The Franklin Lower Gordon Wild Rivers National Park was declared in June 1980 and by 1982 had been included with the adjoining parks on the World Heritage List. The park exists for its own sake more than anything, most of it being virtually inaccessible. You can cruise up the Gordon, or fly over it, but the really adventurous can explore by rafting the Franklin and walking the Frenchmans Cap Track, both accessible from the Lyell Highway, which extends from Strahan to Hobart and runs through the park between Queenstown and Derwent Bridge. Plenty of short walks also lead from the highway to rainforest, rivers and lookouts.
The Franklin River is one of the great rivers of Australia, and the only major wild-river system in Tasmania that remains undammed. It flows for 120km from the Cheyne Range to the majestic Gordon River, from an altitude of 1400m down to almost sea level. Swollen by the storms of the Roaring Forties and fed by many other rivers, it can become a raging torrent as it passes through ancient heaths, deep gorges and rainforests. The discovery in 1981 of stone tools in the Kutikina Cave on the Lower Franklin proved that southwest Tasmania was the most southerly point of human occupation on Earth during the last Ice Age.Read More
Rafting on the Franklin
Rafting on the Franklin
One of the most rugged and inaccessible areas left on Earth, the surrounds of the Franklin River can’t really be seen on foot – few tracks lead through this twisted, tangled and wet rainforest. Rafting is the only way to explore the river, and even this is possible only between December and early April; generally a nine- or ten-day trip.
One of the most dangerous Australian rivers to raft, with average rapids of grades 3 to 4 – even grade 6 in places – the Franklin requires an expedition leader with great skill and experience. It’s also very remote, and in the event of an accident help can be days away. Despite this, the river’s isolation is part of the attraction for most visitors alongside haunting wilderness. From Collingwood River, off the Lyell Highway, it takes about three days to raft the Upper Franklin, riding rapids through subalpine scenery. The Middle Franklin is a mixture of pools, deep ravines and wild rapids as the river makes a 50km detour around Frenchmans Cap. Dramatic limestone cliffs overhang the Lower Franklin, which involves a tranquil paddle through dense myrtle beech forests with flowering leatherwoods overhead. It’s a short distance to Kutikina Caves and Deena-reena; only rafters can gain access to these Aboriginal caves.
Due to the dangers of the trip, visitors should go with one of the specialist tour operators. You don’t have to be experienced to sign up – just fit, with lots of stamina and courage. It’s not cheap, but this is an experience of a lifetime. Water By Nature (wwww.franklinrivertasmania.com) offer a five-day trip on the Lower Franklin, a seven-day trip on the Upper Franklin, or ten days rafting the full navigable length of the river. The ten-day trip includes a day-walk to Frenchmans Cap. Trips are also offered by Rafting Tasmania and Tasmanian Expeditions for similar prices.