Rafting Tasmania's Franklin River: why it's so special

Rock Island Bend on the Franklin River, Tasmania | Glenn Walker
Rock Island Bend on the Franklin River, Tasmania | Glenn Walker

The quick answer: because you almost lost the opportunity to do it. Though, there is plenty more appeal when seeking a rafting adventure along Tasmania's iconic Franklin River.

In the late 70s, Tasmania’s hydroelectric scheme had its sights on building a dam on the Franklin River. The very name ‘Franklin River’ was dividing the community – the country – between those who wanted the dam and those who didn’t. Bob Hawke didn’t want the dam. Hawke won the election.

Since that period, it seems that the ‘Franklin River’ has been synonymous with bringing people together. Experiences shared on the Franklin are memories entrenched for life between you and the crew on your trip. Not only does the wild and remote beauty draw you in, but also the stories of how this special part of the world might not have been here today – with thanks to the ‘No Dams’ campaign and figureheads in the movement, like Bob Brown, David Bellamy and Geoff Law.

In 2012, Outside magazine in the US listed a trip on Tasmania’s Franklin River as the ‘Best white-water rafting journey on earth’, nudging out other contenders from Tibet, the US, Bhutan, Peru and Zambia. In the same year, the Editor of the Australia’s Outdoor magazine, Justin Walker, went down the river and proclaimed, “The Franklin River trip was probably the best trip I have done since being Editor of Outdoor – I would do it all again tomorrow!”

So, why this river? 

Its pure, unspoiled wilderness. Despite commercial rafting on the Franklin starting in the late 70s, those who raft it today will agree that the river is in fine shape – better than ever, perhaps. You can still drink the tannin-stained water straight from the boat; not many river journeys can boast that simple pleasure. 

Then there’s the genuine expedition feeling of being somewhere truly remote. Packed with everything you need for the trip in barrels and dry bags – typically over nine days, once you drop-in there’s pretty much no way out. As you forge your way through the rugged southwest of Tasmania, through deep gorges, quiet pools and magnificent temperate rainforest, the sense of isolation becomes apparent. It dawns on you that, apart from the Aboriginal paintings in the Kutikina Cave, you will have seen very little evidence of human impact along the river.

And, of course, the history. Named after the early explorer Sir John Franklin, The Franklin River holds a special place in Australian history. From lost convicts to modern day politics, the river has inspired a conservation movement, best-selling books, iconic images and of course all those who experienced her unique beauty on a rafting expedition.

It doesn’t hurt having a bit of ‘cool’ factor as well. Slipping out names like Thunderrush, The Sanctum, Jaw Breaker, Sidewinder and the Great Ravine, The Cauldron, The Churn and Nasty Notch, will only add to your epic holiday tales!

Only the bravest, or most foolish, souls would ever consider tackling the Franklin on their own. Safety should be considered above all else and it pays to travel on the river with someone who knows the difference between their eddy and their river right. 

Too little water, you can’t raft, too much and you’ll be getting the kit out to portage around tricky sections and rapids that really should be avoided by anyone who has no river knowledge. Lose your luggage because it’s not properly secured and you’ll be shivering for the rest of the trip. 

We offer a 9 day Franklin trip as well as an 11 day version that includes a 2 day side-trip to Frenchmans Cap. It’s an iconic Australian trip that everyone should do at least once.

Australia, Franklin River, Tasmania

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