Mount Paris Dam sits on the Cascade River south of Derby, Tasmania. It was built as the Morning Star Dam, water source for a nearby tin mine of the same name. If it were filled, it would just be another medium-sized dam among many in Tasmania. However, in 1985 the Rivers and Waters Supply Commission intentionally holed the dam. With the dam now empty and the Cascade River running through the middle, it is a fascinating place to explore.
Mount Paris Dam is just off Mount Paris Dam Road. This may be reached from the Tasman Highway at either Branxholm (to the west) or Weldborough (to the east). Branxholm is closer from Launceston or Hobart, but the distance driven on Mount Paris Dam Road is longer: 17 kilometres from Branxholm, or 6 kilometres from Weldborough.
Mount Paris Dam Road was an unsealed forestry road. We found it to be wide, solid and no trouble to drive on. Stay clear of the drainage ditches on the south side. The final few hundred metres to the car park were not as good; if your vehicle has a particularly low wheelbase, you may prefer to park on Mount Paris Dam Road and walk from there.
The initial track down to the dam wall was easy to follow and only took a few minutes. From there, Mount Paris Dam isn’t so much a single track as a loose network of tracks around the old dam site and the Cascade River. It rewards exploration more than effort. Of the four slots cut in the dam wall, the first and fourth were easy to walk through, at least while the river was low. Of the middle two, the eastern slot was full of river, while the western slot was full of ferns.
The Mount Paris Dam was small compared with later hydro-electric and irrigation dams, but we still found it very imposing as we walked through it. A sign on the track explained:
MOUNT PARIS DAM
The Mount Paris Dam was designed in 1935 by consulting engineers, Haskins and Davey of Sydney for Mount Paris Tin Mines Ltd and was built in 1936 as the Morning Star Dam. It was connected to the Mount Paris Mine by a water race 11 km long.
The dam construction was supervised by mining engineer, John Proud. He was a member of the well-known family of Jewellers who were also major shareholders in the Mount Paris Tin Mine.
The dam is described as a re-enforced concrete slab and buttress dam, having a length of 250 metres and a maximum height of 16 metres. The dam creates a water storage of about 1300 megalitres, covering an area of almost 21 hectares (52 acres).
During 1939, the Tasmanian assets of the Mount Paris Company were sold to Briseis Consolidated NL of Derby, who continued to maintain the dam until operations ceased in 1947.
The dam was then purchased by the Government, and managed by the Ringarooma-Cascade Water Board under the provisions of the Ringarooma and Cascade Water System (Agreement) Act, 1947. Briseis Tin NL, the new owners of the Briseis operations, continued to maintain the dam under an agreement with the Board. This agreement ceased with the closure of the mine in December 1961.
Minimum maintenance was carried by the Board until 1984 when feasibility investigations were carried out with the view to incorporate the dam into the Winnaleah Water Scheme.
When the Ringarooma-Cascade Water Board was disbanded in 1985, the ownership of the Morning Star Dam was transferred to the Rivers and Waters Supply Commission.
Although the storage has remained empty since about 1970, the Commission blasted an opening at the base of the dam wall to allow the natural flow of the Cascade River to be maintained in June 1985. Further alterations to prevent the dam holding water are to be made in 1994.
The structure remains as an important part of the mining heritage of North East Tasmania
APRIL 1994 – MINERAL RESOURCES TASMANIA
The Mount Paris Dam is built on the Cascade River. It was quite low during our summer visit, and we were able to follow the river bed a short distance downstream from the dam. This was a very pleasant spot, including a tiny waterfall.
The Cascade River isn’t always like this. We were walking through dry channels that probably carry water every winter. In 1929 the river flooded after heavy rain. It filled and broke the Briseis Dam at Derby, killing fourteen people.
Ferns thrived along the river and in the shade of the dam wall. The former old dam site supported an assortment of moss and lichen, including the lacy shapes of the coral lichen (Cladia retipora). Further up hill, we found several varieties of flowers.
The only animals we saw were a skink basking on the dam wall and one large black beetle.
One sight while driving Mount Paris Road from Branxholm was the bridge over Black Creek. There was a car park there, and a short walking track to a deep brown pool. This is not worth travelling to on its own, but it is a worthwhile diversion of a few minutes while travelling to or from the dam.
This video shows the Cascade River as it passes through the dam, the waterfall, and the view downstream. There is no audio due to wind noise.
|Road||Unsealed, in good condition until the turn off Mount Paris Dam Road|
|Toilets||No (go to Branxholm)|
|Latest visit||29th December 2013|
Enjoyed taking a slow walk around the major features of the site. Had no trouble with the tracks upstream from the dam, and was able to walk along the river bed with some care.
Travelled 1.3 kilometres in 1 hour 37 minutes while crossing and re-crossing the site.
Spent an hour walking around the dam site, then walked 14 kilometres of the road back to Branxholm.
Should I Visit?
If you enjoy exploring overgrown industrial sites, and walking around examining whatever captures your attention, go to Mount Paris Dam. It’s enormous yet accessible. Unlike most of Tasmania’s water features, this may be best experienced while the water is low.
If you prefer to hike for long distances, this location may feel limiting. If you go walking to experience the wilderness without 16-metre high concrete constructions, other places may suit you better.