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.
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.
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:
Lerderderg Gorge Road, Lerderderg State Park, 65 km (approx. 1 hour drive) west of the Melbourne CBD.
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.
Toilets, tables, bbqs, lawns, parking at MacKenzies Flat. No faclities at Grahams Dam.
Loose stones and pebbles
Shade available out of the water at MacKenzies Flat. Limited to no shade at Grahams Dam.
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
MacKenzies Flat possibly with assistance. No wheelchair access to Grahams Dam.
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 want to stay overnight
in the area you can try the nearby accommodation options below, with Bacchus Marsh the nearest town centre.
All distances below to MacKenzies Flat are by road, not as the crow flies.
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.
The marker indicates the location of the car park at MacKenzies Flat.
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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experiences after visiting, and any changes in swimming conditions. All fields are required if you would like your comments published on this website.
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