Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Franklin River, Tasmania

APA President Brad Meiklejohn in Descension Gorge

The Franklin is one of the great wild rivers of the world and descending it is an epic whitewater adventure though the primeval Tasmanian Wilderness. Even Outside Magazine recognizes the Franklin as the #1 Whitewater Rafting Destination. But don’t let notoriety fool you — the Franklin remains pristine, remote, and isolated. 

Packrafting the Franklin River

From Tasmania’s Central Plateau the Franklin flows over a 120 Kilometers through deep limestone and quartzite gorges and dense rainforest of beach trees and Huon Pine to its confluence with the Gordon River. This wild and turbulent river is the heart of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and part of the larger 3.46 million acre Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area.

In February of 2013 Moe Witschard, Brad Meiklejohn, and I enjoyed eight leisurely days packrafting this world-class whitewater run through a vast wilderness. As a result of a long draught in Tasmania, river lows were low. At our put-in the Collingwood River the gage registered a mere .5 meters. Though the upper sections were bit bony the river remained fun and was characterized by long pools, countless Class 3 drops and an occasional portage. 

Moe Witschard negotiating one of the longer and more technical rapids

My inspiration to run the Franklin began in earnest when Roman Dial invited me to join him on a 2011 descent of the Franklin.  I was unable to join him that season but my desire to run the Franklin was born.  Roman and photographer Bill Hatcher later published an article in Australian Geographic about the Franklin River and their packrafting descent.

Select Clips from the Wild Franklin River 
by Wombat Films

In 1982 the Franklin was almost lost to massive hydroelectric project that proposed a series of three dams. Under the leadership of environmental activist Bob Brown a successful campaign to stop the foolish destruction of the Franklin River was launched. An early type of packraft played an important role in those efforts.

Franklin River Journey

For three weeks in 1980 Botanist Antonius Moscal traveled by small raft down the course of Franklin River.  Moscal experienced the Franklin's tranquil beauty and turbulent power. A film of his journey provides a rare historic view of this wild and inaccessible river.

Franklin River Map

The Ever-Varying Flood by Peter Griffiths and Bruce Baxter is the authoritative guidebook for the Franklin and includes informative sections on the River’s ecology and history. To learn even more about the epic adventures of early Tasmanian river explorers, Shooting the Franklin by Johnson Dean is a must read.

Irenabyss was named by Bob Brown in 1976 from the Greek word 'eirene' meaing piece.

Frenchmans Cap

Frenchmans Cap is one of Tasmania iconic high peaks.  If the weather is good it is a worthy side trip. Though the track is in good shape it took us a full day to climb the 1,446-meter peak from our camp just below Irenabyss.

Moe negotiates one of many Class 3 "Read & Run" Drops

"Serenity Sound"

Picking our way through the Great Ravine

Low-water Beach Camping at Rafters Basin

Brad and Moe paddling through one of the many narrow sections of the river.

Flat Island Camp

The Gordon River near Heritage Landing

The standard finish to a Franklin River adventure is to catch a ride from Sir John Falls to Strahan on the "Storm Breaker". This can be arranged through West Coast Yacht Charters for $170 per person. An alternative for packrafters is to take out at Flat Island and hike the 10-Kilometer Eagle Creek Track to the Gordon. From the confluence of Eagle Creek and the Gordon it is 5-Kilometers of easy paddling to the Heritage Landing where the "Lady Jane Franlin II" makes daily stops. A oneway ride to Strahan costs $55 and can be arranged through Gordon River Cruises.

View from the "Storm Breaker"

Parks and Wildife Service warning at the Collingwood River Put-in

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