Clarence Dam: Wild Swimming In The Blue Mountains

Clarence Dam Blue Mountains huge rocks
Clarence Dam’s famous jump rocks. People jump from the small rock in the centre and also from the tall cliffs. Brave or foolish? Maybe both.

Do you like taking the family to explore wild places, swimming in rivers and lakes or ocean swimming as you go? If you are an adventurous family you will love a visit to Clarence Dam, near Bell in the upper Blue Mountains.

This large open stretch of water has huge rocks for leaping from, plus rope swimgs set above the water, one is very very high and really very thrilling, also dangerous, of course.

Now when I visited, I have to let you know that I saw a brown snake, so between the rocks, the ropes swings and the wildlife Clarence Dam is not for the faint-hearted. It also has a dirt track for about the last kilometres of the journey, so you do need a car that can handle that.

Clarence Dam wide shot from track
Look on the left side to see a small figure standing by a tree, and you’ll see a long rope swinging out from it – wow!
 
 
 

Built as dams to store water for steam trains, these are not natural swimming holes, but they are surrounded by beautiful bush, gum trees and tea trees stand tall around the water’s edges, in this reserve which is loved by locals, climbers and bush walkers. Read more about Dargan Creek Reserve and its volunteer carers here.

Clarence Dam is not easy to find, however once you park, it is only a 500m or so walk down a track to the water. You will find all the info on how to find it with a map down below.

Here’s the track with people walking down to the water.
Clarence Dam seen from above
This is the area where most people swim, however you can bush bash all around the water if you prefer to make a quieter picnic spot for yourself.

Clarence dam blue mountains man swimming far off
Yes, the water really was this murky brown on the day I visited, but it’s fine to swim in.
Clarence Dam rope swing
Here is a shorter and lower rope swing, at the spot where most people set up their rugs and eskies
 
 
 

There really is heaps of space to swim around at the dam, which curves around and goes a long way back. Most people come here to play but you can get a decent swim in too.

swimmer's point of view at Clarence dam
Here’s a swimmer’s eye view of the flat area where the track ends.
Clarence Dam islands seen from water
The side of the main jump rocks, which I did not dare jump from myself.
islands in Clarence Dam
Further alone this rocky island. It was here that a fellow swimmer and I watched a brown snake slither out of the water and up onto the rough grassy section. Eeeeek! The snake paid us no attention of course.
 
 
 

Warnings!

This Blue Mountains swimming spot can become very crowded in hot weather, especially at weekends. It is a favourite with the locals and on busy days it will feel hectic, the parking will be impossible and… it’s just not worth it. Avoid hot weekends and public holidays, mid-week is always best.

Dangerous dam weir and cliffs: beside the end of the Dam, where the track ends there are some very big plunging cliffs, as well as the dam itself. There are few fences here and it is absolutely not the place to bring any young children who might wander away, far too dangerous. These cliffs below the dam are popular with rock climbers, avoid them like the plague if you are not one!

Clarence Dam Map

Getting To Clarence Dam

This is a bit tricky, so here’s a long explanation.

Google maps can take you there but you need to use the search term Dam Cliffs, as Clarence Dam itself is not found. You will find the spot about 15km from Lithgow, on Chiffley Road which is what the Bells Line of Road becomes after the Darling Causeway turnoff. Check the map, it will make sense.

If you are driving up from the Sydney side, you pass the turn off to Mt Victoria along the Darling Causeway on the left and then, just before you go over a railway bridge, there is a turn to the left.

This is the sign, defaced somewhat, it might be replaced by the time you get there.

You are in the right place if you see this sign to Dargans Creek Reserve.

You then follow a road alongside the railway line, then you’ll see this sign to Dargan Dams and there’s now 1km of dirt track until you get to the parking areas.

I was driving my Suburu CX which is all wheel drive, my previous car, a little Toyota Yaris ,would never have got along this dirt track.

I passed one cleared area where people had parked and then parked with some other cars at the side of the track. I did not drive right down to the last parking area as the track got too rough for my car, there were only serious 4WD vehicles down there.

From the parking areas it is a sloping walk down a fairly rough track to the dam itself, with splendid views over the dams as you walk. Across on the other side of the dams you will see cars driving along Chiffley Road, the bush still thin and struggling after the horrific bushfires of December 2019.

 
 
 

So there you have it, this wild swimming gem at the top of the Bells Line of Road would make a great day trip for Sydney families, a big and very tiring day out. Or you could visit when on a weekend away in the Blue Mountains.

You do need to be careful, that goes without saying. This is an adventurous day out with many dangers, deep water being just one of them.

So would Clarence Dam work for your family?

Are you bold adventurers, or might the kids need to get a bit older before you venture there?

Here’s my favourite photo, taken in the water using a GoPro.
 
 
 

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Posted on: March 4, 2021

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