Summer is approaching rapidly. Central Texas is
likely to hit a scorching 100 degrees in mid-May. So what is the best antidote
to the heat? The cooling waters of Lake Travis!
Located on the western edge of Austin, Lake Travis
is a reservoir formed in 1942 when the Lower Colorado River Authority
constructed Mansfield Dam to contain floodwaters in a flash-flood prone region.
Although the average depth is 62 feet, the deepest part of the lake extends to 210
feet. Today, the lake is popular for various recreational opportunities. And
there’s a special magic in watching the sun set over glistening water.
Boating is the first activity that comes to mind, primarily because it doesn’t require any special athletic skills. Of course, knowledge of safe boating practices and lake terrain are imperative. That said, everyone can enjoy a ride on the winding 64-mile long lake. If you add in the myriad coves, the coastline stretches to 271 miles of peaceful spaces to explore or just drop anchor and enjoy a relaxing swim.
If you have a boat, there are about two dozen ramps where you can put in. If you don’t have a boat, check at any of more than 20 marinas and businesses for rentals. While you’re at it, rent a large tube and take the youngsters for a ride behind the boat. It’s a little bouncy, but they love the challenge of hanging on when the boat driver spins a few figure eights in the water.
Water sports. Once you have a boat to access Lake Travis, there are numerous water sports to try. Start with water skiing, which is probably the basis for newer sports like wakeboarding, knee boarding, or wake surfing. Water skiing is fairly easy to learn, especially with two skis. It’s such a thrill when you learn to cross the wake of the boat, then jump the wake, or just hang on for a multi-mile ride. If you become proficient you can advance to slalom skiing (one ski).
Lake Travis is well suited for great wakeboarding since the water is generally smooth and traffic light, especially early in the morning or towards evening. There are plenty of open stretches for learning and practicing tricks, if you’re so inclined. If balance is an issue, consider knee boarding, since there’s a lower center of gravity and a tow rope to hang on to--great sport for kids who are still testing their water bravery.
Once these sports are mastered, it’s time to catch a wave. With the right boat and board, you can actually surf a wave on this inland lake, no rope needed. Yes, it takes good balance, but it’s a premier sport for those with access to the right equipment and no fear.
Fly boarding is gaining popularity with young people. Wearing a pair of boots attached to a board, the fly boarder is propelled into the air via power from thousands of gallons of water exploding through a tube. It’s like being on stilts above the water. Expert fly boarders get propelled high in the air to do amazing flips and tricks. It does take practice, but after a few lessons you may decide fly boarding is an incredible experience.
Scuba diving. Because Lake Travis is very deep, there are many hidden treasures below the surface. Grottoes, shipwrecks, old cars, even underwater trees attract scuba divers to the lake’s depths. Submerged areas such as Oasis Wall, Fiesta Haus Wall, Wreck Alley, and Starnes Island intrigue scuba divers, but you can also dive from shore at Mansfield Dam Park and Windy Point Park.
Although the lake is buttressed by tall limestone walls, if the water level is low, you might find a few spots of sandy beach at Pace Bend Park. The important thing to remember when in the water is that land can drop off suddenly, so you should wear a life jacket if you’re not a strong swimmer (required at all times for children under age 14).
Always practice caution and common sense and you'll have hours of fun on beautiful Lake Travis.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier