Lerderderg Gorge
Freshwater Swimming Holes in Victoria

 
At under one hour's drive from the city centre, the Lerderderg River is a rare oasis of native bushland and near-pristine stream on the western fringe of Melbourne. The easiest place to swim is at MacKenzies Flat, where you can lug your esky from the car and plomp yourself down on the well maintained lawn area in between dips in the shallow, fast moving water. My last visit was during a spring school holiday period, and there were about a dozen or so kids playing in the water at MacKenzies Flat and a bunch of bbq lunches in full swing. Swimming in the Lerderderg River at Grahams Dam Above: Lerderderg River at Grahams Dam (Order gifts or prints of this image)

If you're looking to combine some exercise with your swim, you can take the 3 km return walk up the river to Grahams Dam. It's about a 15-30 minute picturesque walk each way, with a couple of constructed stepping stone river crossings along the way to test your balance.
Grahams Dam wall is only around knee depth in height, but with a deeper pool immediately upstream of the dam, this can also be an option in late summer if the river is dry at MacKenzies Flat. Graham's Dam can however still be reduced to a puddle, so swimming here can be a bit fickle outside of spring in dry years.

A pair of sandals or swimming shoes is highly advisable for walking around in the stream. Even though the stones are smooth, they seem to hit all those delicate pressure points in your foot that make you walk like you're on a tightrope, desparately trying not to fall into the water. The stones can also be slippery, so keep your centre of gravity low to avoid slipping and falling onto your backside or worse.

Here is a video that I took when visiting the gorge in the spring school holidays, when the river was flowing well, but the water level was still just low enough to traverse two river crossings without getting your feet wet.

Essential Information Before You Go:
Location: Lerderderg Gorge Road, Lerderderg State Park, 65 km (approx. 1 hour drive) west of the Melbourne CBD.
Latitude: -37.615578 Longitude: 144.425388
Getting there: From Melbourne take the Western Freeway to Bacchus Marsh and exit north at Gisborne Road. Turn left 2 km later at Lerderderg Gorge Road and follow to the car park at the end.
Facilities: Toilets, tables, bbqs, lawns, parking at MacKenzies Flat. No faclities at Grahams Dam.
Entrance fee: None
Water clarity: Clear
Under foot: Loose stones and pebbles
Sun shade: Shade available out of the water at MacKenzies Flat. Limited to no shade at Grahams Dam.
Opening times: Always open. May be closed during extreme weather conditions (e.g. for fire safety)
Water temperature, maximum water depth, minimum swimming proficiency required, and prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: Order the full guide
Wheelchair access: MacKenzies Flat possibly with assistance. No wheelchair access to Grahams Dam.
Accommodation Options: No camping is permitted at MacKenzie Flat or Grahams Dam. Bush camping is available further upstream in the conservation zone (but no solid fuel fires permitted) and at O'Briens Crossing, which is a full day's walk from Grahams Dam. Alternatively, if you don't want to camp and are staying overnight in the area you can try accommodation in nearby Bacchus Marsh or Gisborne.
Managing authority: Parks Victoria
Nearby attractions: Bushwalks in the State Forest, or for a swim you can try Pykes Creek Reservoir, 10 km to the west as the crow flies.
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the location of the car park at MacKenzies Flat.
Change of Conditions:
I am not currently aware of any change of conditions reported at this site by the managing authority, or by swimmers on this website. If you are visiting this swimming spot and have any further updates on any change of conditions, let me know via the comment form below.
Comments:
Here is one quick personal account of swimming in the Lerderderg River that illustrates how it has long been a popular place for a swim:

"I was a very small child 70 years ago when I was at this place to paddle. The cows would come through to the water also. I spent my childhood there." - R. Goerges, Sydney 14/01/2017

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.