Lake Burley Griffin offers many ways to enjoy the special places on or by the water. Sailing, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and wind surfing are all great ways to get out and experience the Lake. While on the water, all users should follow some simple safety recommendations to help stay safe while keeping the Lake safe for other users at the same time.
It is important to be clearly visible while on the water. Suggested precautions are to:
Keep a proper lookout
Operate watercraft during daylight hours or adhere to the night lighting requirements for small vessels
Stay close to the shore line
Keep to the starboard (right-hand) side of your course
Adhere to lighting requirements during mornings of thick fog
Conduct a safety check before heading out
Check the latest weather forecast and plan your trip accordingly
Check your equipment is in working order
Advise friends or family of your time of departure, return and proposed route
Carry a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch
Carry sufficient drinking water and sun protection
Dress appropriately for the conditions
Use a paddle or leg leash in windy conditions where applicable
Carry a noise maker of some kind (to attract attention) attached to the watercraft so it is not lost if the craft capsizes
Do not operate any watercraft when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Cold water can be lethal
The water temperature of Lake Burley Griffin can often be extremely cold in winter. Cold water is dangerous and exposed persons can develop hypothermia quickly. The effects of cold water mean that even healthy, good swimmers can drown after a short period of time in the water. The risk of hypothermia can be exacerbated by wind chill, even in the warmer months of the year. Ways to avoid hypothermia include:
Be aware of the weather conditions and forecasts including wind speed and direction, temperatures and potential storms
Wear a well fitted life jacket
Wear a wetsuit during the colder months
Stay with your craft if you capsize to increase your chance of rescue.
Lake Burley Griffin is a wonderful asset for all to enjoy in the National Capital
With the increasing number of watercraft users, at times the Lake can be busy, with small watercraft and commercial vessels sharing the space.
An understanding of the following safety recommendations (applicable to all watercraft) will help everyone to enjoy the Lake in safety.
It is strongly recommended that you wear an approved life jacket at all times when enjoying Lake Burley Griffin.
Between sunset and sunrise a torch is a minimum requirement for small craft, but it is strongly recommended that the craft has a white light visible in every direction.
When fog, glare, smoke or darkness restrict your visibility adjust your speed accordingly.
Life buoy boxes are located in swimming areas, jetties and high-use areas. Watercraft operators are asked to take care not to damage these boxes.
Some simple things to remember:
The Lake may look calm, but conditions can change quickly. Strong winds can create choppy conditions making it dangerous for watercraft.
Be on the lookout for submerged trees and other snags, especially after periods of heavy rain. These objects can move and/or change position.
Sudden immersion in cold water is potentially dangerous. The effects of cold water mean that even healthy, good swimmers can drown after a short period of time in the water. The risk of hypothermia can be exacerbated by wind chill, even in the warmer months of the year. Wearing of life jackets, appropriate clothing and going out with a “buddy” is strongly recommended.
ACT Health advises that swimming should be avoided for several days after heavy rainfall as bacteria levels may be elevated.
It is strongly recommended that you wear an approved life jacket at all times
Check Lake Status
Check the Lake status on the Swim Guide or the free Swim Guide App.
Take great care to avoid collisions
Show lights at night and in fog
Drowning Deaths in Inland Waterways
More Australians drown in inland waterways (rivers, lakes, creeks, streams, etc) than in pools or beaches. Many drowning deaths which occur in inland waterways are preventable. In 2018/2019 there were 80 drowning deaths in these waterways (National Drowning Report 2019). Lake Burley Griffin is an inland waterway and people often experience difficulties due to the changing conditions, cold water temperatures and gusty winds. Even strong swimmers and competent craft users succumb to the effects of the elements.
Remember to exercise caution and watercraft safety when recreating on Lake Burley Griffin.