The Franklin River flows through some of the most pristine country in Australia and has some of the best rafting and kayaking in the word. Located on the West Coast of Tasmania in the now World Heritage Listed Park The river must be treated with utmost respect as many people have lost their lives in its rapids.
We traveled from Hobart and met the rest of our group at the Derwent Bridge on the Collingwood River. Here we kitted up, ate lunch and packed our rafts. From here we passed through a series of smaller rapids without a problem as the river was up. High water levels meant “no portaging”.
By mid afternoon we’d reached the junction of the Franklin where we stopped for a break and a quick look around. If anyone wanted to bail out this was the time as we had reached the point of no return. The walk out takes about an hour and then results in having to flag down a passerby for a lift back to Hobart, there was only one who chose that path.
Late afternoon we reached our camp high above the river at a spot called Angle Rain Cavern. The rafts were unpacked and the gear was ported up the hill to a sheltered area on a rock ledge. As we set about laying out our bedding and changing into some warm, dry clothes our guides prepared the first of many banquets. The food was unbelievable, either that or we were very hungry! During the course of the night we awoke to heavy rain which would, over the next few days, result in the Franklins flow rate increasing from 10cumecs to 350cumecs (cubic meters /second) pretty scary stuff.
Sticks and Stones
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The heavy rain we received during the night had eased off and resulted in a marked increase in the Franklins flow rate. During the course of the day we encountered numerous rapids, many of which are usually ported but because of the increased flow we managed to travel straight over them. By late afternoon the rain began to fall again as we reached our first portage at the Churn “one mean rapid”. We walked around the Churn to our camp site at Serenity Sound while our guides roped the rafts over the Churn to an eddy just below the rapid. Supplies and bedding were, once again, carried up to our camp site, which was a series of caves and rock ledges. We set up camp in our tiny two man cave complete with glow worms, moss, ferns and water feature, little did we know that we were about to spend three nights there.
One of the most spectacular sights along the Franklin when it rains are all the magnificent waterfalls. Just opposite our camp site at Serenity Sound we were treated to a waterfall that seemed to appear out of nowhere and drop vertically for hundreds of meters.
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Hind Leg Slide
DAY 3 & 4
At 1am we both woke to a sight we couldn’t believe and a roar that reverberated in our little abode. It was the sound of 300+ cubic meters/second of water pouring over The Churn , the river had risen by over a metre in four hours “unbelievable”. Our guides had woken too and were frantically dragging the rafts to higher ground as some of the drums containing supplies were still in them.
The following two days were spent at Serenity Sound keeping dry, sleeping and rearranging our sleeping quarters. We also took the opportunity to solved many of the world’s problems.
We were very fortunate that the ten of us got along like a house on fire. Five of the rafters including our guides came from Tasmania, we came from Victoria, two from New South Wales and one from sunny Queensland. The two days spent at Serenity helped forge friendships that set the tone for the remainder of our trip, we joked, sang, rescued each other and remained in good spirits for the whole trip.
No one could understand why this spot was called Serenity Sound as the noise of all that water rushing over The Churn was unbelievable.
This is The Churn just before it rose by over a metre.
The Churn running at 300+ cubic metres/second
Cabin fever had set in, both the crew and paddlers were ready to move on. We’d been watching the river slowly drop overnight and were ready to head off, provided the river returned to the level it was two days prior. This was going to be a hard day as we were at the start of a section known as the Great Ravine, a spectacular section of the river with numerous large rapids and shear rock walls “ A MONSTER”. We ran the last of The Churn, portaged a small section of The Coruscades and ran the remaining rapids. We were told that a sure sign of being scared is when you can’t spit, well I can assure you none of us could, it was that wild!!
At the bottom of the Faucet our other rafters rolled, and with eyes like saucers, we retrieved two form the water while the remaining two and their guide stayed with the raft and righted it. Next up came the Side Winder which we ported, then Thunderush which is as the name suggests, loud, mean and fast! It was now my turn together with the guy in front to get thrown out. We just managed to get pulled back into the raft before we hit the next set of rapids. I can assure you being in the river was the last place I wanted to be at that moment!
The Cauldron was the last of our obstacles along the Great Ravine. The rafts were lined through the rapids while we trekked up and through the dense rainforest to the eddy below where our rafts and crew were waiting. With a few small rapids to go, we made it to our campsite at Rafters Basin where the Interlude Creek meets the Franklin. “what a day”.
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The Dynamic Duo taking our raft through a rapid whilst we walked around.
Today was going to be a huge day, we had some serious rapids to encounter and a forty five kilometer paddle to St Johns Falls where we were to make camp. The river was still moving at a steady pace so a slow steady paddle rate meant we would keep to our schedule.
At the first of the rapids Ol Three Tiers, the rafts were emptied and ported across the boulders parallel with the rapid as were our supplies and possessions, we then reloaded the rafts and were on our way. I can assure you porting rafts and possessions is not something you would want to do too often in a day. The third rapid for the day was The Pigs Trough as the name suggests it was a pigs trough “big and messy”. The rafts were lined while we climbed up and over the rapid and waited at the now famous Rock Island Bend where we took our group photos and looked on in awe at our beautiful surroundings.
The famous picture taken by Peter Dombrovskis named Morning Mist Rock Island Bend was flashed across the Australian Newspaper in 1983 with a slogan “Could you vote for a party that would destroy this?” Not long after the newly elected Prime Minister Bob Hawk and his government, stopped the damming of the magnificent Franklin.
The next set of rapids were the Newland Cascades, after close inspection we the passengers decided we’d sit this one out, and I’m glad we did. Our guides ran our rafts down the rapids by themselves which was a sight to see. At this point there were two other rafts with younger people following, the first raft just made it through, the second as seen on the video came to grief half way down. Our party were in the ready position throwing lines to those who came floating by. This certainly wasn’t something for the faint hearted!
Not long after our little bit of excitement we encountered the last of the Franklin’s rapids, rapids we would have thought on the first day to be extreme, but we were old hands at it now! With the last of the Franklin’s rapids behind us the river began to widen and slow down. From this point on the reflections in the slow moving, mirror like tannin stained waters of the Franklin were magnificent.
It was late afternoon on day six and we still had a further 8 Km of paddling to go before we reached the junction of the Franklin and Gordon Rivers and then a further 7Km before we reached our overnight stop at Sir Johns Falls. This was the hardest section of the trip, we tied the two rafts together end to end and paddled in the dark till we reached our destination. Floating down the river at sunset was special too, we were privileged to see a number of platypus and some wonderful scenery as mist rolled in over the river.
We reached our destination at around 7pm, unloaded, stripped of our wet gear, had dinner and were ready for bed by 9pm, I have never been so exhausted in all my life. The funny thing was we all slept on bunks in a shed erected by the Tasmanian Hydro and it was probably the worst night’s sleep many of us had the whole trip. I think perhaps we’d become accustomed to sleeping in caves, under rock shelves and tarps in the cool night air.
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Ol Three Tiers
The Pig Trough
This is a must watch! Newlands Cascades. the raft flips.
After a rotten nights sleep we woke to our guides in a panic telling us that we had slept in and were about to miss the boat back to Straughn. One guide who I’d trust with my life and shall remain nameless had set his alarm for PM “I think he too must have been exhausted from the previous days events”. We packed our bags, the rafts and paddle back up river to the yacht that was waiting to take us on our five hour trip down the Gordon River, across Macquarie Harbor to our bus.
The hours spent on the yacht were relaxing especially as the previous day had been so exhausting. It gave us time to reminisce at what we had achieved the previous six days on the river and what a group of 50+ year old people from all walks of life can achieve.
For me personally it was a life changing experience. The sheer beauty of the river it’s old growth forests, the magnificent Huon Pines that grow a millimeter a year, to the spectacular rock formations, waterfalls and the most delicate mosses and ferns. All have left a lasting impression with me one that I’ll never forget. It has made Annette and I more determined to go on similar adventures and explore the wonderful world we live in. Places that have been unspoilt, places we hope will be there for generations to come.
The Groover got its name because it left two grooves, one on each bum cheek when you used it.
Things have changed for the better now, no more grooves. The procedure is, freezer bags are left together with toilet paper in a tree for all to see. The Groover is placed in tranquil place with a view, where possible, to assist with contemplation. Take the paper one freezer bag or two if you’re a two bagger, now everyone knows that the toilet is engaged, do your business in the bag and place the bag in the lined Grover. Jobs done.
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