The Gordon River is Tasmania’s longest river. It cuts through an area of incredible wildness—an area that has in fact been designated a World Heritage Wilderness Area. Then, near the coast, the river empties into the broad expanse of Macquarie Harbour.
While the history surrounding this river dates back to Tasmania’s days as a convict settlement, in more recent history, this river was the focus of a huge environmental controversy that broke out, followed by an international campaign beginning in the late 1970s, over suggestions that the powerful river could produce a great deal of hydroelectric energy, if it were dammed. It was in time decided that the value of the wilderness area was too great to simply flood it, so the area was preserved.
The wilderness area is nearly impenetrable. The rivers that feed into the Gordon, the Collingwood and the Franklin, cut through mountains and deep valleys, and have recently become the destination for serious whitewater rafting. But thanks to the dense foliage, including the stunningly snarled “horizontal forest,” the surrounding land remains largely unexplored.
Nearer to Macquarie Harbour, the river is gentler, and cruises amid the wilderness and to historic sites are available from the boat docks in Strahan. The distant vistas available from Macquarie Harbour vanish as a tidal wave of greenery closes in around the river itself. It was to be a splendid day.