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River and lake safety

There are lots of fantastic places to explore in our national parks, including campgrounds that are on or near a river, lake or lagoon. The aquatic environment around rivers, lakes and lagoons can be unpredictable so please take note of these safety tips.

Read more about River and lake safety

Check the water conditions

  • Beware of fast flowing water, submerged objects and deep water.
  • Ask someone who is familiar with the area.
  • Watch water levels in rivers and dams as they can rise suddenly due to water releases from reservoirs and after heavy rainfall.
  • Beware of slippery banks or paths near waterfalls.


  • Always check the water depth before entering.
  • Never swim alone–make sure that someone else is there to provide or get help.
  • If you are caught in a rip or current, float on your back and travel downstream.
  • If you get into trouble in the water, stay calm. Signal for help, then float and wait for help. Float with a current or undertow if in a river.
  • If you feel cold in the water, get out as quickly as you can.
  • If someone needs help in the water, stay dry and reach out to them with a stick or throw a rope.

Blue-green algae

In some parks, high levels of blue-green algae can occur in lake systems under certain conditions. Please avoid direct contact with blue-green algae in the water and as surface scum. Warning signs will be displayed when algae levels in the lakes are high. Algae can exist in the shallow muddy bays and sediment disturbance in these areas should be avoided at all times.

Kayaking in Nelson lagoon, Mimosa Rocks National Park. Photo: David Finnegan