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 (whttp://www.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.