Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts will love Austin’s Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake). No gas-powder motor watercraft are allowed, making this a peaceful and safe environment. The shores of this 416 acre lake are tree-lined with many shaded hiking and biking trails. The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, which is famous for its bat population, crosses the lake.
The Colorado River runs through the city of Austin, providing a great water resource. The man-made lake was formed in 1960 when Longhorn Dam was built on the river, trapping the water between the new dam and the already existing Tom Miller Dam. The resulting reservoir is an ideal spot for non-motorized boating.
Originally called Town Lake, the reservoir was renamed
If you grew up thinking of bats as creepy little creatures in horror movies a visit to Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge will give you a new respect for these fascinating flying mammals. From March through early autumn the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge is home to North America’s largest urban bat population. It is estimated that between 750,000 and 1.6 million Mexican free-tailed bats inhabit this colony.
Every evening a crowd gathers to watch the bats depart from the bridge at dusk, in search of insects to eat. When the bat population is at it highest peak, it can take forty-five minutes for all of the bats to take off into the night sky.
Nightly Bat Flights
The bats resemble a thick cloud of black smoke when they take flight
A visit to Austin would not be complete without a tour of the State Capitol Building. It sits on a high point of ground in the northern part of Downtown Austin and its magnificent dome can be seen from most spots of the city.
The current state capitol building is Texas’ third one. The first was an unattractive wooden building. The second state capitol building was a Greek Revival style finished in 1853. Plans were already underway to build third capitol building, when the second one burnt down in 1881.
The current building is considered one of the nation’s grandest state capitols. The design was chosen by a national contest in 1881. Elijah E. Myers, who also designed the Colorado and Michigan capitols was the winning architect.
In a city filled with parks, Zilker Metropolitan Park has been voted Austin’s “most-loved park”. Step onto the 351 acres of tree shaded grounds and you will see why locals love this park.
Zilker Park’s grounds have long attracted tourists. In the 1830s a man named William Barton settled near what are now called Barton Springs. Barton soon realized that the pool created by the springs had the potential to attract tourists. He began promoting it as a picnic ground and swimming hole. Barton died in 1839, and his land eventually came into the possession of Andrew Jackson Zilker. Zilker generously gave the entire 351 acre area to the city of Austin in 1918. The Austin city government made improvements to the pool and grounds and Zilker