We had a later start than usual from the Brook of Inveraestra, finally setting off at 10:00am. We scouted the two-step rapid near the camp site which turned out to be good fun and an easy rapid; it had looked a little difficult the evening before.
Some of us shot this rapid, while others lined their boats through the smaller channel at the side, due to concerns about shallow rocks
During the day a number of rapids were shot by us all. As we had different skill levels and confidence levels, some rapids were lined by a few individuals while others paddled through.
Nik negotiating the Side Slip rapid (photo David Tasker)
The previous morning my tent was a bit damp and I was still trying to work out my packing routine so put the tent into my pack and not into the dry sack. My pack had spent a few minutes under water during the day while my boat was upside down, wrapped under a log. Therefore when I went to bed, the tent was quite wet, inside and outside, including both the fly and the inner.
I was pleasantly surprised in the morning when I found that despite camping next to a river, and in a damp rainforest, my tent was much drier than when I went to bed. In fact, it looked as though it was just the normal amount of condensation that is to be expected when sleeping in a tiny one-man tent.
The water level was down by another 15cm, which meant that it was now back to the level that we started with.
The boats that were patched on the previous evening had both deflated slowly overnight. Jess’ boat required a quick re-patching over the existing patch in the morning and fully re-patching again at the end of the day. The inside patch had probably not taken well, due to water on the inside of the tube.
After breaking camp and launching our boats, we discussed the high number of mishaps on the previous day and talked about ways in which we could improve our communications and avoid further problems as much as possible.
Nik and Paul lining rafts through a shallow and log infested rapid (photo David Tasker)
It was drizzling early in the morning, but it gradually cleared as the day progressed. The water level was down by about 15cm. That left it at about 15cm above what we regarded as the ‘normal’ (low) water level.
Before leaving camp, we reviewed the notes for the section of the Franklin River that we expected to raft today. In particular we discussed the corner of the river known as ‘Debacle Bend’. As the name suggests there have been a lot of problems for many rafters on this rapid. According to the notes, the rapid looks fine and perfectly raftable, however the notes also made it abundantly clear that it should NOT be rafted due to very sharp rocks which are highly likely to cut right through fully laden rafts while paddling through it. The recommendation was to simply line the boats through, ie, let them float down while being held by ropes from the shore or while wading through shallow water.
We were all clear on this, having had several punctures to boats already – to watch out for Debacle Bend, which would be later in the afternoon, and make sure we line the boats through. Simple! Other than that the notes indicated that the day would be a long but largely enjoyable one, with a variety of rapids, and not too much portaging. After a further discussion, Jess agreed to carry the second spare paddle (Jamie’s old paddle) for the day.
Sean shoots a rapid soon after Fincham Crossing (photo Jamie Warburton)
The events during the day proved to be a serious wake up call, reminding us that all the notes and research that we had were only indicators. We came to realise that every trip on this river would be different based on water levels and people skills, and that the notes, while useful, were merely a very general guide. We knew this – after all there were disclaimers on all the paperwork – but it finally hit home to us on day five. Continue reading
When we awoke and crawled out of our tents, we found that the rain had eased off to an occasional shower, and it held off while we packed our tents and gear. However, the drizzle returned occasionally throughout the morning.
When I packed my gear for this trip at home, it took about five tries to get all of my gear into my large pack with the intention that having to portage only one item (in addition to the boat itself) was the way to go. However, I’d not managed to get it all in again for the second day’s rafting, and had relied on using spare space in Kate’s pack which was stowed in my raft. Now that Kate and Lauren had left via Frenchmans Cap, I tried again to fit everything back into my pack. But there was no way it was going to work.
Instead, I had to pack my dry sack and back pack separately with the dry sack tied onto both the raft and to the outside of my pack. I also had to be prepared for everything in the back pack to get doused in water. I had to completely change how I packed. Eventually I came up with a system that worked well for the rest of the trip.
Rafts which had been dragged up onto the beach and on rocks were floating on the higher water in the morning
Overnight the water level in the basin below the Irenabyss where our boats had been pulled up on the beach, had risen by about 30cm. One of the boats that had been sitting on rocks was now floating. Thankfully, we had all remembered to tie them up securely. I later learned that David also had a habit of quietly sneaking down to the river each evening to check on the boats and paddles. It was generally agreed that this slightly higher water level would be a very good thing for us, as it had been a little lower than we would have liked so far, with some of the rapids still being a bit too shallow on the previous day of paddling.
David shooting a rapid between the Irenabyss and Fincham Crossing
Our original plan was to include a walk and climb up Frenchmans Cap from the Irenabyss either as a day walk, or possibly staying overnight at Tahune Hut near the base of the mountain. From there, Kate and Lauren would continue walking out to the highway while the rest of us walked back to the Irenabyss to continue rafting.
The Irenabyss from the Western End
It had begun raining during the night and the rain periods continued through the day. Knowing that there are no views to be had from Frenchmans Cap in anything but good weather, we cancelled the walk for the team, leaving Kate and Lauren to walk out to the highway over two days on their own. It was late morning when we farewelled them, so we decided to stick with the plan of not rafting further down the river today and have a rest day and perhaps just paddle up and down the Irenabyss. We also had a paddle to repair and the opportunity to simply enjoy being on the river while we had a good campsite. I was not terribly disappointed about missing out on Frenchmans Cap, having climbed it twice before myself, and not feeling the need to do it a third time, especially in the rain.
Rain at the Irenabyss
Our second day of rafting would be our first full day on the Franklin River. We were packed and ready to launch the boats at 9:15am. This became a fairly typical starting time for us. As much as we endeavoured to start earlier each morning, with a large group there is usually at least one person who is running a bit later than the others and it is usually a different person each morning.
Jamie sets out from the Collingwood River junction with the first rapid of the day in the background
During the morning we found the rapids were still very shallow. We frequently had to step out of the boats to drag or lift them over exposed or shallow rocks, until the Lodden River joins the Franklin at which point the volume of water was more suitable, and the rapids were much more enjoyable.
Paul and Nik paddling in early morning sunshine (photo Jamie Warburton)
Just before reaching the Lodden River junction, we began noticing Huon Pines along the banks of the river. They were quite common for the remainder of the journey, including at our campsites. Although there were no truly large Huon Pines remaining, there were certainly a lot of small specimens which is encouraging. Continue reading
It was very early in the morning when I extracted myself from between the sheets of my comfortable bed for the last time before spending two weeks in the wilderness. My wife kindly made me a special farewell cooked breakfast after which I waved goodbye to her and the kids at 6:00am. The bus took a few of us to Westbury where we were to meet the rest of the group… some of whom were just getting out of bed. Something had gone wrong with communications, and they were not expecting us until an hour later. So after coffees and hot chocolates while waiting for some others to arrive, we eventually set off from Westbury with the full team on board the bus and one car, a little late, but a lot excited.
The bus ride was a good opportunity for some of us to get to know each other a bit better. We were a bit of a mixed bunch, and for most of us, our only connection was through David. The road trip was largely uneventful apart from a pair of wallabies shagging on the side of the road (they don’t like being interrupted, either, and didn’t move out of the way until the very last second), and a brief stop at the lookout on the Lyell Highway where there were great views of Frenchmans Cap. Just a few kilometres before our destination, we picked up Kate and Lauren at the car park for the Frenchmans Cap walking track – they were planning to walk out that way after the first two days of hitching a ride on our rafts and left their car there.
Water Level Not Registering at Collingwood River Bridge (photo David Tasker)
We unloaded our gear from the bus in the small dirt parking area beside the Lyell Highway at the Collingwood River, and then checked the water gauge beneath the bridge. The notes for the Franklin River suggest that the ideal level for rafting the Franklin is between 0.8 and 1.2 metres. When we arrived, the water was not even touching the gauge. We estimated that it was about 0.5 metres (0.3 metres below the bottom of the gauge).
However, we thought that with our lack of experience, and the nearby warning sign saying “DO NOT LEARN TO RAFT ON THE FRANKLIN RIVER“, a low water level might be good for us. Continue reading
The Franklin River is regarded as the last “Wild River” in Tasmania, Australia, winding it’s way from near Lake St Clair to the Gordon River which then flows into Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s West Coast. After work had already begun on damming the Franklin for a hydro electric scheme it was saved by the protests of “radical conservationists” in 1983. I was too young to participate in the protests at that time, but I can remember the protests in the streets and on the river (in the news) and I am very grateful to those who fought so hard and took such risks and went through some terrible ordeals in order to save the Franklin River. The Franklin River is a truly amazing place.
Franklin River at its Confluence with the Collingwood River
The area surrounding the Franklin River is famous for its beauty, its remoteness, its vegetation (including Huon Pines – Largostrobos franklinii), its rock formations and caves (that have evidence of ancient habitation), and for its hostility, having claimed the lives of several rafters. Continue reading
The 18 articles for this Franklin River rafting adventure (including one for each day of this trip) are linked below, with a brief outline of the highlights from each day.
The articles have been back-dated so that the ‘publication date’ of each article matches the actual date of the events being described in that article.
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