Get Your Paddle On: 5 Austin-area Kayaking Spots

The two kayakers pulled into the parking lot at Brushy Creek Lake Park on a cloudless Saturday just after sunrise.

The water was higher than usual from recent downpours. And as they hauled the yellow and orange kayaks toward the water, they saw fish jumping in the otherwise calm water ahead of them.

Paddling near the shores, they saw cyclists pedaling on the path at the edge of the lake and golfers pitching shots from a nearby fairway to a green just out of sight.

Recreation surrounds this 38-acre lake. Splash pads, pavilions and volleyball courts abound, but for some, it’s the calm waters and the plentiful bass below the surface that hold an irresistible attraction.

Brushy Creek Lake Park is one of dozens of places to kayak and fish in Austin.

Here are five of the best spots to drop in and paddle away, including options for gentle floats and more exciting paddles in lively currents.

Lady Bird Lake

Its beautiful urban-meets-nature feel is unmatched. This is a prime place to try kayaking for the first time. The water has very little current, there are several kayak rental shops and dozens of people on the water means plenty of people to help out if you rock the boat a little too much. Motorized boats typically aren’t allowed here, so there are no big waves or dangerous traffic to worry about. Consider dropping in at the drainage ditch where there is nearby parking and plenty of fellow paddlers if you need a hand with your watercraft. It’s just east of the Texas Rowing Center, which is one of several rental spots, just southwest of downtown Austin.

Brushy Creek Lake Park

Calm waters and abundant recreational opportunities make this a great place to kayak, no matter what your skill level. It is also a favorite fishing spot for kayak sport fishermen, who angle there for bass and other fish. Motorized boats aren’t allowed in the lake, so there are not big waves to worry about. It’s a convenient spot for anyone in north Austin, and it’s right next door for homeowners in Avery Ranch, Brushy Creek and Cedar Park.

Lake Austin

Lake Austin is the bigger, bolder and more naturally beautiful sister of Lady Bird Lake. Though still quite tame, this is perhaps best for people with some kayaking experience. Out here, motorized boats are allowed and, at times, are plentiful. Anglers will find largemouth bass, catfish and sunfish. The natural landscape is amazing, though broken up by some luxury homes, bridges and other developments in and around West Lake Hills, Steiner Ranch and Westview on Lake Austin.

Guadalupe River

Here’s one to get your heart racing, at least a little. The Guadalupe River is a chilly, spring-fed waterway that, at various points, gets pretty heavy tubing traffic. But it’s an excellent kayaking river, as well. Start floating by Canyon Lake, about a half-hour south of Wimberley. It features several rapids and small drop offs. For a detailed description, check here.

Colorado River (east of Austin to Bastrop)

This is for the more adventurous at heart. The river flows slow, and it’ll take a few days to complete this 62-mile trip from Lady Bird Lake to a park in Bastrop. But the wildlife and natural setting should put you at ease. Kayakers recommend carefully planning this trip, as there are only a few public access points and some long stretches between them. Consider reading about the Texas Winter 100K, a race on this stretch of river, for a lot of details and resources in planning your trip — or race.