Why Water Levels Matter When Rafting the Franklin

Guides navigating the raft to calmer waters | Glenn Walker
Guides navigating the raft to calmer waters | Glenn Walker

Rafting the Franklin River is rightly one of the top five rafting experiences in the world, but riding its rapids means you'll need to put in the hard work. Fellow adventurer, Roger Davis, shares what to expect and why it was everything he had hoped it would be. 

The common question if you've just spent 10 days on the Franklin rafting is: 'what was it like?'

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.

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. 

The Pristine Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. |  <i>Glenn Walker</i>

But the trade-off was clear skies, good swimming in the water, and you can drink straight from the river all day, every day. Plus there are 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 civilization has entered the Franklin valley. 

It's pristine, beautiful even magical with the long fingers of morning mist reaching out across the river in the early morning. 

Undisturbed like the silent hand of some ghostly apparition reaching out across the valley, it's a mysterious yet beautiful spectre than only amplifies what becomes the perfect isolation experience.

But you have to work or should I say paddle to enjoy it with the ever-present commands of "left side", "right side", "back pedal", "forward pedal", "hard" always ringing in your ears as the guides pushed, pulled and paddled us down the river.

We saw no one, had no mobile coverage, and observed no wildlife except one platypus and one quoll in 120 kilometres of rafting. 

But we felt entirely safe on the water and under the stars and dined like kings with the amount of food the guides sport, limited only by the space on the boat. It was a pleasant change from the South Coast Track where weight was the big obstacle and so there were no pan-fried scallops, fillet steaks, chicken Kyiv and other luxuries that were ever-present on the Franklin.

So if you want to 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 this company is the perfect hosts for the experience.

Words by past rafter, Roger Davis, who travelled on our Franklin River expedition in 2022.

Franklin River, Franklin rafting, whitewater Tasmania, whitewater rafting

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