WARNING: Dove Canyon can be dangerous in high water levels. It has a large catchment, so water flow increases quickly following rain. There are no exits from the canyon between the first abseil and the final swim.
Dove Canyon is a fun series of jumps, slides and abseils in the upper part of the Dove River, which flows out of the famous Dove Lake. Because the water comes from a deep lake, it remains cold year round, so ensure you have adequate thermal protection. This canyon is run commercially several times a day by Cradle Mountain Canyons. Call them on 1300 032 384 before setting off to avoid getting caught behind a tour group.
Difficulty — Medium
Time — 3-4 hours
Elevation — 150m
Number of abseils — 1 to 3
Longest abseil — 12m
Wetsuit — yes (consider extra thermal protection)
When arriving at Cradle Mt - Lake St Clair National Park, stop at the Visitor Centre to make sure you have the correct pass before driving further.
From the Visitor Centre, either take a shuttle bus or drive down to the Cradle Mountain Interpretation Centre (if driving, be aware that the car park fills up early, particularly on weekends).
From the Interpretation Centre car park, follow the signposted Cradle Valley Boardwalk. After around 1km of duckboards, which take you up a hill, you will come to a signposted left turn onto the Dove Canyon Circuit Track. This track winds through the forest and across a few more sections of boardwalk before reaching a small lookout on the right, which is immediately followed by a large, mossy slab of bare grey boulders on the left. Opposite the slabs, a footpad leads down towards the river. It soon turns into duckboard and wooden stairs before reaching a large wooden platform next to the river.
The canyon begins directly after the platform with a 12m abseil into the constriction. This is followed by several small jumps and swims.
At the deepest part of the canyon, you can jump directly into the pool or go up the right bank using a rope/caving ladder to reach an even higher jump.
This is followed by a 6m jump into a deep pool, then a large log jam. In higher water flow this obstacle requires you to go over the log jam before jumping into the large pool beyond but in normal conditions it is possible to jump through the hole in the log jam.
Swim across the pool and head down to the “Laundry Chute.” This narrow chute requires you to take packs off and either have your arms crossed or straight up to ensure you squeeze through. (It can be avoided using bolted handlines on canyon right.)
Following this there is either a short abseil from canyon right, or a slightly dodgy log slide, before a few further jumps.
The final “Tea Pot” jump is easily recognisable due to its rounded amphitheatre shape. In low water, jump straight into the first pool. In high water, you must jump a long way out as an underwater ridge divides the first pool in half and causes a dangerous hydraulic. Alternatively, abseil the short drop, being careful to set the rope length to avoid a tangle in the hydraulic.
After a final short swim, the gorge opens to reveal a steep path on the left bank.
Climb the path up the bank back to the Dove Canyon Circuit Track.
For a quick exit, go left on the track, which will take you steeply up the gorge to the boulder lookout where you turned off. Retrace your steps from here back to the car.
For a longer, but more scenic exit, turn right. This boardwalk loops back to the Interpretation Centre via the pleasant Pencil Pine Creek and offers nice views of Knyvet Falls.
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