Nelson Falls in full flood
Much of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is remote and rugged. However, along the Lyell Highway (which will take you through the heart of the park), there are a number of facilities available.
The Franklin River Nature Trail is a perfect spot to stop for a break. Picnic tables and toilet facilities are provided. In addition, there are a number of other excellent walks available at various points along the highway, including a boardwalked track to Nelson Falls.
Further west are a number of other spots well worth stopping at, including Donaghys Hill and Nelson Falls.
The Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is also accessible by boat from the west coast township of Strahan, which provides a full range of amenities.
King William Saddle
For visitors travelling west, King William Saddle provides the first opportunity to stop and learn a little about the area you are about to enter. The King William Saddle provides a fine view of the King William Range to the south, Mt Rufus to the north and Frenchmans Cap in the distant west. At the saddle there is a dramatic and sudden change in the vegetation and its underlying geology. To the west the high rainfall, averaging a staggering 2500 mm per annum, supports luxuriant cool temperate rainforest. To the drier east, eucalypt forests and picturesque buttongrass communities are the dominant vegetation types.
From King William Saddle the Lyell Highway winds around the southern side of Mt Arrowsmith above Surprise Valley. The Surprise Valley Lookout provides an excellent view across the U-shaped valley. Note how the valley has no spurs - they have been bulldozed away by the advance of immense rivers of ice during past Ice Ages. Indeed, glaciers have shaped much of the Wild Rivers landscape. For safety reasons, the Surprise Valley lookout can only be entered from the east.
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.
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.
Strahan and the Lower Gordon River
The 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.