that outline the damage that the fires did and what’s happened since then. One sign points out the extent of the flames, which reached a height of 55 metres, as seen by the charring on one of the trees.
The fire was started by dry lightning in January 2019 and the site was evacuated on 21 January. It affected almost 64,000 hectares of land in the area and, while firefighters saved the visitor centre, the fires destroyed the entrance and exit of the airwalk. The airwalk itself survived but experienced significant damage from the heat.
One of the signs explains that the path to the airwalk has been completely rebuilt in a new location. About 4.5 km of walking track had to rebuilt in the area, which took over a year, and over 8000 plants were planted during that time to supplement the regrowth. Small trees have started to regrow and the ferns and eucalyptus are resprouting. A lot of the trees didn’t make it though, and there are plenty of tree corpses lying around, fallen giants in a devastated landscape.
Repairing the airwalk took a specialist crew of 28 workers, who needed to replace over 9000 bolts, replace 992 metres of guywires and repaint the entire structure. This sounds like it must have been a tricky operation, with a special scaffold needed so that the painters could access the towers, the sides and underneath the airwalk. Not a job I would be keen on signing up for.
The airwalk is (to fully quote the website) an elevated 619-metre long walkway 30 metres above the forest floor, with the final cantilever section sitting at a height of 50 metres above the Huon River, with spectacular views to the confluence of the Huon and Picton and beyond to the peaks of the World Heritage Area.
That hasn’t changed. It’s absolutely amazing to be walking through the tree tops and to be able to see these views, even if the occasional wobbling of the platform did make me a little shaky. Heights aren’t my friend, even when it’s perfectly safe. (This is one reason I didn’t sign up to repaint the airwalk. The other reason is, well, I’m not a painter.)
It’s also encouraging to see how the area is starting to regenerate.
The amount of work that has gone into restoring the area is phenomenal, both by the people and by Nature itself.
Here are some of my photos from the day.