The Giant Swamp Gums in the Styx Valley tall trees reserve are up to 87 metres tall and are believed to be the tallest hardwood trees on earth. They are part of a unique and ancient rainforest ecosystem with gullies carpeted in mosses and lichens and shaded by giant Man-ferns, Southern Sassafras, Myrtle Beech and Celery-top pine.
The Styx Valley is located adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site on the island of Tasmania. The Styx River is the main drainage system of the valley. It lies about 100 km northwest of Hobart, with the nearest town being Maydena.
The valley has been the site of an ongoing conflict between environmentalists, who have proposed the protection of the site as a National Park, and supporters of the logging industry. One of their arguments, as well as the obvious environmental benefits, was that a tourism-based economy would be more beneficial for the local economy than logging the area.
Community blockades including tree sits have been supported by Greenpeace and the Tasmanian Wilderness Society. Gandalf’s Staff, an 85 metre tall eucalypt, holds the world record for supporting the highest tree sit platform. The campaign was successful in gaining protection for the proposed clearfell coupe containing some of the tallest trees, and protection has recently been proposed by the Latham opposition in 2004 for an area of the northern Styx valley containing high conservation value old growth forest.
Coupe SX9B Walk
A walking track has been created in the threatened forest of coupe SX9B. Turn right onto Jubilee Road, cross the bridge and pass through the gate before taking the first left turn. Follow this road through the remains of forest that was Coupe SX9C, logged in early 2010. Wind your way up hill to the very end of the road and follow the pink tags that wind a loop through spectacular giants. The Wilderness Society volunteers are measuring the carbon contained within this patch of forest in a Citizen Science project that confirms it as some of the most carbon-dense forest in the world.
The Big Tree Reserve
This tiny reserve was established to protect some of the giant trees that are found throughout the valley. In 2005 this reserve was expanded to include the Tolkien Track. A boardwalk has been established to provide a quick circuit of the reserve.
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The Tolkien track
600m on from the Big Tree Reserve, turn right onto Waterfall Creek Rd. Drive for 800m and park near the small grassy track on your left. Walk back down the road 40m to the start of the Tolkien Track. This track winds through a spectacular piece of forest that was once threatened by logging. Use the map (link to tolkien track map.jpg) to explore the network of trails. You can retrace your steps to return to the road near your car, or join the road further up and walk back down the hill to your car.
There is plenty to see on this track. Walk under Morannon, the “Black Gate”; see the 75-m giant with twin trunks named Fangorn; enter the Cave Tree; walk along the trunk of the Felled Giant; and stand in awe under Gandalf’s Staff, the 84-m tall giant that was host to the Global Rescue Station.
If you are in the mood for a longer walk, follow the track to the intimate seclusion of the waterfall (20 minutes). This track can be slippery, so please take care.