Boating on enclosed waters

How to prepare for safe boating on rivers, lakes and other enclosed waterways in NSW. Plan ahead for local conditions and hazards.

About enclosed waters

Enclosed waters are navigable waters enclosed by land or a port. They include:

  • inland and coastal rivers and lakes – for example, the Hawkesbury River, Tweed River, Lake Macquarie and Wallis Lake
  • creeks and lagoons – for example, Pipers Creek and Glenbrook Lagoon
  • enclosed coastal bays, ports and harbours – for example, Sydney Harbour, Pittwater, Port Macquarie and Jervis Bay
  • estuaries – for example, Brisbane Water and Terranora Broadwater
  • dams – for example, Chaffey Dam and Wyangala Dam
  • all alpine waters.

Enclosed waters can be dangerous, even when they appear calm.

Low water temperatures, shallow areas, strong currents and remote locations increase risk.

Check your safety equipment

Make sure you have the right safety equipment for your vessel for enclosed waters.

Familiarise yourself with the area

Use maps and, where possible, talk to people who know the waterway. They may have valuable local knowledge about currents, water depth and hazards.

Check currents

Strong currents in major rivers and creeks can flow quickly. This can restrict the manoeuvrability of your vessel and reduce your ability to avoid hazards. Smaller vessels, such as canoes, can more easily hit rocks or trees. Take extra care after heavy rain or flooding when currents can be stronger.

Keep in touch

If you're travelling to a remote location, let someone know where you're going.

Reception can be unreliable on remote waterways. It's recommended that you have a minimum of 2 means of communication, for example, a marine radio and a mobile phone.

Keep a proper lookout

Enclosed waters can be murky and hide hazards, such as submerged trees, rocks and other snags.

If you're unsure about an area, reduce your speed and use your depth finder, if you have one. You may need to slow down to keep a proper lookout

In rivers and estuaries be aware that shallow areas may not be marked and can shift. Take extra care. Keep a lookout for objects ahead, as well as those above, such as overhead powerlines and low bridges. Look out for other vessels and swimmers.

Enclosed waters at popular locations can be very busy. Be aware of blind spots created by river bends or shoreline features.

Take extra care on dams

Avoid spillways or any other areas where water may be released. The water can be dangerously fast-moving and turbulent.

Take care when launching and retrieving your vessel on the shore. If the shore is soft, your vehicle can get bogged.

Take extra care in windy conditions. The surface of the water in shallow dams can become extremely rough. Waves can be short and steep, and as high as those in coastal areas. Check wave conditions before you go – see Wave heights.

Beware of cold water

Beware of lower water temperatures in lakes, rivers and dams. These low temperatures can happen in alpine waters all year round, and on most NSW waterways in winter and parts of spring and autumn.

Take extra care in narrow channels

Be careful at bends and always keep to starboard (right) in narrow channels. Avoid anchoring or fishing where you may obstruct other vessels.

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