Denison/Gordon rivers, photos

hey Duke,
while this post is more than a little belated, I thought it was necessary to thank you for posting these. I live in Tullah part of the year on the west coast, but tend to think i’m about the only one out there exploring with a packraft.

I’d say NZ, Alaska and Tasmania could be on a par with each other in terms of Packrafting paradises. Tasmania has heaps of options in the South West, but also throughout the Tarkine region of the North West. If you’re still reading this, are you planning another trip over?

For those interested, here’s some general but outdated rafting info. on Tassie rivers, but there’s many many more suitable for packrafting,

here’s hoping for more of your excellent pics and you’ve spurred me on to make sure I take a camera along…


Hi Ben
Yes indeed tassie kicks arse. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is on a par with Alaska and New Zealand as it is clearly a vastly superior wilderness, more remote, more spectacular, bigger bears, more sheep and generally more hardcore, NZ and Alaska are basically for the soft cocks of the pack rafting world. Though i mainly say that because i am a small town hick and haven’t traveled to these exotic overseas locations and also in the hope of getting up the noses of the kiwis and the Yanks that dominate this forum, along with the world.

Unfortunately i have recently had to move to Victoria where my time is shamefully consumed by the pursuit of wealth and power. However i will certainly be returning to tassie this summer, hoping to head down the Jane, maybe the Murchison and the Donaldson to. I would be keen to hear about your tassi pack rafting exploits.


Photos look great and make me want summer to come faster.

Got my new Lama yesterday. Having rafted many of Tassie’s western rivers in the 1980s in what were then called micro ducks (about the size of the smallest Alpaca raft, but over twice the weight and from what I’ve heard a 10th of the strength) it was great to hear that decent rafts were again available.

In the 1980s did the Frankland R into the Upper Davey R to Pt Davey, Crossing R into the Davey to Pt Davey, Weld R, Craycroft R, upper Huon R, Spence R (not recommeded due to being too small), Spero R, upper Wanderer R (again not recommended due to being a log choked swamp), Rocky Sprent R, Denison R, Gordon R through the Splits at low water, upper Picton R, upper Franklin R plus lots more.

Next summer planning the Jane R.


Hey Duke and Ben

Great to hear about your trips in Tasmania. And very interested to see photos of the Denison - I walked down the Denison after dropping off Mt Humboldt and Prince of Wales Range. Waded down to the Hamilton Range where we walked out - this was before the days of packrafts!

I’m keen to packraft in the Tarkine this summer. The Tarkine National Coalition are planning to do an updated guide to outdoor opportunities in the Tarkine.


hi Duke and Annette and Jon,

Just 'cos Alaskan wilderness is bigger, doesn’t mean its better. N.Z… nice, but in many ecological respects more degraded, even with Gunns and F.T. doing their best over here. Gotta dig the colour of N.Z. rivers though, gotta see it to believe it. I guess you could also say the same about our Tannin stained water, pretty high in the gothic and mysterious stakes, has its own charms.

I’ve had a thing about getting into the Donaldson where it crosses the Road to Nowhere and floating down to join the Pieman, then out at the Heads. Just north of those heads, oh boy, one of the most beautiful places i’ve ever clapped eyes on. The logistics are a bit tough though. I use a Surly Pugsley bike but would be a pain to lug down the river, but then from the Heads its cyclable out along Top Farm Track (if you have the permission ;o)) to Corinna or along the beach to Strahan. Its even cyclable enjoyably some distance north with good weather (I went all the way to Temma early this year, and it was friggin’ murder with the loose sand, but at least no quicksand) up to about the Interview or even Sandy Cape. Quite a few other ideas too. I’ve heard the Jane mentioned a few times, the Huskisson,etc etc.

With all the money coming in for the Tarkine from the state budget, and Cradle Coast Councils plans to brand it up there with Cradle Mtn and Freycinet, things will be changing in the near future. I guess on the bright side at least forgotten places like the rainforest between the Arthur and Frankland rivers stands less chance of being clearfelled while out of the public eye.,+Australia&ie=UTF8&cd=2&geocode=0,-41.059551,144.681865&ll=-41.108071,144.813538&spn=0.101663,0.197926&t=h&z=13

Back to Tassie packrafting though, I will be trying to wangle a month minimum early next year and/or later on in this for some Tarkine river exploration. As plans unfold, i’ll post them here.

Duke, the rest of my year is in Melbourne, in the CBD, chasing the almighty dollar. Know the feeling.
Jon, thats some serious river exploration you’ve done there.

I am also pleased to see some quality traffic in this forum, Blackwood. I’ve neglected the North-west rivers for many years and would like to travel a few of those. Unfortunately life is such that I can generally only chip away with one significant wilderness trip per year! I can recommend dropping off the Guardians and paddling down the Murchison River to Tullah, that’s a lovely paddle! Like Jonms, I’ve paddled many of the bigger South-west rivers over nearly 30 years, starting with the Franklin in January '81. My main paddling friend and I (both based in L’ton) have changed to Alpackas this year and have used them so far on the Weld (this Easter.) In my opinion they will revolutionise river travel in Tassie because of their strength. We found on the Weld that they are very hard to damage, stronger indeed by far than duckies, lilos and even a quality inflatable kayak that I’ve been using in recent years. I’ve paddled the Jane River on lilos (about '92) and can confirm that it will be brilliant with packrafts (for those tackling it next summer.) In my experience the Jane is probably the most rewarding river journey in Tasmania, and I thoroughly recommend it, but not for your first packraft trip. It’s got some challenging sections, and you should refine your equipment and technique on an easier river first. The Denison River is also fantastic, as Duke’s pictures show.



Did a spring trip down the Donaldson a couple of years ago in larger rafts. In summer I suspect that smaller rafts would be the go. It was a great trip, taking 3 days. The biggest problem rafting the river is the almost total lack of campsites in the middle section of the river. Some of the river was also burnt a few months ago. Not sure how much of the riverine forest was affected but when I was sea kayaking on the down the Pieman R to the heads a couple of weeks ago I could see where the fire almost made it to the Pieman R.

I totally agree about getting all your gear sorted out before doing something like the Jane. Back in the 1980s I made up 4 bit paddles and a quick clip-in clip-out attachment for putting gear in rafts. With the micro ducks we used then, although they were fast, their whitewater abilities were, to put the best light on it, limited! When I sat at the back of the raft with my gear in the raft my feet hung over the front which made it possible to fend off things but also resulted in the raft tending to either forward or back flip even on small drops.


The Donaldson sounds great Jon. Where did you put in on the upper Picton? And how was the paddling on it? I’ve done from the upper bridge down to the Huon, but am interested in the river above that.

I agree that you definitely need a paddle that will fit inside a rucsac, for negotiating scrub. Canoes Plus in Melbourne have made a couple of 4 part paddles for me, with carbon shafts.



On the upper Picton, either take the last spur road before Farmhouse Cr which leads direct to the river. Or walk across the Farmhouse Cr bridge and then about 1.5 km to the end of the road where a cut track takes you another 1.5 km to a campsite on the river at about 475210 5211690 (GDA94/55). I suspect this is the best place to start rafting (there is a big rapid - grade 5??? - immediately upstream of the campsite) but I have not rafted from more than about 1 km above Farmhouse Cr. The cut track and rock hopping continues on for about another 2.2 km to a pillar in the river at about 476360 5210540.


Thank you Jon, I appreciate the notes. I’ll check it out eventually,


John Mc.