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 in honor of former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson after her death; officials had wanted to honor Mrs. Johnson with the name change during her lifetime, but she had modestly refused the offer. Well-known for her campaigns to preserve the nation’s wild vistas, Mrs. Johnson had been active in the campaign to beautify the area surrounding the lake.
The former Town Lake is one of several reservoirs on the Colorado River, including Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan. Locals have dubbed this chain of man-made lakes the Texas Highland Lakes and still tend to call Lady Bird Lake, Town Lake.
Lady Bird Lake borders several parks, including historic Zilker Metropolitan Park, home of Barton Springs Pool, and recently opened Butler Park which features a splash pad for children. If you are a hiker, biker, or runner you will enjoy the many wooded trails surrounding the lake. Popular Lady Bird Trail is the longest continuing path; it runs 7.2 miles and many smaller trails lead off from it. A parking area under MoPac Bridge allows easy access Lady Bird Trail.
After getting some sun and exercise you can dine at one of the fine nearby restaurants, many of which are within walking distance. At most of these establishments you have a choice between indoor and patio dining.
The lake itself is a favorite for all sorts of paddle boating. Boats with low-power electric motors are also allowed. Swimming and wading are not allowed. You can rent the boat of your choice at one of the many rental companies around the lake. Some companies also feature an assortment of lake cruises, including wedding cruises and dinner cruises.
Besides boating, you can enjoy fishing on Town Lake. Over the years lake has been stocked with large mouth bass, catfish, sunfish, walleye, Palmetto bass, red drum, croaker, common carp and pike. The fishing of bass and common carp is restricted by local regulations. Anglers must release bass and carp that don’t meet size regulations.
There numerous excellent fishing spots around the lake, Red Bud Isle is reported to be a great spot, although some local anglers complain that canines visiting the Red Bud Isle Dog Park bark excessively and scare away the fish. You can also fish from a boat if you prefer.
Whether you want to walk on the shores, take a hike, fish, boat, or take pictures you will enjoy Lady Bird Lake. It is one the things that makes Austin so pleasant to live in.