Look but don't touch: Why you shouldn't swim at these spots
THERE are many beautiful waterholes on the Northern Rivers, and while they might look great for a swim some should be admired from a distance.
Come here to be impressed, not to undress to your budgie smugglers, because despite being totally awe-inspiring, these waterholes have warning signs up for good reason.
Some are dangerous with accidents and deaths tallied, while others are host to precious and endangered species that things such as sunscreen, sweat and other substances could seriously impact.
1. Protestors Falls
Nestled in the rugged ranges of Nightcap National Park, World Heritage-listed Protestors Falls walking track leads through magnificent rainforest to a spectacular waterfall.
Named after the Terania Creek protests of the late 1970s that saved this precious patch of pristine rainforest, it's an important habitat for a range of endangered frogs, including the threatened Fleay's barred frog and pouched frog, which is why you shouldn't swim here.
Threats not only include habitat disturbance and trampling resulting from human visitation, but the pollution of bodily fluids (sweat), sunscreens, soaps and other lotions that come in contact with the water.
It's safe to say washing your hair or body with soap is a big no-no here.
2. Bexhill Quarry
Bexhill Quarry is another popular swimming hole but the quality of water over the years has been questionable -at times tests revealed the water was almost as acidic as vinegar.
But the most recent tests from a water testing expert says he would "not have a problem" taking a dip in the Bexhill Quarry after samples last year revealed it was very close to meeting Australian and New Zealand recreational water guidelines.
The enticing turquoise blue lake has long been a popular place for swimmers but until then was considered potentially dangerous due to its acidity levels.
But the latest testing from the Environmental Analysis Laboratory at Southern Cross University has revealed the waterhole is only marginally acidic - and certainly not dangerously so.
It is also worthwhile noting the quarry waterhole is fenced off, access only gained through a hole made in the enclosure. The cliffs skirting one side of the waterhole are said to be unstable.
3. Riley's Hill Quarry
Rileys Hill Quarry swimming hole near Broadwater was fenced off to the public after the Department of Primary Industries deemed it unsafe.
4. Tosha Falls
Tosha Falls has been a popular spot for Alstonville locals and visitors for more than one hundred years. It was completely surrounded by private land until the 1970s when council acquired land near the falls and 20 metre easements for pedestrian access were imposed on adjacent land along the banks of Maguires Creek. The site is associated with a history of trespass, privacy issues and vandalism arising from attempts to gain access to it via surrounding private property.
5. Dalwood Falls
Sadly, there have been a number of deaths and serious injuries including spinal injuries due to rock-jumping activities at these falls.
Ballina Shire Council had undertaken measures - including signs warning of the waterfall's multiple fatalities - to try to deter swimmers.
This has included signs warning entry to the waterhole was "prohibited due to high risk" due to "multiple fatalities and injuries" and large "no entry" signs.
6. Hanging Rock Falls
You also need to exercise caution at Hanging Rock Falls at Wadeville, north west of Nimbin.
Three people have died at the falls in the past decade, with numerous other reports of injuries.
Vertical cliffs and underwater rock ledges make the waterhole a treacherous place to swim.
Additional signs warning visitors of the dangers of swimming at Hanging Rock Falls were installed after an incident in 2015.
7. Lake Ainsworth
While Lake Ainsworth is usually a safe spot to swim, check its condition, and obey all signs before taking a dip in the tea tree lake.
The lake can suffer from blue green algae blooms, unsafe to swim in. It is well signed when there is a health risk, and you should obey the directive.
You shouldn't wear sunscreen in the lake.
While these spots have identified issues, whether it be a creek, a dam or the beach, swimming anywhere can be dangerous if you're not careful.
Obey signs, follow directions and swim between the flags and you're in for a great day.