Victoria’s much-loved Buchan Caves’ cold water pool has reopened after three years of closure.
Known for its icy cave spring water, the historic pool was closed in 2019, when it was deemed to no longer meet modern health standards for water flow and quality.
Shortly after the closure, the Black Summer bushfires destroyed most of the campground and cave visitor facilities. Reopening the pool became part of a wider $2 million plan to rebuild the devastated area.
On Krauatungalung Country, the caves and reserve are a site of great cultural significance for the Gunaikurnai people, who jointly manage the site with Parks Victoria.
“The pool is one of several major reconstruction and reopening projects at Buchan Caves following the bushfire. Fortunately thanks to a lot of hard work with Gunaikurnai and our partner agencies we’ve been able to fully reopen the reserve,” Parks Victoria’s senior commercial manager, Vic Purdue, explains.
Since the pool closed, rangers have monitored its water quality while continuing with the rebuild and reopening works.
After the heavy rains in spring and early summer this year (2022/23), testing has found the flow and water quality is high enough to reopen the pool.
“The storms and flood have had a massive impact on the caves’ water quality,” says Vic Purdue.
“Provided the water flow remains high enough, the pool can reopen.”
A reopening plan has been approved which will see daily water monitoring to ensure the flow of water into the pool remains high enough to keep it fresh. Weekly tests for e-coli, a bacteria which can cause life-threatening illness in children and older people, will also be carried out.
“We’ll keep the community and visitors to the park informed about the testing results – if the water quality or flow does deteriorate, we may need to close the pool again. In the longer term we will need to develop a way to keep the pool water safe no matter how much rain there has been.”
Australia’s largest known cave system, Buchan has almost 30,000 years of history.
For Gunaikurnai, the caves were an important place to camp and meet during seasonal migrations to and from the high country.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, European settlers explored the cave system, and the area became a tourist destination. The 295-hectare reserve surrounding the caves was first set aside as public land in 1901.
Today, the Buchan Caves Reserve is a significant tourist attraction in East Gippsland offering guided cave tours, camping, walking tracks and picnicking facilities, and attracts more than 140,000 visitors annually.
The pool itself was built in 1938 to cater for visitors and holds up to 215,000 litres of water. It’s long been a popular feature, allowing visitors – and Buchan locals – to cool off on hot summer days.
“The entire reserve, including the pool, is heritage-listed, so we’ve been working with Heritage Victoria to make sure the long-term solution is in keeping with its values,” says Mr Purdue.
“As things stand we were very pleased to reopen the pool for the Easter holidays.”