This nine or ten day expedition is one of the great river cruises of the world. It takes you the full navigable length of the Franklin River, deep in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness UNESCO World Heritage Area. Our journey includes an optional day walk to the imposing Frenchmans Cap (1,446 m), the monarch of the south west, as well as rafting through the ‘Great Ravine’ one of Tasmania’s most spectacular gorges.
Negotiating the untamed waters of the Franklin River is one of the worlds best whitewater rafting adventures. Unpredictable river levels mean our trip will always be an adventure – it is possible to encounter both very low levels and floods within days of each other. Whatever the level, rafts offer the best way to explore this unique wilderness.
Meeting Point and Time
We meet the afternoon before Day One at 6 pm at the Astor Private Hotel, Level 2, 157 Macquarie Street, Hobart (03) 6234 6611. This meeting is to issue and check gear. It is possible to initially meet later by prior arrangement. Alternatively we can also meet at Derwent Bridge Hotel on Day One at 10:30 am.
Time of Return
Generally we arrive back in Hobart on the early evening of Day Ten (around 6 – 7 pm). On the morning of Day 10 we embark on a yacht to take us to Strahan on the west coast. From here our coach will return to Hobart by early evening. Please note that very occasionally delays can be caused by extreme weather conditions. We recommend catching the last flight out of Hobart on the day after the trip.
Grade and Fitness
Adventurous – A reasonable level of fitness is important and should increase your enjoyment of this trip. The Frenchman’s Cap Walk (optional) involves an ascent and descent of more than 1000 meters vertical. In addition there will be some portages which require us to carry rafts and equipment around certain rapids. You should feel confident swimming with a buoyancy vest should you fall out or the raft capsize. Rapids vary from Grade One to Grade Six though most are Grade Two or Three. The most difficult level run on most trips is Grade Four and it is possible to walk around many of these rapids should you choose. Please call us on 1-800-1111-42 if you would like to discuss your individual fitness.
Read more about Rafting and Grades of Whitewater
Itinerary – 10 day Full River
This is a guide only and may alter with river levels.
We depart at 7:30 am from the Astor Private Hotel. We follow the Derwent River then climb into the central highlands passing Lake St. Clair before descending to the Collingwood River, a tributary of the Franklin. Here your guides will load the rafts and give a safety briefing. The day is spent mastering the rafts and enjoying easy rapids leading down to our evenings camp at the junction with the Franklin proper. A short climb can take us to Donaghy’s Hill for panoramic views down the Franklin River and across to Frenchman’s Cap.
Image: Rafting the Collingwood River, the “easy” way to get to the Franklin River
An early start sees us traversing the first of the Franklin’s gorges, Aesthesia Ravine. After tackling the Log Jam and Nasty Notch portages, we rocket through the rapids of Descension Gorge before arriving at the beautiful ‘Irenabyss’ or chasm of peace, our base for the next two nights.
Image: Lunchtime on a Franklin River Rafting trip. Upper Franklin River.
Today we scale the Cap (1446 m). In fine weather we’ll have views that encompass the entire south west World Heritage Area, including the rapids of the Franklin sparkling below. If the weather is poor or you choose not to climb the Cap, there are a number of lower level walks nearby that offer a different perspective of the river.
Image: Walking towards Frenchman’s Cap. Photo M. Fink
After a big breakfast it’s straight back into the action. Dozens of rapids, interspersed with quiet reaches, lead us past Mt. Fincham, the Jericho Walls and the Crankle and onto our campsite at the base of the Engineer Range. Here we relax under a canopy of towering sassafras and myrtle trees and may go swimming.
Image: Sun setting upon the Franklin River
A spectacular day that brings us to the awesome Great Ravine, one of Tasmania’s deepest gorges. Soon after camp we raft past the massive Blushrock Falls. We’ll tackle the Side Slip rapid first before coming to the Churn. Teamwork and tenacity will be required to portage at least part of this huge obstruction in the river. Soon after we’ll arrive at our camp for a well earned rest on the banks of Serenity Sound deep in the Great Ravine.
Image: Heading into the Great Ravine, Inception Reach with Oriel Rock in the far distance. Photo by Glenn J.
We’ll use all of our well practised white water rafting skills to negotiate the Coruscades, one of the longest rapids on the river. A short float takes us through to our next portage at Thunderush, then its on to the last obstacle, the Cauldron. Our expert guides will ensure that we pass these awesome rapids safely and efficiently. Our final camp at Rafters Basin is a great place to relax after the achievements of the day.
Image: Coruscades Class IV white water rafting on the Franklin River. Photo J. Davis
Today we head into Propsting Gorge and arrive at the Mt. McCall Track, where our resupplies await. Those people only taking part in the Upper Franklin River section of the tour will leave us here, others may join for the Lower Franklin section. After repacking the rafts we continue through the exciting Trojans rapids before arriving at Rock Island Bend and the Pig Trough, with its delightful waterfall cascading into a fern lined grotto. Safety dictates that we portage the actual Pig Trough rapid before we round Rock Island Bend to tackle the famous Newland’s Cascades. This section will have everyone whooping with delight as we plunge through a maelstrom of spray and whitewater. At rapids-end is a place for a deserved break. On the bank, natural overhangs provide the ideal shelter. Echoing cliffs and plumes of spray add to the magnificent setting. We sometimes spend a day here.
Image: Newlands Cascades rapid and camp. Photo Dr. T. Ruff
The river abruptly leaves the quartzite gorges of the Middle Franklin and enters the limestone country of the lower reaches. Tranquil pools are broken by the occasional large rapid – ‘Little Fall’ is a great spot for action photography! Slowly the river increases in volume. The Jane River enters from the left just above our midday break on Flat Island, a beach of polished river stone dominated by the impressive Elliot range. We then continue to our evenings camp under a canopy of ancient trees by the deep pool at Blackmans Bend. We may be lucky enough to get a visit from the local platypus.
Image: Stop over at Flat Island along the Lower Franklin River. Photo K. Grant
The thick temperate rainforest which clings to the river banks is punctuated by limestone cliffs and strange rock formations. The river widens and now flows quietly. There is time to reflect; to conjure up visions of Aboriginal peoples hunting the Ice Age plains in the days before the forest spread to claim the open country. Today we will carefully show you some of the unique limestone caves which sheltered these people some 14,000 year ago. We then tackle the unexpected ‘Double Fall’. Almost immediately we encounter the last step down in the rivers bedrock, ‘Big Fall’. It’s a deceptive rapid which we portage easily and quickly. Around the corner is the gaping Penghana Cave, a towering vault in the cliffs. Our final few hours are spent drifting along the mighty Gordon River, carried by the huge volume of water that makes this Tasmania’s largest waterway. Soon we reach the picturesque Sir John Falls, our final camp.
Image: At Penghana Cave, Galleon Bluff on the Lower Franklin River
Aboard the yacht ‘Stormbreaker’ we can relax and enjoy breakfast and brunch while cruising down the Gordon River and across Macquarie Harbour to Strahan on the West Coast. A coach trip back to Hobart completes our journey, normally arriving 6-7pm. We have flown directly to Hobart from the river many times and will provide this option when an appropriate aircraft becomes available. It may be possible to organise aerial transfers for a group from Strahan to Hobart.
Image: Temperate rainforest reflections on the Gordon River
Click here to view interactive Trip Map, showing details like
>> Trip outline
>> Rapids, Gorges
>> Landmarks, Campsites (some with photos)