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Tharwa Bridge
Murrumbidgee River, Tharwa ACT


 
The Murrumbidgee River spreads out quite wide at this natural ford underneath Tharwa Bridge. For swimmers this creates a long section of shallow water to plonk yourself down in, or for splashing about on a hot day. The tall bridge provides shade over the water, even in the middle of the day, so it's a well protected swimming spot for those who burn easily in the sun. Step off the small beach on the downstream side of the bridge, and walk directly out into the shallow water. The river is split either side of the central pylon, with slightly deeper water behind a small rock wall on the opposite side of the river. Swimming in the Murrumbidgee River at Tharwa Bridge Above: The small beach on the downstream side of the bridge (Order gifts or prints of this image)

To reach the swimming spot you need to walk about 70 metres from the car park with your gear. It's all downhill along a mown lawn that is wide enough for ball games or a frisbee.
I also ventured a couple of hundred metres downstream along the gravel road that runs parallel to the river, but access to the water was generally not as good and there is no formal car parking apart from the turning loops.

The bridge is quite long and tall, and because it only has a single lane, the traffic crawls across it. This means that the noise from cars passing over the bridge is very low, and doesn't detract from the swim, even with a regular flow of traffic. Swimming in the Murrumbidgee River at Tharwa Bridge Above: Looking down to the water along the length of the bridge from the car park (Order gifts or prints of this image)

Conditions here can change dramatically in wet weather, and when you look up at the bridge from below, remember that the deck of the bridge is set just above the highest flood level on record, when the river would have been well over a hundred metres wide. According to information boards on site, prior to the bridge being built, several people drowned in wet weather trying to cross the river at this natural ford. The bridge was regarded as so important, that a public holiday was even declared for its opening in 1895, making it both the oldest and most celebrated bridge in the ACT.
Essential Information Before You Go:
Location: Tharwa Bridge Recreation Area, Tharwa Drive, Tharwa ACT, 35 km (approx. 30-40 min. drive) south of Canberra Central.
Latitude:-35.508891 Longitude:149.069857
Getting there: From Canberra head south along the Monaro Hwy / Tharwa Dr, Tuggeranong Pkwy or Yamba Dr to the suburb of Gordon. From Gordon head south along Tharwa Dr. Turn hard right into the gravel road immediately after crossing the Murrumbidgee River bridge and then immediately right again to reach the little car park underneath the bridge. The river is about a 70 metre walk downhill from the car park.
Facilities: Car park, picnic tables, toilets, powered barbecues. No bins are provided, so take your rubbish home with you.
Entrance fee: None
Water temperature: Mild
Water clarity: Clear
Under foot: Sand, rock
Maximum water depth: Less than 1 metre (noting that sands can shift around in the vicinity of bridge pylons, possibly creating deeper holes after floods)
Suggested minimum swimming proficiency required: Beginners (under supervision) during low flow conditions, experienced swimmers only at other times.
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: No dogs, no camping. Collection of standing or fallen timber is illegal.
Sun shade: Shade available under the bridge in and out of the water. Shade available in the picnic area as well.
Opening times: Always open
Wheelchair access: None
Accommodation Options: No camping is permitted at Tharwa Bridge. Tharwa Bridge is within easy reach of Canberra for a half-day trip. If you are visiting Canberra and want to have better access to this swimming spot, you can try accommodation in Greenway (Tuggeranong), which is the closest of Canberra's commercial centres to this swimming hole.
Managing authority: ACT Government
Nearby attractions: Tharwa Sandwash, which is roughly 3 km upstream in the Gigerline Nature Reserve.
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information. The managing authority provides general advice on site about swimming in the ACT's rivers that there are strong currents, shallow water, submerged objects, deep water, slippery and uneven ground, steep banks and snakes. The managing authority also advises that mobile phone reception is not reliable throughout the Murrumbidgee River corridor, so do not depend on your phone for safety or directions.

Water quality in the Canberra area can sometimes be unsuitable for swimming. For regular updates on whether the water quality at this site is suitable for swimming, see the ACT Government's water quality alerts. Signs on site indicate when the river is closed for swimming due to poor water quality. As a general rule, don't plan to swim here after rain because the river may be closed to swimming due to agricultural runoff from upstream areas (i.e. animal faeces, fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, etc.).
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the approximate location of the car park at Tharwa Bridge.
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:
If you would like to leave a comment about this swimming spot, please fill in the comment box below. I'm particularly interested in your experiences after visiting, and any changes in swimming conditions. Make sure you let me know whether you consent to having your comments published on this website.

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