Pack-rafting Tasmania’s Franklin River

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Think diminutive, 4-lb. pack-rafts aren’t suitable for multi-day wilderness Class V? Bill Hatcher, and Roman and Rome Dial beg to differ, recently returning from a five-day Class V self-support pack-raft trip down Tasmania’s Franklin River ( a trip us here at PL once bagged in our kayaks)…

From Bill Hatcher:

We’re just returning from packrafting the Franklin River in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in South West Tasmania with Roman Dial and his son Rome. The Franklin River is Australia’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon for its sense of remote wilderness and challenging boating. We took 5 days exploring the 100 kilometer long canyon from the confluence with the Collingwood to Sir John Falls on the Gordon River.

The rivers offers day after day of challenging white water. Our first camp, perfect for three people, was the Huon Pine camp ten kilometers down stream from the Collingwood-Franklin confluence. The Huon Pine that is this camps name stake is over a meter wide and is estimated to be almost 1,500 yeas old. This Huon has a perfect view of the Franklin and grows just above the high flood zone 18 meters above the river level .

The Franklin River was nearly destroyed in the 1980s by a dam project the Tasmania Hydro Electric Commission was pursuing. The multi-year protest to save the Franklin River included a river blockade involving thousands of protesters. Over 2,000 people were arrested during the blockade and the demonstration garnered international attention and galvanized Australian public opinion against the dam. The dam project was given the axe in 1983. The fight that kept the Franklin wild and un-dammed remains Australia’s biggest environmental campaign.

The five days of boating the 100 kilometers down the Franklin included negotiating many rapids, portages around several more savage rapids and log jams. The scenery included a wilderness of ancient trees with brown tannin stained waters passing under tree and moss covered cliff and rock. The Franklin River is the most remarkable wild river experience I have had.

Every day involved negotiating many dozens of rapids. Every bend in the river seemed to greet us with the rivers roar of yet another drop. We’d strain for a look to see what was ahead in the white water looking for logs or “sticks” that might mean a log sieve awaited us mid-rapid. We found the log jams to be the biggest hazard and every rapid, no matter how insignificant, required sharp eyes for snags and logs. This was especially true on the first day when the river water levels were low. After the first nights rains the river came up covering many of the logs dangers.

Visit Bill Hatcher’s blog: <a href="http://billhatcher.typepad.com/bill_hatcher_photography/2011/01/pack-rafting-the-franklin-river-tasmania.html" target="_blank"here

Check Roman’s video here