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Lerderderg Gorge at Grahams Dam
Swimming Hole Heaven in Melbourne

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. Swimming in the Lerderderg River at Grahams Dam Above: Lerderderg River at Grahams Dam (Order this image)

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.

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. Swimming in the Lerderderg River at Grahams Dam Above: The first river crossing at Mackenzies Flat (Order this image)

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.

Other 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.
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. If the Lerderderg River is dry, it is likely you can still swim in the Lerderderg State Park at Shaws Lake, 20 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 approximate location of the car park at MacKenzies Flat. If the map is not zoomed in locally, as can occur with some browsers, simply click or tap on "View Larger Map" below.
View Larger Map
Here are some personal accounts of swimming in the Lerderderg River that illustrates how it has long been a popular place for a swim:

"I was a young adult when visiting some 53 years ago. My family lived in the Western suburbs. Mum, Dad, all of us older kids with our fiancees, girl and boyfriends, the younger ones with a friend or two. It was our favourite spot to go for many happy summer weekends, and after work picnics, on warm summer nights. We would swim, walk the river, picnic and just enjoy being together in this beautiful natural setting. There were not a lot of people around then late 1960s, only a handful, and it was quiet and peaceful. Felt like our own little piece of paradise. Many happy memories." - C. Hobday 27/10/2021

"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

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