Incredible archive footage shows how hiking Tasmania’s iconic Cradle Mountain has changed over last century

By Candice Marshall May 20, 2022
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One hundred years ago, what we now know as Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP was first declared a protected area.

Now one of the most famous national parks in Australia, and home to the iconic Overland Track, Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park is celebrating its centenary. The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service has released archive footage – not quite from 100 years ago, but 1938 – showing some of the first enthusiastic adventurers taking on rugged hiking routes.

Highlighting just how much the national park and it’s infrastructure has changed over the years, the video compilation features side-by-side imagery of hikers in 1938, and now, exploring the same sections of trail:

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP as it was in 1938, and today. Video credit: Russell Scott/Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service

“In recognising this milestone, we must however also acknowledge that this landscape has been nurtured by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years,” says Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania acting secretary, Jason Jacobi.

“I wish to pay special thanks to all those who have played a key role in the story of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. From the original vision of Gustav Weindorfer, to the staff, volunteers and operators who have championed that vision – it is your passion and love for this place that has ensured that it has remained protected, as well as providing extraordinary experiences for everyone who visits.”

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP, Tasmania. Image credit: RooM the Agency/Alamy

The modern European connection to the wilderness area and the journey to it becoming a national park began with an Austrian named Gustav Weindorfer, and his Australian wife, Kate.

In the early 1900s the Weindorfers purchased 200 acres of land in Cradle Valley, near Cradle Mountain, and by 1912, the two nature-loving pioneers had built a rustic alpine chalet.

Named ‘Waldheim’, meaning ‘forest home’, the chalet served as accommodation for intrepid explorers of the area, and, after Kate’s tragic early death in 1916, as Gustav’s private home, undergoing numerous extensions and re-builds over the years.   

A chalet replica now stands on the original site, within it a series of exhibits telling the Weindorfer’s story, including how they advocated for the preservation of the wilderness area they fell in love with.

A replica of the original Waldheim chalet at Cradle Valley, within Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP, Tasmania. Image credit: Philip Game/Alamy

This week’s centenary celebrations mark the events of 16 May 1922, when 158,000 acres of land between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair was proclaimed a ‘Scenic Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary’.

In 1927, 63,990 hectares, including Cradle Mountain, were set aside as a reserve. 

Then, in 1971, the reserve became what is now known as the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP.

Jason says the centenary is a chance to reflect on the important history of the national park, while also looking forward – alert to the challenges that may, and will, emerge. 

“Put simply, I believe that our role and responsibility for the future remains aligned with how Aboriginal people cared for and valued this land, but also how the more recent custodians thought it should be enjoyed – to ensure that it will always be a place of Outstanding Universal Value and a place ‘for all people, for all time’. 

“I sincerely hope that that we can look back on this landscape in the next 100 years and be proud of our work to protect and present the park in the spirit of all those who care for it.”

Related: Slides reveal Tasmania’s Overland Track in the 1950s