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Hazelwood Pondage, Morwell
Swimming Hole Heaven in Victoria


 

Swimmer's alert: Hazelwood Pondage has been temporarily closed to public access since June 2018 due to dam wall safety issues, as reported in The Age 2/6/18.
This may be the site of Australia’s “dirtiest” power station, but the carbon counters cannot deny that up until the power plant's closure in 2017, it was also the only large scale, public, outdoor warm water recreational venue in Victoria. The water in the pondage was kept at a very pleasant 22 degrees celcius all year round by circulating through the power station to cool the plant. That meant you could even swim here in mid-winter. Swimming in Hazelwood Pondage at Yallourn Above: Steam rising from the pondage (Order this image, photo gifts or prints)

After the plant was closed, groundwater was still being pumped into the lake from the base of the coal mine, which kept a narrow section of the lake warm. Unfortunately this section of warm water was inaccessible to swimmers. Prior to June 2018, you could still swim in the pondage, but without the warth, this brown and murky water was much less appealing than it once was. Prior to shutting down the power plant in early 2017, the warm water 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.

Here is a video that I took of a swim at Hazelwood Pondage on a chilly day in mid-winter, which is now destined for the annals of history. On that particular day, I was the only one silly enough to get into the water and was pleasantly surprised.



As far as I am aware, the temporary closure of the pondage to the public has not yet been made permanent, and I have not seen a timeframe for either restoring access or permanently closing access to the pondage.
Other Information Before You Go:
Note: The following information is provided for historical reference only whilst the pondage is closed to the public.

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: Previously warm, now mild to cool.
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 near this lake.
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 and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions.
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 began shutting down in March 2017. The future of the pondage is unclear, but it is possible that the mine void itself might be turned into a recreational lake. It is unknown whether this would involve swimming, or just passive recreation.

Barramundi were stocked in Hazelwood Pondage in 2016 as part of a plan to encourage recreational fishing at the pondage. This decision was made before the announcement that the power plant would close. 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. Media reports in mid-2017 indicated that large numbers of fish perished when the weather turned cold in the winter of that year, but most survived by moving towards the channel where the warm groundwater is still being pumped into the lake. 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.

Thanks to Lu from Churchill for alerting me to the temporary closure of the pondage in 2018.

If you have any further updates on any change of conditions, let me know via the comment form below.
Comments:
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 if you swam here prior to the closure. I received a range of great questions leading up to the power plant closure, which I responded to and published, but have since removed given that closure has now occurred. All fields are required if you would like your comments published on this website.

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