Safety in ACT Parks and Reserves
We want you to enjoy the bush on your doorstep in Canberra's parks and reserves safely. Parks and reserves are natural environments that can be unpredictable. For your safety and to reduce risks and ensure everyone enjoys this place, read our tips.
Always be aware of the current weather conditions
Check the Bureau of Meteorology website for up-to-date information and be prepared for changes in the weather conditions.
Be sun smart
Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen when outdoors. Consider wearing a long sleeved shirt and pants. Always carry enough water for the length of your outing/trip.
Be prepared for changes in weather conditions
During the cooler months the weather can change very fast. Carry extra warm clothing and rain wear.
Be aware of the risks associated with bushfires
Understand that some parks and reserves will be closed, or have reduced access, in the event of a total fire ban. See more information on total fire bans in the ACT at our bushfire management page and www.esa.act.gov.au.
Leave no trace of your visit
Take your rubbish home. Any rubbish in the bush is a hazard to other visitors and can contaminate waterways and injure wildlife.
Consider other park users, the animals and plant ecosystems that call the reserve home. Antisocial behaviour can cause harm to oneself and to the surrounding environment.
Research your trip
Choose walks and activities that match your abilities, fitness and stamina as well as those in your party. Use up-to-date maps.
Plan ahead and prepare
Check the weather forecast.
Be sun smart
Consider wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants to avoid sunburn and minimise the risk from a snake bite. Plan your trip for the cooler times of the day in summer and avoid total fire ban days.
Be prepared for extreme cold conditions
The weather can change very fast in the cooler months. Be sure to pack warm clothes and extra food and water should you get stuck on your trip.
Avoid the risk of getting lost by keeping to marked tracks
Tell someone where and when you are going and when you expect to return.
On shared trails walkers and cyclists must give way to horses. Cyclists, please give way to walkers and horses.
Avoid navigational confusion
Carry - and know how to use - a map and compass and/or GPS. Do not only rely on a GPS device as it may not work in dense bush or where satellite signals may be temporarily blocked. If you do not know how to use a map and compass, consider going with an experienced bushwalker or bushwalking club.
Always boil water from creeks and tanks before drinking.
Follow these tips for a safe camping trip:
- camp in designated campsites or on durable surfaces.
- be considerate of other campers
- look up! Avoid camping under dead limbs or trees or stressed trees that may drop branches.
- minimise camp fire impacts:
- Fires may only be lit in approved barbecues or fireplaces and only when there is no total fire ban.
- Where fires are allowed in campgrounds, bring your own wood. Collection of fire wood in parks and reserves is prohibited as it destroys wildlife habitat.
- Keep your fire small, never leave it unattended and be sure to fully extinguish it with water before you leave.
- On days of total fire ban, no barbecues or fires are permitted, including fires in barbecues and approved fireplaces. All gas and electric barbecues will be turned off. (with the exception of those in the Cotter recreation precinct with a continuous supply of water).
- For more information on where you can camp go to our camping areas guide.
Be fire aware
Check weather conditions and fire danger ratings in the area you are visiting.
For up-to-date information on fire danger ratings see the ACT Emergency Service Agency website.
For the latest weather conditions go to the Bureau of Meteorology website.
Smoke from bushfires and prescribed burning activities can be a trigger for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Asthma Australia has information and tips to help keep you safe from the affects of smoke.
Do not enter parks or reserves:
- on days of extreme or catastrophic fire danger ratings
- on days of declared total fire bans
- during bushfires.
If you are already in a park then think seriously about leaving.
Report all bushfires to 000 and leave the area immediately.
Alpine safety and in remote areas
All alpine areas in the ACT are remote. Prepare your trip with the awareness that conditions can change unexpectedly.
Stay on the tracks to minimise your impact on the natural environment. Subalpine sphagnum bogs are important in this ecosystem and particularly fragile and sensitive to trampling.
Roads in remote areas are usually narrow, gravel roads. Practise caution particularly with oncoming traffic, ice on the road and wildlife.
Carry a personal locator beacon in preparation for a possible emergency.
Some areas of the ACT have limited or no mobile phone reception. If you are venturing into these areas or are unsure, be prepared with an alternative communication device such as an emergency beacon or personal locator beacon in case of an emergency.
River and lake safety
Stay safe in Canberra’s waterways with these tips:
- Check the swimming conditions signs located at each recreation area.
- Do not enter the water if signs advise that conditions or water quality are unsafe.
- Watch the flow! Shallow moving water is stronger than you think.
- Never drive through floodwaters.
- Always supervise children carefully whenever they are in or near the water.
- Never dive into any part of the river because there may be rocks or submerged trees.
- Leave no trace of your visit by taking your rubbish home. Any rubbish in the bush is a hazard to wildlife, other visitors and also contaminates our waterways.
- Want to walk your dog? Avoid disappointment, check ACTmapi to determine if dogs are permitted at your destination.
- If you encounter a snake, keep a safe distance and do not threaten it. Alert nearby park users to its location. Find out more on snake safety tips
- Let the wildlife stay wild – please do not feed them. Native animals may become sick or die of disease as a result of eating human food. They may see humans as a source of food which may lead to behaviours that will harm them or you.
- Be aware of wild dogs in the remote areas of our parks and reserves. Walk in groups and do not run from a wild dog if it comes close. If threatened by a wild dog, face the animal and calmly back away. See the Australian Alps Wild Dogs fact sheet for more information.
- Be aware of European Wasps. Nests can be reported to Access Canberra on 13 22 81.
- During spring, avoid swooping magpies by taking an alternative route. Find out more on swooping birds.
- Ticks have been found in the ACT region. They carry germs that affect people and other animals. If you find a tick on you after a day in the bush, seek advice for tick removal. For more information visit the Department of Health website.
- Slow down when driving between dusk and dawn. Wildlife are awake and travelling too.
Pet safety in dog-friendly reserves
Keep your dog on a leash:
- In reserves where dogs are allowed. Leave your pets at home when visiting reserves where pets are not allowed. Refer to the City Services for information about dog-friendly recreation areas.
- To protect your dog from wildlife and the wildlife from your dog.
- To avoid any accidental poisoning from baiting. Baiting for feral animal control occurs in many reserves.
Pick up your dog's droppings
Dog droppings can carry parasites that are a health hazard to local wildlife.
Invasive introduced diseases, pests and weeds threaten our ecosystems, parks and reserves. You can help reduce the threat of these to our reserves by following easy biosecurity protocols: Check—Clean—Disinfect—Dry.
Check your gear thoroughly, especially footwear and clothing for mud, algae or any other plant material. Check your gear before you leave home and after your trip.
Clean your gear before entering a park or reserve. Remove all debris, especially plant seeds and soil on footwear, clothing, bicycles as well as algae and mud on fishing and camping gear.
Disinfect when entering a fragile ecosystem. Take extra precautions by disinfecting your gear with a mix of methylated spirits and water in a spray bottle to kill pathogens.
Dry all your gear before entering a park or reserve to deprive pathogens of the moisture they need to survive. This is especially important with water-related activities.
Pine plantations safety
If entering an ACT pine plantation, it is important to be aware that they are working plantations. You are responsible for your own safety and of those in your care.
Entry to forests may be restricted due to safety, operational requirements, conservation or fire danger.
Do not enter harvesting sites. Public Safety risks occur when unauthorised people enter these exclusion zones.
Obey all signage in ACT Forests. There is a 40km/h speed limit, unless otherwise signposted, on all unsealed gravel roads.
Be aware of log trucks, pull over and give way to them. If possible, use a UHF to make radio contact with the worksite, let them know you are using the road.