Three days rafting deep into the Tarkine

I'd been wanting to get out and run a longer trip in the tarkine after recently going on a day trip in the area. It’s an incredible place and with the pressure ramping up at work I can always feel when it's time to get away and clear my head. The forecast was looking perfect for the water levels if not for general enjoyment. We had 20mm or more of rain every day for most of the week leading up too and during the trip.

Picture showing heavy rain weather forecast
Yup that looks like perfect weather to be getting outdoors…

With good water levels and a small but keen team things were looking good for the trip. Around a week out I began to start getting all the food and logistics stuff sorted. My workload complicated things slightly and I ended up finishing work at 24:00 on the night before we left and spent a good two hours franticaly throwing gear in to my car. The next day after a few more hours of messing around we got on the road. It’s a long drive in terrible conditions and I had a bit of a close call driving through Queenstown where I lost the front wheels of the car going around a hairpin bend. That said, soon enough we made it to our put-in point for the river. This was the bridge over the Heazlewood River on Waratah Road. Thankfully there is a nice camping area here that is accesable via a 4 wheel drive track (in our case accessed with a 2 wheel drive and some quite exciting driving courtesy of Nik).

Map of the river route
Here’s the map of our route, starting on the Heazlewood Bridge paddling 50km of river down to Corinna

We got a fire going and cooked dinner, despite the quantity of rain we had a great time. The food was great, salmon and potatoes cooked over the fire is allways a winner. We used a rafting pump as a billow to the fire which worked surprisingly well. It absolutely poured with rain and we woke up in the middle of the night when we realised that most of our campsite was now underwater. I reset the tarp and we got through the night, although wet sleeping bags are never fun. Despite being wet and a bit miserable, the sound of roaring water in the backround was exciting and the feeling of anticipation mixed with a bit of trepidation kept me awake.

People fanning the flames of a fire with a rafting pump
This is what occurs when you get a bunch of science students on a trip…

I set the alarm to get up early. Knowing everyone would be wet and cold I got a fire going, inflated the rafts and started getting food sorted. This way by the time everyone was awake we could all pile in to the car, turn up the heat to dry out our gear and eat a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs. The river looked exciting, running red with all the dirt washed down in the flooding torrent. We got a relativly late start after loading all our gear in to the rafts and having a bit of a chat about our plan of action. I always like to make sure everyone is on board with the plan of action and knows what we'll be doing if things go wrong. We paddled two 10 foot rafts with two people to a raft. With the gear secured in dry bags and strapped in the rafts we set off down the river.

Equipment strapped to a whitewater raft
All the equipment and supplies fitted well in the rafts which is a pleasant change

With 50km of river to cover over the three days and a late start to the day I was mildly concerned about how much ground we needed to cover. As it turns out there was nothing to worry about at all. With the river levels being so high it was a very fast trip we barely had to paddle to keep up an excellent pace. Without me realising it we flew past my intended campsite and covered two days of rafting in around six hours! It really is a lovely low stress river with plenty of easy class 3 whitewater. Nik and Janina got in to a bit of trouble in one point as they managed to pin their raft on a log jam. I ran up to help out and with our combined strength managed to pull the raft off. That said there was a minute there I was thinking that I might need to break out the ropes and pulleys to rig up a mechanical advantage system. It certainly was nice to not have to do that!

Two whitewater rafters on a river
Happy paddlers not having to do a lot given the strength of the river

We had a relaxed time at camp and hit the river again in the morning. We had a really fantastic day of weather which was a shock to the system after all the rain. That said it was still a bit chilly in the ravine and any time we got a lick of the warm sunshine it was absolute bliss in contrast to the cool morning air. We made it to the biggest rapid on the river, a high volume recirculation formed by the sheer cliffs. I set up safety downstream and Nik and Janina ran the rapid. They did a solid job but were a bit too far left and lacked momentum. This combination meant they had a scary moment where the rapid held the raft and threatened to pull them back in to the recirculation. They did a good job to recover, digging in their paddles and pulling through. Myself and Will paddled it next, it was a much less dramatic run, the combination of a little more power and a different line saw us punch straight over the feature and out the other side.

Rafters paddling a large recirculating rapid
I would think twice about running this rapid at much higher flows than this…

We kept up a decent pace but the flow of the water slowed as the rate of descent decreased. This made for harder work and we stopped for a break and relaxed for a bit.

Rafters lying on rafts
It's a tough life on river!

Soon enough we made it to the Pieman River and after a short flat water paddle we made it back to Corinna ready to jump in the car and sort out a car shuttle.

Whitewater rafting
As tedious as flatwater paddling is the reflections on the Pieman River really are stunning

Before long we were back at the vehicle, sorting out gear, camping and then heading for home. Overall it was a great low stress trip with a great crew. It’s always nice to get away for a bit and have a simple trip without a lot of type 2 fun. That said I have no doubt that I’ll have plenty of epics in the pipeline shortly!

The rafting team at the end of the river
The team at the end of the trip. All happy although a little wet and tired!

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