/ Traveller stories: What to expect when rafting Tasmania's Franklin River
Too much water and you can be marooned for days and with too little water, well, the journey becomes an exhausting experience. The tradeoff, however, is unique wilderness, incredible outdoor camping and an adrenaline-rushing rafting journey that's to be expected from one of the top five rafting experiences in the world. Read a past rafter's account paddling down one of Australia's most famous and wildest rivers, the Franklin.
Reflections on the last 10 days on the Franklin River are many and varied but it was everything we had hoped it would be.
The rafting was more than a chance to revisit a cause long forgotten in the annals of time, it was an experience for the ages, a true wilderness adventure superbly, and energetically guided, managed, organized and supported.
Adrenaline rushing rapids, solitude and untold beauty among the majesty of Frenchmans Cap and its surrounding ranges left an indelible imprint.
We dined like kings; paddled like dervishes; climbed like monkeys, as we hauled the boats and our gear over boulders the size of houses; and we soothed our bruised bodies each evening in the sparkling chilled waters of the river.
Challenging? Yes. Safe? Always. Tiring? Certainly.
Although, we didn't push the trip as some brave souls do for reasons which allude me. Why rush to get out of Paradise and an adventure for the ages? Savour the moment.
In hindsight, it was an exhilarating adventure with just the right balance between a unique wilderness and outdoor camping experience and an adrenaline-rushing rafting journey that's to be expected from one of the top five rafting experiences in the world. It didn't disappoint.
Riding the rapids: be prepared to put in the hard work
You have to work or should I say paddle to enjoy it, with the ever-present commands ringing in your ears as the guides pushed pulled and paddled us down the river.
What we didn't appreciate was that the experience very much depends on water level and flow which ultimately are derivatives of the weather.
Good weather and the water level tends to be lower than ideal with more portaging and mind-boggling hauling of boats and gear across boulders the size of houses; bad weather and the water height tend to be higher and closer to that necessary for that ideal adrenaline rushing experience.
As they say, it's a matter of balance but with too much water and you can be marooned for days and too little water, well, the journey becomes an exhausting experience.
Our weather was perfect with little or no rain, a unique first for southwest Tasmania which meant that we perhaps did a little bit more hauling heaving and portaging than otherwise would be necessary.
But the tradeoff was clear skies, good swimming in water you can drink straight from the river all day every day and the benefits that come from seeing no one, hearing no one and leaving no footprints.
Only about 800 people do the Franklin each year now and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say there's not a scrap of paper, bottle or can to show that civilisation has entered the Franklin valley.
No lifeline to civilisation
It's undisturbed like the silent hand of some ghostly apparition reaching out across the valley – a mysterious but beautiful spectre than only amplifies what becomes the perfect isolation experience.
We were totally alone with only the sounds of the rhythmic beat of our paddles as they cut through the rushing waters and the bark of the guides with their incessant “left side", "right side", "hard", "forward", "fall back” to break the silence.
There was no mobile coverage, no other paddlers, and no sign of wildlife except for the odd trout, one brave platypus and a lonely quoll over 120 kilometres, but felt entirely safe on the water and under the stars.
Dining like kings
The amount of food the guides sport was limited only by the space on the boat, which was a pleasant change from the South Coast Track where weight was the big obstacle.
So there were pan-fried scallops, fillet steaks, chicken Kyiv and other luxuries ever-present on the Franklin.
The bottom line: should you raft the Franklin?
If you want total isolation, an outdoor adventure, that little extra dash of adrenaline to make you feel younger, to enjoy the company of like-minded friends in some stunning country, and aren't afraid of some hard work, then the Franklin is for you and World Expeditions is the perfect host for the experience.
There was nothing but extreme natural beauty, stillness and solitude to embrace each morning as the long fingers of mountain mist crept up the valley and the paddlers emerged from yet another blissful night under the stars.
Truly magical. A trip for the ages.
Words by fellow rafter, Roger Davis, who paddled the rapids of the famous Franklin River in March 2022 and has set his sights on his next adventure in Tasmania: the Walls of Jerusalem in winter.