The Franklin River is one of Tasmania's greatest natural treasures passing through the Gordon Franklin Wild Rivers National Park and World Heritage area. The Franklin also has a rich history involving the exploration by the early pinners chasing the elusive and rare Huon Pine as well setting the scene for the creation of the modern environmental and Greens movement in Australia.
If you desire an epic experience or looking to explore one of Tasmania's most beautiful places then the Franklin River has to be on your bucket list.
The Franklin is one of Tasmania's most remote experiences taking you far away from civilisation.
The upper Franklin River starts high up in the world heritage area west of Lake St Clair snaking its way south west before meeting up with the Gordon River and Macquarie Harbour.
Along the way the River is funnelled into a number of gorges and canyons which create some of the best White Water Rafting rapids in Australia as well as some incredibly treacherous and dangerous obstacles.
Once through the gorges and canyons the river flows through gentle flood plains and swallowing up a number of tributary rivers before meeting with the Gordon River.
The Franklin is home to some of the last tall Huon Pine trees anywhere in the world many of which are thousands of years old.
Along the way also expect to spot a number of wild creatures including Quoll, Sea Eagles and even the elusive Tasmanian Devils.
The Franklin River has been home to various groups of Tasmania's for thousands of years. A mysterious aboriginal people inhabited the region around the river for thousands of years with recently discovered artefacts dating back 25000 years. Long ago the region around the rivers were much higher in altitude providing a perfect place to hunt wallabies and small marsupials. In caves along the river artefacts can still be found today in the same places they were left thousands of years ago.
In colonial days and until the 1960's the river was a home to the Piners making their way upstream from Strahan in search of Huon Pine. The Huon Pine was incredibly valuable due to it's oils and hardness making it perfect for ship building in the age of wooden ships. The Huon Pine grows incredibly slowly, only a few mm each year so as the taller trees were consumed the Piners had to travel further and further upstream to find the trees. The Piners would live in shacks and camps along the river harvesting the Pines and sending them down the river to be collected in the Harbour where they are still being found today.
In the 1980's the river was threatened by an expansion of the Tasmanian Hydro Electricity scheme and triggered thousands of people around Australia to come together to save the river. The actions that occurred helped create the Greens and Environmental movements we have today and led to successful political careers for a number of campaign leaders including Bob Brown.
Many of the rivers features were named during the blockade by the blockaders who in order to reach the protest camps had to make the trip down the river on rafts. One of the early strategies to save the Franklin River was to give places names as it was thought people would be more likely to want to save a place if it had a memorable name.
Rafting the Franklin is done in an expedition manner allowing you to go deep into this remote place. The River contains a number of difficult and dangerous obstacles that have caused a number of fatalities and are best run by experienced kayakers or rafting guides only.
The Franklin provides a variety of rapids ranging from small class 1's all the way to Class 6 (likely to cause death). Any rapid too difficult to run can be portered when necessary.
A great part of the Franklin River experience is the camping and getting to spend time with friends and meet new people in this stunning wilderness environment.
The Franklin has a number of different campsites spread all along the river, some hidden from view and others along small beaches, river bends and islands. Many of the campsites were first created by the blockaders making their way down stream during the anti dam campaign in the early 80's. Depending on conditions and space there is usually enough room to setup tents but the best option is always communal camping under tarps which are always fun and a little creative to set up.
Eating on the Franklin during a rafting trip is always a slightly more extravagant affair than most adventures. Due to the ability to carry more gear on the rafts it's also easier to carry fresh food and supplies.
It's not uncommon to enjoy steaks, indian cuisine, stir fry, pasta, pancakes, crepes and even the odd pizza while on the river all with fresh vegetables and plenty to go around with seconds to spare.
The guides are always great cooks capable of catering to to your dietary needs and preferences as well.
Frenchmans Cap is one of the West Coasts most prominent land marks. The walk in and out of this peak can take upwards of 6 days to complete on foot along the dedicated walking track from the Lyell Highway with the track often being muddy and wet.
On most 10 day trips on the Franklin it's usually possible to take the opportunity to walk to the summit of the Frenchmans Cap in a single day due to the proximity of the mountain to the river.
From the top of Frenchmans Cap you are offered un-interrupted views out over the west coast and the World Heritage area.
Storm Breaker provides the final leg of your journey after rafting the Franklin River and is the key link between Sir John Falls on the Gordon River where your tour ends and Strahan. Storm Breaker is an ocean going yacht that provides rafter pickups on the Gordon River. Once on board take in the sights or find a comfortable spot and enjoy a nap (trust us when we say you will have earned it at this point) on your way back home.
On board enjoy an early morning breakfast before watching the sun come up over the river. Most morning the river is covered in fog providing some amazing photographic opportunities. As you make your way down the gordon you are treated to the stunning reflections of the trees along the waters edge before making your way across Macquarie harbour to Strahan and the bus ride home.
The rafting tours on the Franklin River run between October and April each year with eight and ten day options available (longer trips are mid season). Tour costs include all equipment, food and camping equipment. Sleeping bags can be hired as an extra option if needed.