Franklin River, South-West Tasmania
 

Guides: It’s not easy to be out in the bush with people you don’t know where you’re putting the reputation of yourself and your business on the line. I must say, we all felt very well looked after by the guides and trusted them implicitly on the river. Safety and getting back in one piece are definitely pretty important factors. 4.5 out of 5



Adventure: The wonders and joys of rafting, but with the added bonus of being out in the middle of nowhere, camping (or in this case ‘tarping’) under the stars with experts in the river. And did I mention the excellent food. 5 stars.

I like to think that everyone has one of those lists. Things that you have real intentions of getting round to doing at some point some day and with a bit of luck, some day the opportunity will arise and you’ll be able to dig that list out of your mind and actually knock one of the bastards off.


And for me that time arrived in late 2016. My employer had informed me of their desire for me to take a couple of weeks of leave before the end of the year. As it so happened, Jenny had just started a new job and had no leave balance remaining. So, what to do with two weeks of leave. Do a bit of work on the house - nope, nothing in urgent need there... so, time to check that list.

 

The reason for the Franklin River trip being top of my list have been lost somewhere in the mists of time. I think that when I went rafting somewhere in New Zealand, the owner of a rafting company suggested that I would enjoy the trip. A quick search on the internet displayed the beauty of the region and the fun of the rafting. As a result, the trip had been number one on my to-do list for probably a decade. So, motive and opportunity. What reason would there be not to go?

 

Early December, a flight from Wellington to Melbourne followed by a flight to Hobart. I shared the arrivals hall at Hobart with the Australian cricket team, arriving for their Test match fixture against the West Indies. 

 

The expectation of an adventure with a group of people you’ve never met does create some worries. What will they be like? I’ll be with them on an isolated river for 10 days - what do I do if I don’t like them? Alongside this, there are the other worries like whether you’ll be physically fit enough for the demands of the river and the hike up to Frenchman’s Cap. The majority of these fears were allayed at the rafting briefing, held at Mountain Creek Outdoors, an outdoors equipment shop in central Hobart. It was there that I first met the other guests on the rafting journey. Jake - an outdoor pursuits teacher from Victoria, Tony - a B&B owner, climber and serial adventurer from Cumbria, Chris and his son Harrison from Sydney and finally Laura and Luke from Western Australia. The thing is about your company on a trip like this is that a lot of them will be doing it for similar reasons to you, with similar motivations so hopefully there should be a reasonably low chance of a major personality clash. True to this, our group managed to get on well together throughout the ten day adventure. One of the two guides that would take us on the trip met us at the briefing. Riley was certainly a livewire and a big personality, keeping us entertained with impromptu bursts of singing and various tales of the river throughout the journey. At the briefing, he gave us a detailed rundown on the equipment we’d be taking and the importance of keeping our dry bags sealed and treating them with care to avoid leaks. The equipment provided by Franklin River Rafting was top notch, which when you’re spending 10 days in the wilderness on an adventure trip, having good quality equipment is certainly reassuring.

 

So, having had the full briefing, we all had a good nose around Mountain Creek Outdoors which is a fantastic shop for all things outdoors, and the perfect place to pick up last minute equipment needs for the trip. One thing that you won’t be able to pick up there are a pair of Dunlop Volley shoes. I was sceptical about this particular item on the equipment list at first, but I did manage to track some down at Hobart Target. As it turned out, they were perfect for the slippery rock faces on the Franklin - invaluable when you’re hauling ropes and rafts over the rocks in order to give you some decent grip and traction - you certainly wouldn’t want to slip off the rocks into the river!

 

The last thing with respect to the equipment is that you should pack light. I made use of every square inch of the dry bag that I was provided with. As it turned out, a reasonable amount of the clothes remained unworn. Bearing in mind the cleanliness of the river, packing lighter and just giving some clothes a good soapless wash in the river would work well enough. One definite mistake I made was to only take a small towel - a larger one would have proved its value, given how rapidly the small one became saturated.

 

Anyway, enough of the prep work - what about the trip? We started off with a drive of about 3 hours out from Hobart towards Queenstown accompanied by Riley and our second guide, Fränzi. Fränzi was simultaneously relaxed, but highly focused. One of the two owners of the company we were rafting with, that ownership responsibility could easily come with a sense of anxiety for everything to go well - after all, even the guide is stuck with up to 8 strangers for 10 days as well! It was an early start, and for the most part the minibus was fairly quiet and thoughtful on the way out. A quick stop for breakfast in the village of Ouse followed by another quick snack and last chance for a proper toilet break at Derwent Bridge. Shortly thereafter, we drove over and past the Franklin River, before turning off to our put in point on the Collingwood River.

 

The first section of the journey on the Collingwood was on pretty low water. This meant that there was a reasonable amount of pulling and hauling the raft over the gravel beds or the occasional rock, and also a reasonable amount of jumping up and down on the raft in order to cajole it over gravel beds. The hauling of the raft was a physical task, especially with the load of equipment that each raft was carrying. With 3 guests (including myself) on one raft and 4 on the other, there was a fair old weight for each participant to haul. Fortunately, even with the low river levels the force of the river was still enough to push the raft over the majority of the shallow sections. A couple of hours elapsed before we took a break at the confluence of the Collingwood and the Franklin. From there, we were able to look at the challenge before us. Unfortunately, to begin with at least, the depth of the Franklin looked pretty similar to that of the Collingwood.

 

A couple of hours further on and we arrived at our first camp site - Angel Rain Cavern. Here, the rocky overhangs from the cliff race provide shelter from most of the worst weather that Tasmania can throw at you. Apparently, it’s quite the sight in a torrential downpour. Here, we rapidly unloaded the rafts and shifted all the contents up to the overhang. A couple of barrels and a sheet of ply, and the basics of a kitchen were assembled. We each chose our sleeping spots in the shelter of the overhang. I chose a hollow chamber with a narrow entry way. Within, it was quiet and snug, but not flat. Bringing together a few stones made for a flatter surface to sleep on. In the end, I slept quite well - despite the occasional nagging doubt that I might randomly choose to sit upright in my sleep and crack my head against the roof of the cave!

 

On the river, you sleep when the sun is down. You go to bed early, and you wake early. At Angel Rain, the light took a bit longer to penetrate the cavern chambers, but we were still up and about by 6-ish. The kit hadn’t taken long to unload, but it took a fair while longer to load up again. Breakfasts, trying desperately to repack your personal gear bag and still fit everything in it, the morning ablutions - it all adds up! Still, we were in no particular hurry. The new day had dawned and the weather had changed - it was cold and miserable with rain in the air. I made the mistake of not putting any extra layers and remained chilly all day - put a spare layer in the waterproof daybag! Lesson learnt.

 

The first major portage of the river was reached early on during the day’s rafting. A portage is a rapid considered too dangerous to safely negotiate in the raft, so you have to pull to the side of the river and drag the raft and its contents round the rapid. There are various ways to do this, but the most time consuming is having to completely unload the raft. This particular rapid, Log Jam, wasn’t the hardest on the river, but given the weather conditions it wasn’t a pleasant portage. The Dunlop Volleys came into their own on these portages as they proved to provide excellent grip even on slippery wet rocks.

 

By early afternoon, we arrived at our next campsite, the Irenabyss, somewhat soaked - and cold. The Franklin-Gordon National Park has a full fire ban, so not even the choice of setting up a nice campfire to dry us out. This would be our first night under tarpaulins and we were given a solid crash course in tarpaulin construction techniques. We assembled the tarps in a small clearing in the Tasmanian bush, and the kitchen area slightly further inland. We changed out of our rafting gear and tried to get ourselves as dry as we could. It was then that the Franklin put on some absolute magic.

 

The sun came out, bursting through the clouds and the rains dramatically stopped. It probably took a while to realise this from the depths of the forest with water continuing to drip from the canopy. Just uphill from the campsite was a treeless cliff top. One by one, we all found our way up there from where you could look both up and down the river and see the steam rising from the forest all around as the sun seared the water from the greenery. This misty shroud rose above the river and the canopy, creating an almost ethereal atmosphere for the next half hour. The sun also gave us the opportunity to lie our soaked clothes out on the rocks and hopefully get them a little drier. The river that bursts through Descension Gorge before emerging into the calm of Irenabyss created swirling foamy patterns on the water which seemed to hypnotise as we lazed on those rocks. It was a moment of absolute bliss, magnified no doubt by the cold, wet traumas of the day.

 

As the sun went down, we slowly went back to our tarpaulin shelter and went to bed. The quality of our construction was tested during the night as the rains returned with a vengeance, with an added dose of hail thrown in. The hail in particular proved to be troublesome as we’d got the angles of the tarp construction slightly wrong and the hail started to roll in under the tarp, waking me up due to damp feet. A bit of reconfiguration later and the rains were diverted away.

 

When we woke in the morning, we were due to take the long hike up to Frenchman’s Cap - the most iconic peak in the Franklin-Gordon National Park. The Cap - at 1,446 metres - would be a 7 hour tramp from our Irenabyss campsite. However, due to the rains over night and the day before, the steep incline through the bush was considered too treacherous to be negotiated. The day had dawned dry, but overcast and chances were that even if we’d made it to the summit, we would have been in the clouds and had no view to speak of. Considering the difficulty of the tramp, and the additional danger of the wet track, the group made the decision to continue on the river rather than attempt the walk. Apparently, this difficult decision is quite common on the trip and that due to the rapid fluctuations in the weather, the attempt to summit Frenchman’s Cap is often abandoned.

 

The decision made, it meant that we had a spare day to play with on the river and we could take it easy for a good chunk of the trip. The rafting for the day was good fun - with a regular succession of decent sized ‘grade 3’ rapids. Along the way, we passed some old hydroelectric power workings and some stunning sheer cliffs known as the Walls of Jericho. As the day progressed, a couple of larger rapids were rafted and there was a real feeling that the flow of the river was getting stronger. Another great day on the river soon ended though as we arrived at our third campsite - Camp Arcade. Located on a still, wide section of river, a narrow path climbed up for a short distance into the bush. A broad, flat platform provided an ideal site for setting up tarps and hopefully for a good night’s sleep. The grand idea of a good night’s sleep could easily have been disturbed following my introduction to the dastardly leech. I had no idea there were leeches in Tasmania, so I was somewhat surprised when I found one crawling over my jacket. The creepy leech can feel your presence and stretches towards you as you pass. For the rest of the daylight hours, I must confess some paranoia about the leech which caused me to regularly check bare skin for their presence. Still, I slept like a log.

 

The next day promised excitement as we were soon to approach The Great Ravine - where the Franklin narrows through a deep cut in the landscape and the rapids become their most dangerous. The weather was perfect for the rafting - blue skies, a nice bit of sunshine on your back, but not hot enough to cause any discomfort paddling. The first part of the day was chilled out and relaxing - stopping regularly to look at waterfalls (and maybe have a shower in one) and perhaps to lie on some rocks in the sun and enjoy the good weather. By the afternoon, we had entered the ravine and the river had become much more exciting. A couple of portages were necessary as we negotiated rapids like Side Slip and The Churn. At the Churn, we caught up with another rafting group. The other rafting group was bigger than ours, with three rafts, three guides and perhaps ten customers. Given how small some of the flat areas had been at the camp sites we’d stayed at and how cosy they’d been with 9 of us, it was easy to feel we’d been in happy luxury compared to having to squeeze in 3 more people. Shortly thereafter, it was time to set up camp again.

 

The camp site at Coruscades provided a great view of the rafting ahead. The site was located next to the the rapid of the same name - a long stretch of grade four and five rapids. There was also a still pool of water before the descent into the rapids. This pool made a perfect swimming hole, especially given the good weather we’d had during the day. Now, the Franklin River doesn’t look particularly appealing for either swimming or drinking. The water is a pale brown colour, like a cup of tea. This is due to a high level of tannins from button grasses in the wider Franklin-Gordon catchment. Despite this colour, it’s perfectly safe to drink and swim in. The campsite was pleasant with a number of small clearings in the bush for small tarps to be put up, but with a larger clearing suitable for a larger construction. The evening came around quickly and sent us to bed tired, but at least warm and dry. 

 

The dryness didn’t last long, however, as the weather turned after dark bringing in the rains, which was still set in by daybreak. The day ahead promised portages galore as we traversed the Great Ravine and so we were in no particular hurry to start our morning portage. We were underway by about 10am and mainly sat and watched as Riley and Fränzi used ropes to direct the unmanned rafts through the Coruscades rapid. Returning to our paddling duties, we soon passed a small river coming in from the left - Livingston Rivulet, which has carved a narrow gorge into the rock as it joins the Franklin. Apparently, and if I’m remembering the story right, a couple of guys once hiked up Livingston Rivulet in order to come back down it on lilos. Sounds like a good idea, but it would have been pretty bleak and remote up that narrow cutting.

 

Lying ahead were the two biggest portages of the trip, to bypass the Thunderush and Cauldron rapids. These required some assistance from a couple of the team to help drag the rafts along with only the steep cliff sides for support. I’m not much of a mountain goat, but Jake, Luke and Tony were keen to take on this responsibility. For the rest of us, there was a narrow and steep path up through the bush to bypass the river entirely and emerge at the bottom of the rapid. These paths were somewhat adventurous in themselves, proving to be steep and slippery with a sheer drop just to one side if you were foolish enough to somehow miss the path. Taking up position with a camera at the peak of the path above the Cauldron, those who had taken up the viewing positions were afforded an excellent top-down view of the progress of the tricky rafting manoeuvres taking place on the river.

 

Following from the Cauldron, the river subsided into a much less dynamic form; with relatively flat water down towards the next campsite. The gorge slowly opened out into a section called Glen Calder. After a few spectacular rock formations, the confluence of the Andrew River from the right and Interlude Creek from the left picked out the flat area of the campsite Rafter’s Basin. In the last little rapid before the campsite, my camera came loose from the relative security of the life jacket and whacked me in the face, cutting a nasty gash about a centimetre long under my eye. It just goes to show how careful you need to be on the river. 

 

By the time we reached Rafter’s Basin, the rains had set in again. After setting up camp, having dinner and setting down to sleep, it was clear there was another damp night in the offing. Overnight, the river level came up significantly, which would have made the following day’s rafting perhaps less enjoyable. As such, and with a day spare up our sleeve due to not doing the Frenchman’s Cap walk, we decided to stay at Rafter’s Basin for an extra day. This turned out to be an excellent decision as the sun came out and belted down on us. Emerging from the damp bush back down to the river’s edge, we all either basked in the sun, lying back on the rubber tubing of the rafts, or sat and read in the sun perched on top of a drying tree deposited on the river frontage by the power of the flow at some point in time.

 

To add a bit of additional luxury to the rest day, Fränzi and Riley made a cake – a chocolate ripple cake – at some point during the day. I think it is worth noting at this point that the food provided was excellent, and in vast quantities at times. There wasn’t any risk of going hungry with the amount of food available. Our guides insisted on high levels of cleanliness at the kitchen area to prevent any risk of getting a stomach bug – you certainly wouldn’t appreciate one in the middle of nowhere on the Franklin River. I also think it’s fair to say that you haven’t really experienced a rafting adventure until you’ve had a bucket lunch.

 

But enough about the food. The day of rest had helped us to recuperate somewhat, but we were all itching to get back onto the river by the time the next day dawned. There were some exciting rapids ahead, as the river was still quite high; but also a significant portage to make.

 

The day started slowly, but soon burst into life with a couple of exciting rapids to run – Ol’ Three Tiers and The Trojans. It was a nice easy run to the portage, which we reached around lunch time. At the Pig Trough, the rafts were brought down through the flow on ropes by Fränzi and Riley whilst the rest of us watched. This also happened to be the site of an iconic piece of Australian culture. In the early 80s, the Tasmanian State government were looking to develop a major hydro-electric plant on the Gordon River, below the confluence with the Franklin. This would have flooded the Franklin River (and Gordon River) catchment. Despite wide objections and protests, including protesters taking up residence in the bush along the Franklin, the Tasmanian government insisted on proceeding with the construction. Peter Dombrovskis took an iconic photograph titled “Morning Mist at Rock Island Bend” – at the site just below the Pig Trough rapid. This photograph found its way into the Australian newspapers (as paid advertisements) just before the 1983 federal election, alongside the slogan “Could you vote for a party that would destroy this?” Whether it was the key point in the election, the opposition ALP won the vote in a landslide and the new Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, put a stop to the construction. The Tasmanian state government didn’t give up though, taking the matter to the Australian High Court to rule on whether the federal government had the constitutional right to call a halt to the scheme. The federal government won the case in mid-1983 and construction was finally halted.

 

To some of the Australian participants in our rafting adventure, this was one of the big reasons to come down the Franklin. They’d grown up with this image of Rock Island Bend, and to see it for themselves was almost like a rite of passage for them. For myself, relatively unaware of the circumstances of the hydro scheme until planning the trip, it was just another stunning image of which hundreds could be found on our 10 day journey.

 

A towering two tier waterfall was easily found in the same vicinity and after a bit of climbing, we reached the higher pool.

 

Following a very sedate and relaxed lunch, it was back into the rafts and almost immediately into the next rapid. With the river still being quite high, it was touch and go as to whether we would run Newlands Cascades, but given the next camp site was straight after the rapid, we gave it a go. It’s fair to say that Newlands was the rafting highlight of the trip. The rapid itself was reasonably long, with some tricky manoeuvres required to negotiate round the various rock-based obstacles you were presented with. No problem for our now seasoned crews though as we made it through the rapid and down to the campsite with nary a concern.

 

Newlands was another spectacular campsite. Steep cliffs rose high on both sides of a deep canyon. On the far side from the campsite, a steady stream of water created an eerie waterfall. On the campsite side, the river had etched out dozens of notches in the cliff-face where you were able to set up your sleeping bag, much like the first night at Angel Rain. Down at the river side though, there were reasonable stretches of flat, open rock on which to dry clothes, lie in the sun or read a book for a while. I had an explore up and down the river and found some immaculately circular holes in the rock, some of them containing tadpoles.  

 

By Newlands, the bulk of the difficult rafting was complete, which certainly left me feeling prematurely wistful about the rapidly approaching end of our epic journey. Not long after leaving Newlands the next day, the scenery and vegetation changed again as we rafted into the Lower Franklin. The trees started to encroach on the water’s edge and the height of the rocky cliffs gradually decreased. The river was certainly more sedate in the lower reaches, which of course meant more consistent paddling was required.

 

Between the clouds, the sky was a deep cerulean blue and the clarity of the water produced some stunning reflections of the sky in the stillness. During the day, we stopped regularly at stony islands in the river or in a cave or two found amongst the occasional cliffs that we encountered. The first cave that we visited was Kutikina Cave – a site rediscovered in the 1970s which helped to establish the length of time that the Aboriginal people had been present in Tasmania. From the archaeological work undertaken, it was established that people had been present in Tasmania for over 19,000 years.

 

After a brief visit, we were back on the river and soon reached our camp for the night. Situated on a bend in the river, the camp site turned out to be the best we’d had. The combination of the warm, sunny day worked perfectly with the beach-like aspect of the campsite. Sand extended from the river front into the bush, and with confidence that the weather would hold for the night, we set up our tarps to be open from the side which faced towards the river, giving us ‘a room with a view’. We all sat back in the evening sun, had a dip in the river and generally relaxed. Quite frankly, it was idyllic.

 

The next morning, we were again in no hurry and somewhat reluctant to leave. The weather was fair, not quite as good as the day before but still a pleasant day as we set off in the late morning. By this stage, only a couple of significant rapids remained, and the river got wider and slower as we progressed. Along the way, we stopped off at the stunning Pergana Cave. Unlike Kutikina where you had to negotiate a small cliff face to find the entrance, you could raft straight into Pergana. The initial outlook was dark and damp, but as you walked further into the depths of the cave, you ended up following a narrow crevasse carved by a stream. With the vegetation overhanging, and the light struggling to penetrate down into the crevasse, it gave the cave a kind of enigmatic, intangible feel.

 

From Pergana, it was then relatively flat water the rest of the way. We tied both rafts together, end to end and paddled as a whole team for some of the way. When we reached the end of the Franklin at its confluence with the Gordon River, we jumped out of the rafts and let the current take us into the wide expanses of the Gordon. Back on board the raft, it was a reasonable constant paddle to reach the last camp site at Sir John Falls Hut. Here, we set up out final tarps on the beach before having a nose around in the bush, finding Sir John Falls Hut up a track made tricky by recent tree falls.

 

Despite an overwhelming feeling of conclusion and the sense of an ending, the adventure wasn’t quite over. A yacht, the Stormbreaker, sailed into the jetty at Sir John Falls at around 9pm, bringing a nicely stocked bar along with it. Drinking a beer at the sun set around us, before heading back to our tarps for our final night. The next day begun early to ensure we were all packed up for the Stormbreaker’s departure at 5.30am. The 6-hour sail down the lower Gordon River and then across Macquarie Harbour was spectacular. Early morning mist shrouded the bush hugging the long, slow meanders of the Gordon. The clean waters providing reflections of the land and bush with incredible clarity. The sun rose and afforded the perfect weather to lie back and relax on deck, mulling over the 10 days we’d experienced. A few hardy members of our group climbed the mast and surveyed the surroundings from a tiny crow’s nest. Most of us were happy to sit and watch the world go by.

 

Around midday we arrived in Strahan, the end point of our water-based adventure. All that remained was the drive back to Hobart where one by one we said our goodbyes and were dropped off back at our hotels.

 

I bumped into Tony that evening eating some fish and chips on the harbour side before catching up with Chris to take in a number of whisky establishments which seem to be faring well in Hobart. I lingered in Hobart for a couple of days; heading over to Bruny Island for a bit of a foodie tour and then heading down to the historic prison settlement of Port Arthur. It was hard to be too excited about such things after the wonders of the Franklin.

 

I had once stood on the Lyell Highway bridge over the Franklin River, telling myself that one day I would be back to take a closer look at the river. I didn’t make such a promise to myself this time, but one day if both myself and the Franklin are still around, it would be wonderful to return and do it all again.


Trip Rating

Name of Company: Franklin River Rafting
Trip Date: 7th - 19th December 2015




Value for Money: Well, if you’re looking for a cheap option then this isn’t it at all. Value for money wise, comparing Franklin River Rafting with the other groups on the river, it would seem that FRR had higher quality gear and smaller groups. The importance of the group size should not be understated – some of the campsites are very small and trying to accommodate 3 or 4 more people within the same campsite would have been very trying. I asked this question of Fränzi before I went – why would I pay more to go with FRR? Having now experienced the river, I would definitely recommend paying a couple of hundred dollars more for better gear, support and smaller group sizes. As such, I’ll give FRR a 5 out of 5.



Excitement: The rafting itself wasn’t the most thrilling I’ve ever experienced. For safety and time reasons, some rapids that you might consider rafting on a day trip with safety kayaks and not being so far from civilisation were not rafted. A number of the rapids you wouldn’t be able to raft anyway. However, the mystique of the river certainly adds a certain something. 4 out of 5.

Intangibles: Well, if the whole experience of a multi-day adventure, sleeping in caves and under tarps with a bunch of strangers isn’t enough intangibles then let’s add to that. The two moments that I will remember for the rest of my life are the time at Irenabyss when the sun emerged from what had been a horribly wet day and started to burn the damp away from the bush as steam. The second was lazing on the Beach with the team at the penultimate campsite, jumping in the river and kicking back after days of toil. Added to this was the sight of a pademelon (a mini-wallaby) swimming the river and a white-bellied sea eagle perched in a tall pine on the lower Franklin. A host of stories told by evening, sharing a battered water bottle filled with Monkey Shoulder whisky as we went. With intangibles like this, who needs tangibles? 5 out of 5

Overall Score: 23.5 out of 25

Day One: The bridge on the Lyell Highway over the Collingwood River. The starting point for the Franklin River rafting trip. The guides are about halfway through lashing the gear on to the rafts.

Day One: Not long into the trip, this is the Collingwood River. The river level was relatively low and there was plenty of pulling and dragging of the rafts over submerged rocks to do.

Day One: Having a short break at the confluence of the Collingwood and Franklin. The Franklin is running from the left towards the middle of the picture and the Collingwood coming from the right, sheltered by the trees.

Day One: The group all nicely ensconced at the Angel Rain campsite. Sleeping spots to be found in the darkened crevasse between the layers of rock. A challenging experience for night one!

Day Two: Reloading the rafts to depart Angel Rain on the 2nd morning. The weather was dry as we were departing, but it soon clouded over and became quite wet.

Day Two: Cruising down the Franklin on the 2nd day. Misty air approaching, it was a pretty cold day and as soon as the rains started coming in being cold and wet wasn’t much fun.

Day Two: Navigating a portage on the afternoon of day two. The rain was coming thick and fast by this stage and waiting by the side of the river for the portage was thoroughly unpleasant. I think this rapid is “Log Jam”.

Day Two: Heading through one of many narrow gorges on the Franklin. Sit back, relax and admire the serenity.

Day Two: Tarping at the Irenabyss Campsite. This tarp set up was the kitchen/dining area for our night’s stay at Irenabyss. It was still raining at this point.

Day Two: But slowly and surely, the sun emerged from behind the clouds:


Top: The rafts safely stowed by the riverbank at the Irenabyss campsite.


Right: Still cloudy, but at this stage the rain had stopped and we’d all abandoned the campsite in the saturated forest to relax on the rocks above the Irenabyss and take in the river view.


Bottom: The sun emerged from behind the clouds and stayed with us until the evening. Whilst we basked on the rocks, it was blissful to watch the patterns of bubbles in the river as the white water emerging from Descension Gorge returned to flatness.

Day Three: A section of flat water on the third day provided an opportunity for Riley to convince his crew that they could use their paddles as sails to catch the wind and make the paddling a little easier.

Day Three: Our main sleeping tarp set-up at the Camp Arcade site. There was a nicely sized flat area set just back from the river amongst the trees. A very pleasant campsite. Apparently reasonably prone to flooding as it’s only a couple of metres above the base level of the river.

Day Three: The still waters at Camp Arcade made for some extremely clear reflections of the river banks in the water surface.

Day Three: Still at Camp Arcade - more reflections in the still waters.

Day Four: A perfect place for lunch. Steer the raft to the bank, sit out on a rock and have some food whilst soaking up the views.

Day Four: A portage mid way through the fourth day. A taste of what was to come over the next couple of days. I think this might be a rapid known as ‘side slip’, not not 100% sure on that.

Day Four: The last rapid before reaching camp. Well into the Great Ravine by this stage. From the timing of the photo, this is likely to be The Churn.

Day Four: Watching the water blast through the Coruscades rapid from the safety and dryness of our campsite.

Day Four: One of our number looking wistfully back up stream from the rocks at the top of the Coruscades rapid.

Day Five: A day of many portages. This one was relatively early in the day. ‘Sidewinder’, perhaps?

Day Five: A view of still waters from the Eagle’s Nest at the entrance to the Cauldron rapid. Following the Cauldron, the main difficult portages are over. Not that things are necessarily plain sailing, with plenty of other challenging rapids and portages to come.

Day Five: Plenty of waterfalls to be found on the Franklin. This one was certainly belting out a large volume of water.

Day Six: A day of rest. I was exploring the edges of our campsite at Rafter’s Basin. This is Interlude Creek, just up from its confluence with the Franklin.

Day Seven: Compared to Day Five, there were vastly fewer technically hazardous portages. One big one at the Pig’s Trough. A great place to stop with this waterfall just to the river right. We climbed up here and found the waterfall to have multiple tiers. Beautiful.

Day Seven: The iconic Rock Island Bend, just below the Pig’s Trough. A special location for many Australians, especially those with an environmental consciousness.

Day Seven: Looking back upstream at the Pig’s Trough rapid, a tricky portage.

Day Seven: Looking back upstream at Newland Cascades from our campsite for the night. This was a thrilling rapid that we were able to run, and safely negotiated with, dare I say, expertise.

Day Seven: A tiny trickle of a waterfall on the far riverbank from the Newland Cascades campsite.

Day Eight: Heading into the lower reaches of the Franklin, less sheer cliffs on each side of the river now. The stunning bluffs of Cromleigh Cliff in the background.

Day Eight: Cruising on the lower Franklin.


Top: Less white water means more paddling for all of us.


Right: The stillness and clarity of the water provided some stunning reflections.


Bottom: The fantastic ‘Beach’ campsite. The perfect place to tarp and give your tarp a verandah.

Day Eight: Another view of the beach campsite. Why not take the opportunity to lie back, relax, perhaps read a book and enjoy the sun and scenery.

Day Eight: Looking back towards the river from the beach campsite.

Day Nine: Walking into Pengana Cave on the last day of rafting. All the big rapids behind us, we could take the opportunity to nosey into the little nooks and crannies en route.

Day Nine: Paddles down, just letting the river take us slowly down stream, closer and closer to the confluence with the Gordon River.

Day Nine: Having a swim where the waters of the Franklin finally merge with those of the Gordon. By this stage, the river was wide and slow. Constant paddling required to reach our final destination.

Day Nine: Our final destination - for the rafting at least. This is the jetty at Sir John Falls. After having such adventures, it was almost a sad moment to arrive at the jetty, pull the rafts up and deflate them for the following day’s yacht trip back to civilisation.

Day Nine: Our rafting shoes all lined up to dry on the jetty at Sir John Falls, the Gordon River and dense Tasmanian bush in the background.

Day Nine: The yacht, Stormbreaker, sailing towards the jetty at Sir John Falls, bringing some tourists wanting to nose along upriver, but more importantly coming to collect us.

Day Ten: An early morning departure on board the Stormbreaker, mist settled over the Gordon River giving the journey a kind of ethereal feeling for the first couple of hours.

Day Ten: But the sun slowly burnt off the mists, giving us the perfect weather conditions to admire the views as we glided past in the Stormbreaker.

Day Ten: On the Gordon River, the waters have the same sort of clarity and crispness as the Franklin. Approaching the mouth of the Gordon on Macquarie Harbour, the reflections were still incredible.

Day Ten: Emerging from the mouth of the Gordon, only a short distance before emerging onto Macquarie Harbour.

Day Ten: Cruising on Macquarie Harbour towards the township of Strahan. Our adventure nearly over.

Day Ten: Sitting on the Stormbreaker. Still quite chilly at 11am out on the harbour.

Day Ten: Our final destination, the end point, the conclusion. The township of Strahan. Whilst a long drive back to Hobart awaited us, the adventure was at an end.