Merry Christmas All.
Whilst the Paddle Tasmania river guide for the Leven simply says ‘classic, steep, grade 5’ the AdventurePro/Paddle Australia description contains the following statement:
Probably the steepest popular Tasmanian river trip the Leven canyon is not to be taken lightly. After the seal launch into a dark and steeply cut out gorge there is no going back and it just gets more full on from there. At first the river creeps easily around a corner but after that it drops away steeply so that you can only see the next eddy you are about to fall in to. The river here demands a high level of skill and confidence even before you hit the first waterfall. This drops you into a suspended pool with overhanging walls and the only option out is to paddle the huge waterfall below.
Having kayaked it almost 10 years ago I well remember the fear factor as I was about to plummet off the two large falls but I can also vividly remember the beauty of the gorge and the atmosphere as you look downstream only to see horizon line after horizon line disappear in front of you on an ever increasing ratio. In one 200m stretch it probably drops 30m vertically over 5 drops. Whilst at higher flows and in a kayak these drops are all theoretically paddleable I have always wanted to go back with packrafts and with friends who wouldn’t necessarily be able to kayak such rapids/falls. Back then, based on the description above, we took abseiling gear as I didn’t want to find myself in the situation of being forced to run a 15m waterfall with no other option. We didn’t need to abseil in the end on that trip but decided it would be fun to take the gear on a low volume trip packrafting down the canyon (that said you can easily down climb each main fall and jump the remaining distance).
Five of us headed down the canyon a week ago with overnight gear just in case of an epic but also because, for us, it is more enjoyable to spend nights on rivers than to simply do long day trips that often turn out more epic than we anticipate. Despite the very low flows (the last big dump, with 50mm of rain, was 6 days prior) it was still a super fun trip and we were able to paddle a lot more rapids than we hoped. I was worried that the lower section would require a significant amount of walking and dragging but this was not the case. Certainly the river requires a lot of respect and although everything is portageable at low flows the upper section is still a very serious river/canyon environment.
The trip was also a great chance to try out a number of Kokopelli packrafts. These worked great in this low volume environment where we were constantly getting in and out of our boats either scouting or portaging. They particularly work well when combined with a Watershed drypack in the rear. In fact on this overnight trip and in this environment we found the Kokopelli’s worked even better than my [Jen’s ] highly modified self-bailing Alpacka.
You can check out our packrafting video at: https://vimeo.com/115361951