You can cruise up the Gordon or fly over it from Strahan, but to really experience the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park’s utterly pristine scenery and awesome sense of remoteness, you need to raft the Franklin River. One of the great rivers of Australia, saved from destruction by protests in the early 1980s and the only major wild river in Tasmania, it races through canyons in grade 3 to 4 rapids – even grade 6 in places – and through thick inaccessible rainforest. No wonder this is known by rafters as one of the greatest paddle adventures in the world.
Rafting trips generally run between December and early April on five- to ten-day trips, depending on where you start. 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. Limestone cliffs overhang the Lower Franklin, which involves a tranquil paddle through dense myrtle beech forests with flowering leatherwoods overhead, and Kutikina Caves and Deena-reena –Aboriginal sights that are only accessible to rafters.
Due to the dangers of the trip, visitors should go with a specialist tour operator. 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.
Rafting Tasmania raftingtasmania.com. Five-, seven- and ten-day rafting expeditions, from the company of Grant Mitchell, one of the first kayakers to explore the river and instrumental in saving it. The ten-day trip includes an optional day-walk to Frenchmans Cap.
Water by Nature franklinrivertasmania.com. Water by Nature offers 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 also includes the Frenchmans Cap.