Franklin River, Tasmania, Australia

Bill Hatcher, son Cody Rome and I just finished 5 days on the Franklin. This is a wild, temperate, multiday adventure, certainly one of the best, if not the best, mix of whitewater and pristine wilderness in the southern hemisphere.

We took the TassieLink bus to Donaghy’s Lookout Trail from Hobart. It cost about $55 Australian and arrived at about 12:30 PM. Less than an hour later we were at the confluence of the Collingwood and Franklin with boats inflated. The water was at about 0.5 or 0.6 m at the Collingwood Bridge – too low for us after the Anne. So we walked in instead. This hike is super scenic and short and worth it for the views of Frenchman’s Cap.

We spent the first night just upstream of the Irenabyss, where it rained all night. The second day water was low but it rained all day and the next night too, bringing the water up at the Camp Arcade pool by about 1.5 m. We portaged the Churn and tried one of the Corruscades, but water was very high, even if sunny. There was a sign there telling us the Thunderush high portage had been closed by a landslide.

At Thunderush the water was too high/scary for us to put in at the end of the low portage so we crossed and bivied and then followed the high portage – now gone by landslide and the Park Service but doable if you have a couple 50 foot throw bags and some mountaineering savvy. It was good adventure.

We portaged the Cauldron, Ole’ Three Tiers, and Pig’s Trough but ran everything else, camping at Newland Cascades. It rained again, bringing the water way up all the next day, getting us down to Sir John Falls in 7.5 hours, in time to catch the yacht to Stahan ($160/each, 7 person minimum – we joined a raft group with super boater James Thorp). The Cessna 185 on floats (“seaplane”) out of Strahan is $680 for four people w/packraft gear. The bus back to Hobart ($75) does not run on Wednesdays.

We all agreed that this is a great, classic packrafting river. It’s possible to portage everything over Class III (Bill is a class III boater and did it in a loaner Yak with thigh straps) and to paddle most everything except the three mandatory wood portages in the upper river, and the big named rapids (Churn, Cauldron, Ole’ Three Tiers, and Pig’s Trough) making it a superlative week or so packrafting trip. I felt as a multi-day it was better than the Karamea or the Landsborough in NZ South Island and as good as anything we have in Alaska, like the Happy or the Talkeetna. It seemed to us that a big raft would be a bit of work (10 days is normal) and a kayak not that great (not a lot over class IV except the handful of class V), but the Franklin’s pretty much ideal for a packraft with its portages and pool-drop rapids.

The drops are mostly ledgy or boulders and many of the pools are scenic polished gorges.

Having done it twice I’d do it again. There’s still those Corruscades I’d like to hit at a lower water level…

Bill Hatcher has some good photos and information on his blog here

and on his website here

The Vimeo version

has the soundtrack

Loved it! Nice portage work too.

What a great trip. Glad you got some water, after the rather rocky trip you endured last week. It’s amazing what a little bit of water will do, isn’t it??!

Also amazing to reflect on Bob Brown’s adventures in the 70s on the Franklin.

The portgaging looked almost as exciting as some of the rafting, though I’m surprised that you portgaged “The Cauldron”- the only photo I have ever seen of it looked very very raftable - as per link below:

Are you now done with rafting “down-under”? If you are passing through Melb and want a drink or couch to sleep on, let me know.

Andrew A

That’s a fantastic video Roman. Thanks for sharing it with us!

To watch some clips from from Bob Brown’s trip check out:

Some pics of the Franklin in a rubber packraft, 1980. T-W also got arrested there I think as part of the blockade. I know him a little out in the 'real world - lovely guy, used to manufacture gear.

Thanks for the link Jules. T-W! Great pics!