Hazelwood Pondage, VIC
Freshwater Swimming Holes in Australia

 
This may be the site of Australia’s “dirtiest” power station, but the carbon counters cannot deny that it is also the only large scale, public, outdoor warm water recreational venue in Victoria. The water in the pondage is kept at a very pleasant 22 degrees celcius all year round by circulating through the power station to cool the plant. That means you can even swim here in mid-winter. Swimming in Hazelwood Pondage at Yallourn The warm waters have made the pondage popular for a range of events including the World Masters Games, the Australian Open Water Swimming Championships and the Latrobe City Sauna Sail.
There is a caravan park at the south-west corner of the pondage, which has a poorly defined and shallow swimming area. Along the western edge of the pondage there are a number of boat and jet ski ramps which have deeper water for easier entry to the pondage without getting your feet muddy. It may look uninviting, but you will definitely appreciate the warm waters, particularly those desperate for an open water swim during the cooler months.

Here is a video that I took of a swim at Hazelwood Pondage on a chilly day in mid-winter. I was the only one silly enough to get into the water and was pleasantly surprised.

Essential Information Before You Go:
Location: Yinnar Rd, Morwell, Victoria, 160 km (approx. 2 hrs drive) south east of the Melbourne CBD
Latitude:-38.280768 Longitude:146.377506
Getting there: From the Princes Hwy at Morwell, take the Monash Way exit and head south. Turn right at the Hazelwood Pondage sign at Brodribb Road.
Entrance fee: None
Water temperature: Warm
Water clarity: Murky
Sun shade: Shade available out of the water
Opening times: Always open
Facilities, conditions under foot in the water, maximum water depth, minimum swimming proficiency required, and prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: Order the full guide
Wheelchair access: Potentially at the caravan park with some assistance
Accommodation Options: Unpowered sites are available at the Hazelwood Pondage Caravan Park. The caravan park doesn't have a website, so you need to ring them up to book. Alternatively, you can try accommodation in nearby Morwell.
Managing authority: Engie
Nearby attractions: Powerworks Museum, the Morwell Rose Garden in town, and for swimming, Lake Narracan 15 km to the north.
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the location of the area where I swam at the lake.
Change of Conditions:
It's official: Hazelwood Power Station will begin shutting down in March 2017. The future of the pondage is unclear, but early indications are that the mine void itself might be turned into a recreational lake. It is unknown whether this will involve swimming, or just passive recreation.

April 2016: According to a media release from the State Government, barramundi were stocked in Hazelwood Pondage in 2016 as part of a plan to encourage recreational fishing at the pondage. Barramundi are a tropical fish and only survive in warm water. I have been swimming with barramundi in the Northern Territory and they were quite comfortable around swimmers, inquisitive but non-aggressive, and did not interfere with your swimming.

If you are visiting this spot and have any further updates on any change of conditions, let me know via the comment form below.
Comments:
Here is one query I have received about swimming at the lake, one about the fish and one about the caravan park:

"Are there any health concerns with the water temperature so high?" - Garry from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 14/2/2016

My reply: I'm not aware of any health concerns associated with the higher water temperature. The lake is used for a range of public swimming and sailing events, which I imagine would be cancelled if there were any health concerns. The section of the lake for swimming sits at approximately 22 degrees. To put that in context, it's about the same temperature as Port Phillip Bay at the height of summer. The difference is that the temperature in the bay drops considerably over winter, whereas Hazelwood Pondage doesn't. Fishing is also popular at the lake and I haven't heard of any reports of people getting sick from eating fish from the lake.

"I am wondering what will happen to the barramundi once the power station closes. Can we expect a mass of fish deaths?" - Carl from Eumemmerring, Victoria, Australia 22/10/2016

My reply: Great question. I will wait until the dust settles on the closure before asking the State Government about the future of the barramundi. According to The Fish Vet's blog Barramundi start to get sick when water temperatures are in the mid-teens, and mortality has been observed in fish farms when the water temperature dropped to 11 degrees celsius. From local monitoring data, water temperatures in Victorian streams drop to below ten degrees on cold nights in winter, which is why you can't find barramundi elsewhere in Victoria.

"Do we know of any plans with the caravan park? Will it stay or go. If the money is spent on the new toilet facilities you would think it could stay?" - Andrew from Noble Park, Victoria, Australia 7/11/2016

My reply: Another excellent question. The social implications of the closure of the power station potentially spread far and wide. I'll keep a lookout for any statements about the future of the caravan park, but hopefully it will stay if the pondage stays, even if the pondage is no longer heated.

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.

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© Brad Neal 2016. All rights reserved. This work is not to be sampled, copied, modified, adapted or reused for commercial purposes without the written consent of the author.