King River Rafting has started operating on the more tame River Derwent because of low water levels on the King River. (Supplied: King River Rafting)
Record low rainfall is forcing a Tasmanian rafting business to shift its operations from the west coast to the south in order to survive.
King River Rafting, run by husband and wife team Paul Steane and Michele Cordwell-Steane, started guided tours along the King River for the first time last summer, taking 200 people in four months.
Rafting on the River Derwent (ABC News)
But the driest October on record has left Hydro Tasmania’s dams at extremely low levels and reduced the once-mighty King River, which relies on the regular release of water, to a whimper.
Ms Cordwell-Steane said the shift was another blow to the struggling West Coast economy which had already been hit hard by the ongoing closure of the Mt Lyell copper mine.
“We probably would have put about $ 80,000 to $ 100,000 into Queenstown and they will certainly miss that,” she said.
“[The rafting] just brings people in so what people mostly do is spend two or three nights’ accommodation in Queenstown and we have groups of up to 16 coming [on the trip], so it will have an impact.”
Paul and Michele Cordwell-Steane by the River Derwent as they prepare to take another group rafting. (ABC News: Michael Atkin)
The fledgling business has had to refund more than $ 20,000 in future bookings and there is no work available for some northern staff.
“We have had to refund lots of money so it hasn’t been good, hence our reason for doing the Derwent because we hope we can keep afloat, pardon the pun, until next summer,” she said.
Now they are rafting in the much milder waters of the River Derwent near New Norfolk.
Ms Cordwell-Steane said it was incomparable to the King River.
“It’s very different than on the King, on the Derwent … the rapids are probably level one and two on the King through the Gorge they’re three and four,” she said.
“Yesterday on a Derwent trip we saw a beautiful sea eagle and about five platypus.
“The Derwent is farm land, which is also beautiful but the King you go from the forest to the sea so you go through rainforest, there’s lots of Huon pine and then end up almost at Macquarie Harbour.”
While the rapids on the River Derwent are not as wild as those on the King River it’s proximity to Hobart makes it more accessible to tourists. (Supplied: King River Rafting)
The new experience does offer the opportunity to learn rafting and, crucially, is a short drive from Tasmania’s tourism hot spot of Hobart.
It was the perfect holiday fun for engaged couple John Godwin and Rochelle Armstrong.
External Link: Watch: King River Rafting Facebook post
Ms Armstrong said the calmer waters suited her.
“I’ve never really done anything like this before and I’m a bit nervous about the water, so it was very exciting,” she said.
“King River wasn’t really accessible for us because we were already visiting Hobart so we were just looking for something close.”
Mr Goodwin said they get married next week and were under strict instructions to come back unscathed.
“Rochelle is not allowed to go in the water, we’re not allowed to hurt each other,” he said.
“Always hold on to the T bar and the pole otherwise you’ll get a black eye,” Ms Armstrong added.
“The ab workout has been alright, I guess.”
The move south has given new guide 20-year-old James Wynwood the break he was been looking for.
“I’ve been studying for nine months at Tafe and I’ve been waiting for that opportunity to get out there and get into the industry,” he said.
“I’ve fished along the Derwent with my parents and I know a fair bit about it as well so it’s really good for me to be able to take people as a job down the river doing something that I love.”
Ms Cordwell-Steane said she hoped water levels in the King River would recover in time to recommence tours in the summer of 2017 and if the gentler experience along the Derwent River proved popular, King River Rafting might permanently expand its tours to both locations.
Just do not expect it to change its name.
Being forced to explore the River Derwent has opened up a new opportunity and King River Rafting may operate from both locations once the King River is back to usual torrent. (Supplied: King River Rafting)
Topics: lifestyle-and-leisure, travel-and-tourism, tourism, drought, new-norfolk-7140
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