Originally set aside to meet the recreation needs of Launceston's growing urban population, the reserve has more recently been recognised for its important nature conservation role.
The reserve protects dry open grassy forest and woodland communities, while the aquatic and riparian habitats of the South Esk River gorge are particularly biodiverse, supporting most of the 26 threatened flora species found in the reserve. Three of the five threatened fauna species in the reserve are also found in the gorge.
Thr reserve is home to a large number of herbivores and carnivores, which makes the area of great interest given that it is so close to a major urban area. A number of mammals which have suffered major declines in
their range within the Northern Midlands Bioregion (between 50 and 90%
decline) can be found in the reserve. Such species include the Tasmanian bettong, long-nosed potoroo and common wombat.
The South Esk River gorge, flanked by 30 to 60 metre high cliffs and
buttresses, is the reserve’s dominant landscape feature. The gorge
seven kilometres between Trevallyn Dam and the Tamar Estuary, with five
kilometres of the northern banks within the reserve.
Parts of the gorge may be viewed from
several points within the reserve. The lookouts west of the Hoo Hoo Hut
have particularly good views over and upstream of Deadmans Hollow.
Cultural heritage values
As urban development increases in the district, the reserve’s natural bushland setting is likely to become increasingly important to the local community. The reserve’s setting is already integral to visitor experience and there is growing local community interest in caring for the reserve’s special natural values.
An underground tunnel and flume, integral to the historic Duck Reach Hydro-electric scheme, are within the reserve and are listed on the Register of the National Estate.