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Amongst Western Australia's greatest natural attractions are its Southern Forests's brooding, primaeval karri, jarrah and marri forests.
Located in the area between Margaret River and Albany in the southwest of the state, those forests contain majestic old growth trees that rise to a height of more than 60 metres (____ ft).
The Southern Forests are sometimes referred to as the Tall Tree Country (or Tall Timber Country) and you will find them in the vicinity of the towns of Manjimup, Pemberton, Northcliffe and Walpole.
Karri, Marri and Jarrah Trees
There are three renowned kinds of trees growing the Southern Forests: karri (Eucalyptus versicolor), marri and jarrah.
Karri trees are one of the tallest trees in the world. Karri wood is a beautiful colour and has been used in the construction industry and for making furniture.
Karri forests in Western Australia's southwest are old growth (that is, many of them are 400 or more years old). The area of the remaining karri forests is quite limited. In the deep valleys between granite outcrops with creeks and rivers where they grow, karri trees support an extensive ecosystem of biologically-rich heathlands and wetlands (for example, the bark that falls from the trees becomes a rich soil/mulch that is home to many insects and other animals).
Due to these facts, conservationists mounted a successful campaign back in the 1990s to preserve karri forests. The campaign was crowned with success in 2001 when laws were enacted to ban logging in those forests.
Until 2001 logging of karri forests had grown ever more widespread and intense. The WA government known as CALM (Conservation and Land Management) was working hand in glove with private interests and was selling off large swathes of those old growth forests to logging mills. Since 2001 loggers have been encouraged to cultivate forests of blue gum (also known as Tasmanian oak) and pine. These species of trees can be grown and cut down in a never-ending cycle and is therefore a sustainable industry, unlike the once-only cutting down of the old-growth forests.
The karri forests and their unique and pristine value to the environment are now (mostly) protected. Interestingly, they still give a long-term economic benefits to the local economy when tourists visit the area to see these marvels of nature.
In the northern part of the Southern Forests lies Manjimup, a country town surrounded by national parks (___) and agricultural land.
One of the great sights here is the Diamond Tree Lookout Tower, one of three climbing trees in the Southern Forests (the other two being the Gloucester Tree and the Dale Evans Bicentennial Tree, which are discussed below). The Diamond Tree is 51 metres high and was used in the 1940s.
Other interesting sights include the Manjimup Timber Park, the One Tree Bridge, the Dingup Church and the Pioneer Cairn.
The town plays host to a number of annual events, including the Cherry Harmony Festival (every December) and the Manjimup 15,000 Motocross Spectacular (every ____).
Manjimup has an important horticulture industry and is the birthplace of the famous Pink Lady apple
The town of Pemberton (___ south of Manjimup and about 280 km from Perth, the capital of Western Australia) is regarded as the heart of the Tall Timber Country.
Pemberton is surrounded by karri forests on all sides and these include five national parks an easy drive away. Many tourists to Pemberton explore the forests by driving along the Karri Forest Explorer Drive or by walking the Bibbulmun Track.
The Gloucester National Park (3 km from Pemberton) contains the celebrated Gloucester Tree, a giant, 72 metre high karri tree. Visitors can climb up this tree (using a series of 153 metal spikes fixed around the girth of the tree) to a metal cabin situated some 61 metres (200 ft) above the ground.
This metal cabin serves as a viewing platform over the surrounding karri forest and is used as a fire-lookout platform. The Gloucester Tree is currently the world's second highest fire-lookout tree.
The above-mentioned metal cabin replaces an earlier wooden hut that was built in the tree as a fire-lookout in 1947 and that was demolished in 1973 to make way for its metal replacement.
Climbing the Gloucester Tree is not for the unfit or the faint of heart. Only 20% of visitors actually complete the climb right up to the viewing platform.
The Gloucester National Park features the Lefroy Brook and The Cascades, where the brook descends over a series of rocky shelves.
The Gloucester National Park and the Gloucester Tree were named after the Duke of Gloucester (Australia's then Governor-General) who visited the area in 1946.
The Warren National Park (11 km from Pemberton) contains more virgin karri forests. There you can see (and perhaps climb) the Dale Evans Bicentennial Tree which is 68 metres high (that is, seven metres higher than the above-mentioned Gloucester Tree).
You can explore this national park by walking along the Heartbreak and the Maidenbrush Trails that follow the Warren River through the park.
The Beedelup National Park (15 km from Pemberton) features a scenic walk that takes one along freshwater streams amidst stands of karri, jarrah and marri trees. One walk takes you across a spectacular bridge spanning the 100 metre high Beedelup Falls.
Another interesting tourist attraction in Pemberton is the Pemberton Tramway.
Some 32 km from Pemberton and towards the southen coast you will find Northcliffe, a small town where you can trek through remaining stands of karri, jarrah and marri trees.
In the Shannon National Park (53,000 acres) includes the entire basin of the Shannon River and much virgin (old growth) karri forest and some new (regrown) karri forests.
You can drive or hike along the 48 km long Giant Forests Drive through this national park. There are information shelters with sign boards that tell the story of this area.
Other features of this area include:
D'Entrecasteaux National Park (118,000 hectares)
This town is located on the southern coast (facing the Southern Ocean) and is surrounded by Walpole Nornaup National Park (18,000 hectares).
This national park includes:
Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk
In the vicinity of Walpole, you will also find:
Mount Frankland area
The Southern Forests are famous for their beautiful Australian native wildflowers. There are more than 1,500 species of these flowers. Spring (September-November) is when the flowers begin to bloom and so is the best time to come to view them.
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Author: David Paul Wagner
(David Paul Wagner on Google+)