Egg Island Canal – Historic Huon River Shortcut
Visitors to the Huon Valley are sometimes surprised to learn that Franklin used to be the largest town in the Huon Valley. Back in the 1830s there was not much of a road connecting the Huon Valley to Hobart, and those attempting to make the journey over the mountains did so at the risk of being waylaid by bushrangers. The most reliable form of transport for people and goods was by boat.
By the 1830s Franklin was the major port town and Huon Valley residents travelled to Franklin from far and wide, to buy supplies and to meet and socialise. The grand Palais Theatre in Franklin still stands as a reminder of the glory days of dances and gala social events.
Travellers to Franklin from Cradoc, on the opposite side of the Huon River had to travel around the top of South Egg Island at considerable inconvenience so in 1838 it was decided by the town fathers to use convict labour to cut a canal through South Egg Island, to speed up the travelling time between the two centres. This became silted up some years later, but in 1885 the canal was deepened and widened using a horse drawn dredge.
The Egg Island canal is still in use today and is popular with kayakers and small boat users. In 2013 it was listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register thanks to a dedicated campaign by locals. Inside the canal there is a sense of being a world away from anywhere. Enjoying the stillness and quiet of the Egg Island Canal is truly like stepping back in time.
Launch your small boat or kayak at either Franklin or Cradoc. The entry to the canal is signposted. For a longer journey you can do a circumnavigation of either North or South Egg Island. For those who don’t have a boat you can see the canal by taking a tour on the MV Nancy.
In 2014 local historians Ruth Young and Alan Cato compiled a written history, titled Egg Island Canal, published by the Franklin History Group. The book was so successful it has sold out, but a second edition is currently in production and should be available soon.
Alan Cato is well qualified on the subject as he is the great-grandson of Henry Clark who rebuilt the canal in 1885. Ruth Young is a local researcher and writer, well known for her 2012 publication, The Palais Theatre, available at The Franklin Collective. In 2009 Ruth was one of the driving forces behind a community campaign to save the canal from an unsuitable plan to lay a large pipe down the centre, rendering it un-navigable. That community effort eventually resulted in a negotiated compromise to lay a smaller pipe down one side where it sits today, as well as securing the listing on the Tasmania Heritage Register.
For information about other Australian historic canals go to here