4 PADDLE: The Franklin River
Best time: October-March More info: www.worldexpeditions.com
IT’S HARD TO ARGUE with the rest of the world when it comes to describing just how epic a whitewater-rafting (or kayaking) trip down Tassie’s Franklin River is. For that, we only have to point to respected US magazine Outside rating the Franklin River as the world’s best whitewater adventure. Or, a lot closer to home, we could just unblock our ears and – yet again - listen to AG Outdoor Editor Justin Walker rave about his experience on the river as “my favourite outdoor adventure of all time”, over and over and over again.
The sheer awesomeness of a rafting journey along the 125km of fast flowing, tannin-stained waters of the Franklin begins from the, er, very beginning once you grab that paddle and jump in the raft at the put-in point on the Collingwood River (a short distance away from the confluence of it and the Franklin). From here, and for the next nine days, every single moment on the river will become entrenched as a life-long memory.
It’s hard to say what’s the most memorable part of the experience; floating through Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park – a truly remote, near-inaccessible part of the southwest Tasmanian wilderness – or being challenged, scared and amazed by the many, many rapids along the way. The river’s rapids are all unique in terms of their varying degrees of length, ruggedness and challenge (you will portage the most dangerous, such as The Churn), but these wilder sections are brilliant fun, and compensated by sublime campsites such as Newland Cascades, where you get to shelter under ancient open cave overhangs, and listen to the constant roar of one of Australia’s last truly wild rivers beside your sleeping area.
The Franklin River can be run independently (but you must be very experienced) or you can opt for a guided trip, the latter a much better option for most. There are various companies running trips ranging in duration from seven to 10 days; we’d highly recommend World Expeditions’ nineday Franklin River experience. This trip combines great guides with a more leisurely traverse of the river, and the food is amazing. Having more time on the river also means you get to tackle a few side trips, including a stopover at Rock Island Bend and a chance to explore the aptly-named Lost World, a moss-clad wonderland that nearly looks too pretty to be real.
From packing up camp and loading the rafts with gear each morning to tackling Grade V rapids and portaging tougher ones via cliff-side paths, the pulse of the ‘river life’ will soon have you wishing you could stay here permanently. Of course, beside the paddling there is also ample time to simply marvel at the landscape you are floating through; the valleys and hills at the start soon give way to narrow river sections walled-in by mighty cliffs through the famous Grand Ravine, before opening up to the still heavily forested areas at the confluence of the Franklin and Gordon rivers and journey’s end. It’s an incredible paddling adventure, and more than worthy of its global standing as one of the best whitewater adventure you can do.