A father and his two children have spent nearly six hours clinging to a tree in pitch darkness, waiting to be rescued after their boat sunk in a lake in southern NSW.

The family's boat capsized about 6pm (AEST) on Wednesday as they were heading to shore at Lake Hume, near Albury.

The 38-year-old man, girl aged 11 and and boy, eight, managed a long swim to a tree in the water, which they clung to until until 11.30pm when rescue crews found them.

Albury police launched an emergency search around 8pm when the family of the trio called, worried they had not returned.

All three were treated for mild hypothermia.

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