Cradle Mountain History
The area was glaciated during the last ice age (about 10 000 years ago) when a huge 6 km ice cap formed and glaciers flowed from its edges carving the landscape into dramatic shapes with their inexorable erosive powers.
The first human settlement of the region occurred when the local Aborigines moved into the highlands as the glaciers began retreating. The extensive button grass plains are a legacy of their extensive use of fire to clear pathways through the rugged terrain and to aid hunting by attracting animals to the tender shoots of the new vegetation.
Early reports of the Aborigines in the area tell of recently burnt vegetation and well constructed huts of bark some of which were still standing 25 years after the last of the people had been removed.
Archaeological research in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park has revealed many Aboriginal sites consisting of stone tools and quarries which suggests that people moved mainly through the valleys with occasional visits to higher areas.
Cradle Mountain was named in 1827 by the explorer Joseph Fossey who decided it bore a remarkable similarity to a cradle. It was first climbed by a European in 1831 when the explorer Henry Hellyer successfully reached the summit. Surveyor General George Franklin passed through the area in 1835 and he was duly followed by prospectors, trappers and settlers. As early as the 1890s there was some tourism in the area. Governor Hamilton had a house and boat shed built for visitors on Lake St Clair.
The man remembered as the founding father of tourism in the area was the Austrian born naturalist Gustaf Weindorfer who, in 1911, bought land in Cradle Valley where he built ‘Waldheim’ which he opened to guests who wanted to explore the region. When his wife died Weindorfer moved to Cradle Valley permanently. He died in 1932 and is buried near ‘Waldheim’. Weindorfer is credited with naming Lake Dove, Crater Lake and Hansons Lake. He named Mount Kate after his wife.
Reservation of land began in 1922 when an area from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair was set aside as a ‘scenic reserve and wildlife sanctuary’. In 1927 63 990 ha, including Cradle Mountain, were set aside as a reserve. Known as ‘The Reserve’ to generations of bushwalkers the area was eventually enlarged to 124 942 ha. It became a National Park in 1971.
In 1978 the National Parks and Wildlife Service built a replica of ‘Waldheim’ and this, combined with the Cradle Mountain Lodge and the excellent new NPWS Information building, have made Cradle Mountain one of the most accessible and interesting attractions in Tasmania.