TASMANIA – Just as they were about to paddle their rafts into the canyon section of the Franklin River in Tasmania, a message came over the satellite phone from the fire service, ‘There are lots of fires upstream of you, lots of fires downstream of you…We’re going to evacuate you. There will be a chopper there in an hour.’
It was then that the scramble started for the party of five raft paddlers.
The leader of the group, Jessica Whiteroad, an Australian, has worked at Owl Rafting on the Ottawa River, as do the two Canadian’s on the trip, Straun Wefers and Naomi Jones.
Wefers and Jones also work for the world renowned Madawaska Kanu Centre in Barry’s Bay. When she is not on a river, Jones calls Eganville home. The other two on the trip were Americans, Chris Hall and Glen Finch.
The Franklin River is close to the centre of Tasmania, which is an island across the Bass Strait from Melbourne, Australia. The Franklin River is highly technical with several dangerous sections.
The idea to raft the river came from talking to rafting colleagues working at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, site of the canoe and kayak slalom at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, said Jones. She said the Franklin River, “is supposed to be one of the world’s greatest natural wonders…one of the ‘most natural rivers’ left in the world.”
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