A few years ago a couple of friends and I did a rafting trip on Tasmania’s Franklin River with World Expeditions. It was one of the best outdoorsy things I’ve ever done. We had eight days of unusually brilliant weather out of nine paddling down rapids and along serene stretches of calm water flanked by sheer rock gorges and ancient forests. We portaged around the more dangerous rapids and places where huge rocks blocked our path. We also spent a fair bit of time on the first couple of days pushing our rafts over parts of the river that were no more than a shallow ripple as the area had been without rain for a while.
What made the trip even more special was knowing that we were experiencing something that was very nearly lost to a hydro-electric dam project in the 1980s. The then Tasmanian premier described the Franklin as nothing more than a leech ridden brown ditch “unattractive to the majority of people”. Thankfully there were enough people who didn’t share his view and a protest campaign involving blockades of the river, political lobbying and a High Court case saw the dam project stopped and the river and its environment (hopefully) forever protected with World Heritage listing.
I’ve always wanted to say “thank you” to the people who fought to protect the Franklin. It can’t have been easy in the cold and wet environment amid hostility from the government and locals directed towards conservationists. But thanks to their dedication, a truly spectacular wilderness area is still here for future generations to enjoy. True, only a small number of people will ever travel down the river themselves, but I think it’s nice to know there are still beautiful parts of the planet that are allowed to just “be”. So, in my own small way, through this blog post, I’d like to thank all those who stood up for the Franklin and express my appreciation for what they did. It also should remind us that the fight to protect the environment can be a long and challenging one, but one that’s ultimately worthwhile.