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November 2011 Issue
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Making waves – Swimming Holes and Waterfalls

Back country waterfall and swimming hole – unbeatable on a hot day

Bombs, pins, teapots and belly busters: all are recognised as suitable water entry methods by kids (and adults). Often tucked away on farmland or streams and rivers in the bush, there’s nothing finer than cooling off in a backcountry swimming hole or waterfall during a tramp on a hot day.

If you need to cross a river along the way, the basic safety principles still apply. Water speed, depth, exit points and alternative routes all need to be considered.

But now you’ve reached your spot and you’re standing at the top of the falls above the swimming hole. Fresh water in a backcountry pool is often dark and tannin stained, making the bottom difficult to see.

Before diving in, head to the water’s edge to check for submerged objects that could be potential hazards. Swim out from the side, feeling with your feet, and dive down to touch the bottom. Or, using the old Mark Twain method to calculate water depth, tie a rock to the end of a piece of rope and lower it into the water until it touches the bottom.

If the water is silty, take extra care as rocks, trees and branches might have been carried downstream in a storm to become lodged where you intend to dive.

Consider the current to make sure that you won’t be carried off, and look for exit points further downstream in case you are.

Check for and avoid turbulence and undercurrents at the base of waterfalls that could drag you under – and hold you there.

Supervise small children at all times and take plenty of dry clothes.

Paul King