How do you make a journey along the Franklin even better? Join the "talking history book" and conservation pioneer Geoff Law. For the past few years, Geoff has led a Franklin River rafting expedition with Tasmanian Expeditions. We sat down with Geoff to find out why:
"When I first rafter the Franklin in 1981, it was because I’d been caught up in the excitement and urgency of the campaign to save the river. I had no whitewater experience of any sort. My companions were two strangers met via a notice board at the office of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society. My second-hand raft popped a seam early on, and my inexpert repairs meant it leaked, sagged, bubbled and farted all the way through the most fearsome rapids of the river. Of the trip’s fourteen days, it rained heavily on 11 of them. I capsized regularly, learning the basics of river-rafting the hard way, frequently experiencing mental paralysis in the middle of a rapid. The trip dissolved in acrimony when two of us abandoned the third member at the last big rapid. Yet it was the river that left the most indelible impression. It was the wildest and most enchanting place I’d ever been. Following the Franklin down through its gorges, irrespective of the obstacles, required a level of engagement I’d never committed to before.
The two weeks on the river were an experience of total immersion (often literally) in the beauty of a threatened wilderness. The threat came from a proposed hydro-electric scheme whose dams would have inundated the gorges of the wildest stretches of river left in Tasmania. The first dam, the Gordon-below-Franklin, would have been 95 metres tall, enough to destroy over 30 km of the Franklin, including a huge swathe of ancient rainforest, and a string of limestone caves housing Aboriginal heritage over 20,000 years old. Like dozens of other young wilderness lovers, I joined the campaign to stop the dams, helping to create publicity, lobby politicians, and run a three-month-long blockade of the dam works in which over 1200 peaceful protesters were arrested. Thanks to the leadership of Bob Brown – and the skills and commitment of hundreds of fellow campaigners – the river was saved in 1983 when the High Court determined that the federal government had the power to stop the dams. Like many of my colleagues, I went on to battle for other threatened wilderness areas for the next three decades. In 2008, Penguin published my book, The River Runs Free, about my experiences of the Franklin River and the campaign to save it.
In 2013, World Expeditions/Tasmanian Expeditions asked me if I’d like to be a ‘heritage and history’ guide on one of their Franklin trips. I happily agreed. It has been very rewarding to pass on my knowledge of the natural and political history of this river, which has carved such a deep canyon in Australia’s environmental consciousness.
What better way to talk about about our natural treasures than to stand right next to them – whether it’s a 2000-year-old Huon pine, a glaciated mountain range, or Kuti Kina Cave? But my main reason for returning to the river is simply to experience its beauty once again. On the 2016 trip, after an extended dry period, it rained. I had never seen the polished, sculpted riverside rocks look so lovely. The ferns, myrtles and Huon pine positively glowed.
The river rose and we had an exciting time of it in the rapids of the Great Ravine and Glen Calder. But unlike my 1981 trip, we had the benefit of modern equipment and professional guides to see us through. After a while, the guides seemed a race apart, superhuman beings capable of steering our huge rafts through complex ravines, conveying clear instructions over the clamour of the cascades, establishing comfortable camps, preparing gourmet meals at the end of the day, and getting up early the next morning to do it all over again. Their professionalism gave the rest of us the brain space to safely enjoy the sights and sounds of this extraordinary World Heritage wilderness. I can’t wait for the next trip."
Travellers who have joined Geoff on past trips have commented:
“The Franklin trip was a magnificent trip and one I would highly recommend. A true adventure in unspoilt wilderness, which was complimented perfectly with our "talking history book" companion Geoff Law and experienced, down to earth guides” “I would like to say that I had very little knowledge or appreciation of the extent of the Franklin campaign before joining the trip. Geoff Law certainly brought it alive for me during the trip and it was a great adjunct to the spectacular scenery and wilderness experience on the river.”
Geoff leads special Franklin River World Heritage Expeditions every January, rafting this wild, remote and untouched river over 9 days, spending evenings camping in pristine wilderness. The trip is strictly limited to just 9 people – plus Geoff and our two rafting guides – so if you’re keen to join a conservation legend on the river that helped launch his career – and shape Australian environmental history – then you must act soon. Watch a video of what you could expect on the river, view all the trip details or book your place online.