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Yarra River at Bourchiers Rd
Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria


Swimmer's alert: Road access to the Yarra River at Bourchiers Road has been temporarily closed by the local council until the end of March 2018. See the notes in the change of conditions section below for more details and how to provide your feedback to Council about the closure and future management of this swimming spot.
The Yarra River at Bourchiers Road is a popular (ungazetted) skinny dipping location in Melbourne, but you can still come here for a swim without taking your clothes off. There are several places that you can swim here. If you walk straight down to the river from the car park, there is a tiny pebbly beach that provides the easiest entry to the water. The deep pool on the bend is protected by a bank of rocks running right across the river, so the current actually drifts backwards here in a gentle eddy away from the main current.

Swimming in the Yarra River at Bourchiers Road
Above: This small pebbled beach on the bend provides gradual entry to the water

Alternatively you can squeeze through the gate posts and walk downstream along the track that runs alongside the river. A couple of hundred metres downstream you will reach an open, partly grassed area that people use for picnics or lounging about in between swims. The entry into the water here is more difficult, with sharp, slippery rocks and a steep dropoff that makes it unsuitable for inexperienced swimmers. I measured the depth of the water here at over 3 metres only a few metres away from the bank.
If you are coming here specifically to skinny dip, the general rule is the further downstream you head, the more likely you will be able to take a skinny dip with like minded people. Keep walking along the track past the open area until you find a second, slightly smaller open space next to the river, downstream of the rapids. When I last visited on a warm November day, this area was mostly frequented by middle aged men, but also included people of different ages and genders, some of whom were skinny dipping.

Note that in Victoria it is a criminal offence with a penalty of up to two years jail for "willful and obscene exposure" under the Summary Offences Act 1966, however nudity is legally permitted at around half a dozen outdoor locations around Victoria that have been gazetted as such under the Nudity (Prescribed Areas) Act 1983. To the best of my knowledge, the Yarra River at Bourchiers Road is not gazetted under the Nudity (Prescribed Areas) Act 1983, so technically you will be breaking the law if you strip off in view of others. Given the relatively dense vegetation alongside the river and the high turbidity of the water, if you are discreet you can go for your skinny dip without exposing yourself to others, thereby staying within the confines of the law. This does not in any way constitute legal advice, so assess the legal risks for yourself!

If nudity offends you, then it's best to swim close to the car park, or head downstream to swim at Pound Bend or Laughing Waters.

Here is a video that I took when visiting Bourchiers Road on a warm day in November. There were others swimming there on the day, but out of respect to viewers and the privacy of those swimmers, I did not film them. Fortunately no one tried to arrest me for indecent exposure to ill-considered humour.

This stretch of the Yarra River is generally of better quality than upstream and downstream reaches, however for the most part the river suffers from the triple whammy of being an irrigation drain, a discharge point for leaky septic tanks, and an urban stormwater drain. For this reason, it is not my preferred swimming location in Melbourne, but it is nevertheless a popular spot for people in Melbourne. The EPA provides daily forecasts of whether water is suitable for swimming at http://yarraandbay.vic.gov.au/yarra-watch. Note however that this is only a forecast using only one indicator of water quality. My advice when swimming in the Yarra is to never ever swim within 48 hours after rain (very high risk of water being contaminated), never put your head under, never swim with any open cuts or skin abrasions, and bring an extra bottle of tap water to wash your hands before eating after swimming.
Essential Information Before You Go:
Location: Bourchiers Road, Kangaroo Ground, 36 km north east of Melbourne
Latitude:-37.709726 Longitude:145.254272
Getting there: From the Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road, turn right at Pigeon Bank Lane, which subsequently becomes Menzies Road, following it for 2 km. Then turn right at Bourchiers Road and follow it 800 metres to the car park at the end of the road. From the car park, follow the tracks about 30 metres down to the river.
Facilities: Order the full guide
Entrance fee: Not applicable
Water temperature: Order the full guide
Water clarity: Murky

Under foot: Rock, silt, mud
Maximum water depth: Order the full guide
Minimum swimming proficiency required: Order the full guide
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: Order the full guide
Sun shade: Shade available out of the water
Opening times: Always open
Wheelchair access: None
Managing authority: Parks Victoria
Accommodation Options: Camping is not permitted along the Yarra River at Bourchiers Road. If you are planning to stay overnight in the area, you can try accommodation in nearby Warrandyte.
Nearby attractions: Yarra River at Bend of Islands, which is about 2 km upstream.
Related swims:If you're heading interstate to Canberra and want to find a tranquil, government approved skinny dipping location, take a look at Kambah Pool.
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the location of the car park at the end of Bourchiers Rd.
Change of Conditions:
A swimmer alerted me 28/12/17 to a temporary road closure on Bourchiers Road preventing vehicle access to the river. According to the local council, this temporary closure is to "address public safety concerns" by implementing a number of measures "to improve safety, amenity, access, and vegetation and fire". After speaking to a Council representative (2/1/18), it was explained to me (and I'm paraphrasing) that you can still swim here, but it's a 900 metre walk from the closed gate to the river. The temporary road closure is driven by community concerns about traffic congestion, fire management, and public safety, with the issues around public safety related to the use of illicit substances by some visitors, and how to manage the potential for indecent exposure to, for example, minors. Other activities such as weed management will be undertaken at the same time as the road is closed. The gate will re-open at the end of March 2018, which roughly coincides with the end of the swimming season. Council is currently inviting public comment on the temporary road closure so as to inform future management of the road. Here is a link to Council's survey about the closure to provide your views.
If you would like to leave a comment about this swimming hole, please fill in the comment box below. I'm particularly interested in your experiences after visiting, and any changes in swimming conditions. During the temporary road closure, please limit your comments to me to only include your experiences in getting to the site during the closure and your experiences in the water, and direct any feedback about future management of the site directly to Council.

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