4 PAD­DLE: The Franklin River

Best time: Oc­to­ber-March More info: www.world­ex­pe­di­tions.com

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Adventure | Tasmania -

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.

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