How many people get to live their dreams? I am..........!

This is my story from the time when Capt'n John and I first decided to sail around the big block, to circumnavigate this great land of ours, AUSTRALIA.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Into the Tasmanian Wilderness – The Gordon River

The Gordon River, Tasmania
Into the Tasmanian Wilderness – The Gordon River
Wednesday 29th Jan 2014:
AR follows behind Rhapsody into the Gordon River
Rhapsody heading into the fog
After leaving Kelly Basin MrJ and I on AR followed Rhapsody up the Gordon River. This was Steve’s third visit to Tasmania by boat; we thought it would be best if he led the way. I was very glad of that decision as the river was layered in a blanket of fog at the approached. The fogginess made for a very spooky but intriguing appeal. Once inside the river mouth the morning sunlight had burnt most of the fog away, leaving small patches in the shadiest parts of the river.
The Gordon River is part of the Franklin–Gordon Wild Rivers National Park; wild by name, wild by nature, with dramatic mountain peaks, spectacular gorges and rivers running through the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness. Part of Tasmania's World Heritage Area, this national park is closely linked to the successful campaign to protect the beautiful Franklin river from flooding in the 1980s. Much of the Wild Rivers landscape has been shaped by ancient glaciers and is remote and rugged. The area has a long natural history with ancient Huon Pines that grow to an age of over 3000 years. The park supports a diverse range of vegetation, dominated by cool temperate rainforest, drier eucalypt forests and picturesque button grass moorland. The park also contains Aboriginal and convict historic sites.
AR heading into the thick fog
Up the River:
At the entrance of the Gordon River there were very distinct markers, maybe not as distinct in a pea-souper as all but the first maker are not lit. The river is navigable by yacht or motorboat for some 20n/m from its mouth. We were heading for Sir John’s Falls jetty some 18n/m from the mouth.
There were a couple of broader and shallower reaches (round 4.9mts) before the first gorge past Mannigan’s Inlet. At the First Gorge the river narrowed and became deeper (anything from 9 – 30mts).
the fog had moistened the spider webs in the foreshore branches

We had to navigate in river style, keeping out wide on the bends and in the centre on the straights. River Rules applied – stay on the outside of the bends – when making a transition from one outside bend to the next, visualize how the downstream river current does it and follow a route where you think the current is likely to be strongest.

the Gordon River - passage upstream

After First Gorge we went through a bend to the left, a sharp bend to the right and then another sharp bend to the left know as Pine Landing or Boom Camp where the piners used to live, then we were in Kathleen Sound (depths from 9 – 23mt). Another sharp left bend brought us to Heritage Landing some 5n/m from the mouth. Heritage Landing is where the big tourist boats come in to.

AR in the fog

There is a short walkway through the cool temperate rainforest. After this landing we came to a very sharp hair-pin bend or large loop known as Horseshoe Bend then a sharp left bend brought us into a longish stretch know as Expectation Reach (depths 9 – 21mts). The next sharp right bend at Eagle Creek had a rock that we couldn’t see, reported on the outside as you entered the bend.

map of the Gordon River

We had to keep closer to the centre of the river at this stage just in case and the water shallowed down to 4.7mts. Coming out of this bend into Limekiln Reach (9 – 23mts; about 5n/m long) is where we saw our first croc-log, which is more dangerous than regular crocs. Further along this reach we saw three more croc-logs. These croc-logs were very large; they were either bits of tree trunks or old jetty poles that had broken away.

Croc logs in the river
the fog begins to lift

It was in Limekiln Reach that we began to see large rock wall formations or limestone bluffs. The convicts had built lime kilns on the right bank just downstream of a steep limestone bluff, there were several of these bluffs on the right bank (the left and right banks are on the left and right hand side respectively facing upstream). Not that we could see any of the ruins with the dense scrub vegetation and trees that lined both banks.
little lost row-boat
Towards the end of Limekiln Reach we had spotted a little wooden row boat that was adrift near the right bank. Steve backed up to pick up this row boat. What an interesting bit of drama!
Kerrin had to row their dinghy over to the stranded boat, grab a line, tie it to her own boat and row back to Rhapsody without getting washed downstream and while the rest of us watched and waited. Rhapsody towed both little boats behind once Kerrin had climbed back on board.
Steve & Kerrin say G'day to Jack & Jude
Around the next left bend in the river we came upon two larger boats (an old converted fishing boat and a large blue hulls sloop, Maatsuyker) adrift in the middle of the river (the current was not that strong at this point). The fella on the fishing boat claimed the little run-away row boat; Steve set her adrift and went on. The people on Maatsuyker were Jack and Jude off the original Banyandah (book writers among other things). They were in the river to do some filming and there was another boat, a large tinny who I believe were the film crew.  Buggar I missed out getting into the movies!
Marble Cliffs
At the end of Limekiln Reach a sandspit forms a sharp bend to the left named Snag Point (6.4-12mts) followed by a sharp turn to the right and then a sweeping bend to the left where there was an interesting large limestone formation on the right bank called Marble Cliffs (9.5 – 21mts). Along parts of the river on the left bank and well hidden behind the vegetation are several meromictic lakes. Such lakes are of biological interest because they have been still enough to have formed alternative layers of more or less salty and more or less fresh water that never mix. These layers have lasted long enough for various forms in the different layers to develop along quite different evolutionary paths.

two boats passing Butler's Island

After marble there was another short reach (6 – 12mts; 2n/m) which led to Butler Island upstream. As we approached Butler Island there were two other boat coming through going downstream; a sloop and a motor boat. Keeping Butler Island to port, it is narrow but deep (20 – 24mts), the river broadens (5 – 8mts).

kayakers on the river

Between the next left and then right bends there was quite a shallow reach reported to have mid-river depths of less than 2mts at summer water levels. The reason this reach is so shallow is there is a slow circular swirl caused by the water slowing down as it exits from the gorge on a sweeping bend. We kept close to the right bank and had 6-8mts of water at the beginning and 3.5 – 4mts in the middle. It is also possible to pass close to the left bank with about the same amount of water. Warners Landing (4mts) is at the end of the shallows on the left bank. On the right bank is the Lower Gordon Camp (some of these camps are hut that have been put there for hikers or kayakers to use) and then Sir John’s Falls jetty where the river deepens again (13 - 26mts). It is possible to take big boats a mile or so further upstream but it is advised to explore this gorge by dinghy if only for the fact that this gorge is used for the landing of tourist seaplanes who visit the falls.
Rhapsody rafted to Alana Rose and the float plane at Sir John's Falls jetty
Sir John's Falls

afternoon drinks
St John's Falls jetty (S42’34.237/E145’41.610) is in the Gordon River where the Sir John's Waterfall is located just off to the right along a short track and a national Park’s made duckboards. This whole area of the Gordon River is where it all happened during the 1980's with the place crawling with protesters against the proposed damming of the Franklin and Gordon Rivers. On the end of the jetty was a pontoon used by the tourist seaplanes. MrJ brought Alana Rose alongside the jetty then Rhapsody rafted up to us.
the old walkway - notice the tannin colour of the river water
The bridge across the little creek at the jetty has been taken away, so too has the bridge at the foot of the waterfall. If you could get across the freezing cold waters of the creek and find the beginning of the track, you could follow the left bank for about 20minues that climb the ridge up to Gould’s Camp where there is the remains of a hut that is supposed to have contained a piano or so the story goes. This track is known as the Sir John’s Fall Track and continues further up the ridge (some 800ft of altitude) then down again to rejoin the Gordon River a couple of miles above the Franklin River junction. In this general area there is supposed to be a living Huon Pine from which core samples have been taken showing it is at least 4000 years old. I was content with the walk to the falls, to sit on the on the walkway and listen to the sound of nature.

lichen and plant life
Steve and Kerrin lifted and carried their light dinghy (with motor taken off) up the duckboards and along the falls walkway to then lift the dinghy into the creek’s cold water. They hopped in and rowed the dingy up to the fast flowing waterfall, catching Kerrin with the splash of the cold water; she let out a loud squeal. Haha!
Sir John's Falls
Conquering Big Eddy:
We stayed in this area for three day and even took our dinghy up the deep-water rapids or step ups called Big Eddy further upstream, stepping up the river for a meter or more. Steve and Kerrin were able to get their dinghy which was lighter and smaller than our dinghy and they weighed lighter than MrJ and me, all the way up to the Franklin River by carrying their dinghy over some of the very shallow rapids up further. I was happy just to be able to experience the mighty force of the one rapid. It was scary at the time (occasional I had my eyes closed) but rather funny afterwards when I thought about our trip. Upon entering the rapids our dinghy slowed right down with the rushing currents. At times we were weaving back and forth and we even went backwards at some stage. It took a good 10minutes but MrJ got us through. The trip back was like lightning fast as we were being taken along with the fast flowing current.

Warners Landing was built by the Hydro Electric Commission as the base for the construction work on the infamous and ill-fated Gordon-Below-Franklin-Dam. It was the site of the second round of the No Dams protest in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The first round was the lost battle to save the original Pedder Lake some years earlier.
MrJ and I took our dinghy alongside this wharf to scramble up the side to get ashore hoping to explore the clearing at the top. The first clearing was a bog-wash with soggy, watery, swampy ground underfoot. With every step that I tried to take the boggy ground would suck my shoes under and nearly suck them clean off my cold wet feet. We decided that is was best not to go any further, we returned to our dinghy and motored across the river back to the jetty and the dry warmth of AR as our side of the river was catching the warm sunshine.
Cruising the Gordon River, Tasmania

(Acknowledgement - photos taken by Kerrin: the Gordon River - passage upstream & AR in the fog. )

No comments:

Post a Comment