At Cotter Campground, from your camping spot at the top of the hill you can roll out of your tent, roll down the hill,
roll across the narrow grassy floodplain, and then roll into the water. Don't forget to unzip yourself from your sleeping
bag on the last few turns before you hit the water. This is a fantastic little camping spot for swimmers, located right next
a shallow weir pool on the Cotter River.
Above: The tranquil weir pool at Cotter Campground
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I spent my time at the downstream weir pool, where the water was surprisingly shallow. During low flow conditions you can walk out into the middle
of the river along the flat concrete wall that sits just above the water level. Here you can sit yourself down in the rushing water on the weir crest,
or in the calmer, shallow water just above it.
You can also dangle your feet in the water from the steel fishway that protrudes upstream into the weir pool, and check through the
grill to see if there are any travellers on it.
Above: Sparkling riffles running off the weir wall at Cotter Campground
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There are lots of submerged rocks in the area upstream of the weir pool, but the visibility in the water during summer is usually good enough
to see and avoid them. If you have an inflatable, you can wander up to the footbridge at the other end of the campsite and float downstream to the
weir. There are a few deeper holes along the way, but you will be able to stand up and exit the river if you can steer yourself over to the concrete
walkway, just before you reach the weir.
If you are coming on a busy summer weekend, there's not a lot of room for casual parking here and the limited number of campsites are usually
very hot property, so have a backup plan for your swim at one of the other swimming holes nearby. If it is busy, you can also park upstream at Cotter
Bend where there a more spaces, and either swim there, or walk 400 metres downstream along the track beside the river to reach Cotter Campground.
Other Information Before You Go:
Cotter Road, Stromlo, ACT, 24 km (approx. 25 min. drive) west of Canberra Central.
From parliament house, head west along Adelaide Avenue / Cotter Road. Cotter Campground
is on your left, just after you cross the Murrumbidgee River.
Car park, toilets, showers, washing up sink, electric and wood barbecues (BYO wood),
picnic tables, sheltered picnic tables, campground, drinking water, walking trail, public telephone, rubbish hopper
Clear to cloudy
Sand, rock, concrete
Maximum water depth:
Suggested minimum swimming proficiency required:
Beginners (under supervision, during low flow conditions)
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog:
No dogs, no pets, no generators, no collecting firewood, no
camping on the grassy floodplain, no diving in the water, no loud music after 10pm, no drinking parties, no taking of native
plants or animals, light fires only in fireplaces provided, maximum stay is 2 weeks. Fishing is permitted.
Shade available out of the water. Limited shade available in the water from overhanging trees.
Wheelchair accessible paths and toilet, but I didn't see a wheelchair accessible path down to the weir
There are 50 unpowered sites at Cotter Campground, which you can read about on the
ACT government website
. These are available on a first come, first served
basis and you can't book a site. There is a notional cost per night ($12 at the time of writing) with a maximum of two weeks' stay.
Alternatively, if you are staying overnight in Canberra and don't want to camp, you can try
accommodation in Canberra
with areas around Yarralumla, Deakin, Forrest, Curtin and Barton being some of the suburbs closer to this swimming spot. This spot is
within easy reach of the city for a half-day trip.
Nearby attractions: Murrumbidgee River at Casuarina Sands
, which is a few hundred metres
downstream by road or inflatable.
Before you head out, make sure to read the
swimming safety information
and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions. Specific to this site, the managing authority advises that there are
strong currents and submerged rocks, and diving into the water is prohibited. 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.).
The marker indicates the approximate location of the weir at Cotter Campground.
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 conditions, etc.
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© Brad Neal 2019. All rights reserved.