Upper Franklin River: Collingwood River to Irenabyss

Hi all,

I’m planning a trip to packraft the upper Franklin River in late March with put in at the Collingwood River, packraft to Irenabyss and then hike out via Frenchman’s Cap.

We’ve done a bunch of research and spoken with a couple of people who have experience on the Franklin. We’ve also got rafting notes including the Griffith and Baxter book, The Ever Varying Flood.

Now that we are getting closer to the start of the trip, I was wondering if anyone had some knowledge or experience of typical water conditions on the Franklin in late March. Of course, things can change rapidly in Tassie. But it would be helpful to get any beta that people might have.



I did this exact trip with a friend at the beginning of March.

When we did it the water level was fairly low - about 0.65m at the Collingwood Bridge gauge.

It was a great trip - neither of us had really packrafted much before, we had no problems though. We portaged Log Jam, Nasty Notch, and one of the rapids in Decension Gorge which was too low to run properly, but ran pretty much everything else.

As far as typical conditions go, I don’t think there are any! The day we went down the river was at 550 ML/day, which is low, but the week before it was at over 16,000 ML/day, which would be high flood. A week before that it was at around 800 or so. You would probably have seen this already but Hydro publish the flows and rainfall on http://www.hydro.com.au/system/files/water-storage/Web_Rivers_FranklinRv.pdf.

My advice would be to do the whole river section from Collingwood Bridge to Irenabyss in one day. That took us about nine hours. It avoids the possibility of camping midway on the river overnight and having the water level rise alot during the night. There are lots of good campsites at Collingwood Bridge a short distance upstream from the bridge, so you can get an early start.

I would also take packrafts with cargo flys, if you can get them. The rafts handle much, much better with the weight lower, and are still easy to portage.

I’d also keep the weight down as much as you can - the climb out of the Irenabyss is pretty solid.

Hi Richard

Thanks a lot for this reply. It is really helpful.

We had been thinking about running the river over two days but I’d hate to be stuck in the middle with water rising. We’re coming over from Vic with the ferry so it might be that we won’t have enough time on Day 1 to get to Irenabyss.

I had a feeling that the climb up from Irenabyss was steep. One last question: is the start of the trail up from Irenabyss well marked or will we need to hunt around to find it?

Thanks again for your help.


No worries.

If you were going to go over two days, you could think about doing the section from Collingwood Bridge to the Franklin Junction on the first day. That took us about 2.5 hours - you have to drag even packrafts quite a lot at low levels.

The Collingwood-Franklin Junction is a nice sport to camp, and if you did get rained in overnight you can also walk back to the Lyell Highway from here, via the Donaghy’s lookout track - only about one hour or so. There aren’t any other exits from the Franklin until the Irenabyss.

The track from the Irenabyss to Frenchman’s is very well marked. It starts with a ladder on the other side of Tahune Creek, which you can see from the campsite at the Irenabyss.

One more thing - I would definitely take a wetsuit or dry suit, even though they’re heavy. The water in the Franklin was very cold, even in early March when we did it.

Forgot to mention I got one of the packrafts from Shane Pinner at Wildabout Packrafting in Devenport. Great service, he sent it down a week prior and only charged 4 days rental for the trip.

He supplies Yaks and Llamas with cargo flies and all accessories, really good value.

Thanks very much, Richard. We have our own packrafts but mine doesn’t have the cargo fly. It’s good to know about the rental service in Devenport as I have a couple of friends who are keen to give packrafting a try.

No dry suit either, I’m afraid! I can’t justify taking a wetsuit because of the weight. I’m expected to be very cold.


No worries - personally I would squeeze a wetsuit in, it is almost as important as a helmet, PFD and spare paddle in my book, at that time of year.

If you get good weather and summit Frenchmans, take one of the rafts with you and inflate it on top - it is a great photo!

Richard is right, you should be looking at a dry suit without question, the risk of getting hypothermia in such a place at that time of year is very high and the consequences could be deadly. Wetsuits are not designed to keep you warm whilst sitting in a boat and once they get wet the wind actually makes them colder. If you can’t afford a full dry suit, then Dry suit tops are not that expensive and they are considerably lighter and less bulky than a wetsuit. The Franklin is one of the toughest paddles and should not be taken lightly or attempted by ill equipped or inexperienced paddlers, despite being bulky you need to take a decent PFD, helmet, throw ropes, recovery gear etc.

How did you go?

Hi Richard

It went well. On the whole, the weather was OK. The rafting was a bit tricky at times but manageable. The hike up out of the Irenabyss was steep and challenging as you predicted. In fact, the weather turned bad at that stage which made navigation tricky at times.