The Franklin – Gordon Wild Rivers National Park lies in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It is a region of dramatic mountain peaks, beautiful rainforest, deep river valleys and spectacular gorges. The park is famous for the wild and pristine rivers that twist their way through the wilderness. The Franklin River itself has become synonymous with Australia’s largest conservation battle – the battle to save the Franklin from a proposed hydro-electric power scheme which would have flooded the river.
The Lyell Highway winds for 56 kilometres through the heart of the Franklin – Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Take your time to enjoy the drive through the park. Along the Lyell Highway there are several short walks and picnic stops along the way that will allow you to discover the grandeur and beauty of the Wild Rivers region.
How to get there:
The Lyell Highway (A10) connects Hobart in the south-east of Tasmania with Queenstown in the west. It runs through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.From Hobart, travel west for 2 1/2 hours via the Lyell Highway, or south a similar distance from Launceston via Longford and Poatina on the Lakes Highway (A5).
King William Saddle marks the boundary of the park, and indeed a dramatic change in the geology and vegetation of western Tasmania. Nelson Falls marks the western boundary of the park. The Lyell Highway may occasionally be closed by snow in winter.The park can also be accessed via the lower Gordon River on one of the daily cruise boats that operate out of the west coast village of Strahan.
Wild Rivers National Park is also accessible by boat from the west coast township of Strahan. Cruises operate daily to Heritage Landing on the forest-clad banks of the lower Gordon River. The remarkable reflections of the rainforest in the dark, tannin-stained waters of the lower Gordon are a highlight of any visit to this region. Some cruises also call in at the historic penal settlement of Sarah Island, allowing you to roam around the convict ruins.
Scenic flights from Strahan also provide visitors with the opportunity to fly over the dramatic landscapes of the Wild Rivers. While in Strahan, the West Coast Information and Booking Centre is a perfect place to discover the rich and diverse history of the west coast – a history of such importance on a global scale that it played an important part in the listing of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The centre is a wealth of information, so try to spend a few hours here, or come back the next day to continue your visit. Tickets are valid for 24 hours.
Walks within this park range from short, easy strolls to the demanding 4 or 5 day walk to Frenchmans Cap.
It is recommended that walking boots or strong shoes be worn on all walks, due to the rough terrain. For longer walks previous bush navigation experience and the use of appropriate maps and notes are recommended.
Important! Before planning any walks, be sure to check the weather. A good map is essential.
Franklin River Nature Trail
After the steep descent from Mt Arrowsmith the highway crosses the Franklin River, one of the few remaining wild rivers in Australia. The Franklin flows through numerous deep gorges and some of the wildest country in the State. A one kilometre, easy grade nature trail winds through stunning cool temperate rainforest and introduces visitors to two wild rivers: the Franklin and the Surprise. Interpretive signs raise some issues about ‘wilderness’ and what it means to different people. The trail is suitable for wheelchairs. Picnic tables and toilet facilities are provided, making it an ideal place to stop for lunch or a break.
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Frenchmans Cap Walking Track
Three kilometres west of the Franklin River bridge the walking track to Frenchmans Cap begins. A pleasant five minute stroll along this good dry track will bring you to the Franklin River. Across the Franklin, walkers will encounter a wash-down station used to help reduce the spread of Phytophthora root rot – a disease that can destroy our native forests.For experienced bushwalkers the return trip to the summit of Frenchmans Cap takes four to five days. See our outdoor recreation pages for full track notes for Frenchmans Cap.
Donaghys Hill Wilderness Lookout Walk
Stop here for a spectacular wilderness panorama, taking in the Franklin River valley and Frenchmans Cap. It is only a 30-40 minute return walk on a well-graded track. The majestic Frenchmans Cap (1443 m) dominates its surroundings and often retains some of its snow well into summer. Even when the snow has melted it remains white and shiny due to the quartzite rock which makes up the half-dome peak. This unusual formation was said to resemble a cap worn by Frenchmen – hence the name.
This is the starting point for raft or canoe trips down the Franklin River, of which the Collingwood is a tributary. It is a pleasant place to stop for a breath of fresh air and a stroll along the river bank. A short, 5 minute walk along the eastern bank of the river will bring you to the junction of the Alma and Collingwood rivers. Basic campsites are available, but there are no facilities. In summer, you may see rafting parties setting out for trips down the Franklin River. Ahead of them lie two weeks of inspiration and adventure through the wild river lands of the Tasmanian wilderness.
Nelson Falls Nature Trail
About four kilometres west of Victoria Pass you will come to the Nelson River bridge and the lovely Nelson Falls Nature Trail. At the start of the trail, a display reveals the rich history of the men and women who once lived and worked in the area. A pleasant 20 minute return walk along a well-graded track takes you through cool temperate rainforest to the spectacular Nelson Falls. Signs along the way will help you to learn more about these ancient forests and the animals that inhabit them.