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Ovens River at Nimmo Bridge
Swimming Hole Heaven in Victoria

A long, diagonal chute of water cuts through a layer of jagged bedrock before gushing out into a deep hole in the Ovens River. The river then opens out into a wide and more tranquil pool for swimming. This spot is fairly unique for swimming along this stretch of river for a few reasons, all of which are related to the presence of the large rock bar upstream. Swimming in the Ovens River at Nimmo Bridge Above: The pool in the Ovens River at Nimmo Bridge (Order this image)

According to information boards on-site and a 2016 article published in the Myrtleford Times, a barge operating in the area in the early 20th century worked its way up the Ovens River, dredging the river bed for gold. Unfortunately when digging upstream of Nimmo Bridge, it hit the rock bar in the river and sank.
It was only in 1998 that parts of the buried barge were re-discovered, and then removed from the river in 2016 as part of the development of Nimmo Bridge Reserve.

Why is this gold mining history important for this swimming hole? In the water there is a deep hole immediately downstream of the rock bar, where the barge would have last been operating. Elsewhere in the Ovens River, these holes are normally re-filled with discarded river gravel as the barge moves upstream. But because the barge never made its way any further upstream, the big hole remained, creating a great spot for a swim. The pool is around thirty metres in diameter, and when swimming against the main current, you can swim endlessly at a reasonable pace. Swimming in the Ovens River at Nimmo Bridge Above: The cutting through the bedrock in the Ovens River at Nimmo Bridge (Order this image)

I also played around in the chute running through the rock bar upstream. The water rushes through quite swiftly, but when I visited in mid summer after a few weeks of dry weather, I could stand up against the current in the shallower parts of the chute without being washed off my feet. The rocks are sharp in parts, and there are holes in the base of the chute. The last little outcrop before dropping into the pool was a bit rough when sliding over it in the water, but immediately below that there were relatively few obstacles and it was a good launching spot for drifting downstream.

Out of the water, there is a little beach that receives shade late from mid-afternoon. There are picnic tables here, but away from the river where it is dry and dusty.
If you are wanting to have a picnic after your swim, the Apex Park downstream of Nimmo Bridge, on the other side of Buffalo River Road, has better facilities. Nimmo Bridge Reserve is also popular with people taking their dogs for a swim.

Here is a video of my swim at Nimmo Bridge, which was filmed in January after a fairly dry spring and early summer. Whilst I wore a wetsuit, the water temperature was quite mild, and I could happily have swum without it at this time of year.

Other Information Before You Go:
Location: Nimmo Bridge Reserve, Buffalo River Rd, Myrtleford, 300 km (approx. 3 hr 15 mins drive) north east of the Melbourne CBD
Latitude:-36.569895 Longitude:146.717806
Getting there: Take the Hume Fwy (M31) to Wangaratta then the Great Alpine Road (B500) to Myrtleford. In Myrtleford, head south-west along the Buffalo River Rd for 1.2 km. Nimmo Bridge Reserve is on your left immediately after crossing the Ovens River.
Facilities: Car park, picnic tables, rubbish bins, heritage information board.

Entrance fee: None
Water temperature: Mild to cold
Water clarity: Clear
Under foot: Rock, pebbles and coarse sand
Maximum water depth: Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required: Experienced. Inexperienced swimmers can wade in the shallows under supervision, under low flow conditions.
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: Camping is not permitted. Dogs are permitted.
Sun shade: Shade available out of the water
Opening times: Always open
Wheelchair access: Yes to the car park and river bank, but no wheelchair access down to the water.
Managing authority: Alpine Shire Council
Nearby attractions: Swimming in Lake Buffalo further along the Buffalo River Road.
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 in the reserve. 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 is one swimmer's recollection of swimming at Nimmo Bridge in the past:

"This was our favourite swimming hole in the early to mid sixties, when the Myrtleford pool was either unfiltered, closed, or both. The water in the river was crystal clear. There used to be a jumping board on the southern bank. It was a lot of fun until someone pushed Doug L. off while I was still in the water beneath. I was lucky to get out of that without a broken neck! Many great days and evenings were spent at that swimming hole. We didn't like the summer downpours, however. Then the fast-flowing river would turn a muddy brown that usually took a couple of days to clear. Great memories!" - R. Martin, Melbourne, Australia 22/7/2023

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