Lake Travis: Glittering Jewel of the Hill Country

Lake Travis is one of Central Texas’ most popular and largest bodies of water, known for its beauty and recreational opportunities. The lake is actually a reservoir that was created on the Colorado River in 1942 with the completion of the Mansfield Dam.

In 1936, the area where Lake Travis now lies was sparsely populated ranch land of steep, cedar-filled canyons. A dam on the Colorado River was proposed for flood control. Lyndon Johnson, then a 28-year-old running for Congress, promised electricity to his Hill Country constituents and helped secure funds for the completion of the dam. Before the dam was completed, it incorporated huge generators allowing Johnson to make good on his promise.

A Scenic Spot and Recreational Wonderland

Today, the lake still controls flooding and furnishes electricity, but it has become a scenic location for all sorts of aquatic and outdoor activities, including fishing, boating, swimming, scuba diving, picnicking, camping and even zip-lining. The shores of the lake are lined with swimming spots, parks, luxury homes, resorts and restaurants with picturesque views of the water.

One restaurant in particular, The Oasis on Lake Travis, promotes itself as the “Sunset Capital of Texas” and even has a clock on its website detailing the exact time of the day’s sunset. Positioned on a bluff 450 feet above the lake, the restaurant has wide-open views to the west providing stunning vistas, especially at sunset. At 30,000 square feet, it features the largest outdoor dining area in Texas.

Boating, Windsurfing and Jet Skis

Boating is a particularly popular pastime on the lake, and it is common to find a variety of boats on the water. On most sunny summer days, you’ll see a collection of slow-moving party barges, multi-class sailboats, personal watercraft, windsurfing regattas, competition ski boats, cruisers, cigarette boats and mansion-like houseboats. Marinas are located all around the lake with slip rentals available.

You don’t have to own your own boat to enjoy some time on the water, though. A number of businesses rent out all kinds of watercraft including jet skis, ski boats and other ski equipment, party barges and more. Seasoned boat drivers are also available for hire. Rentals are an affordable option if you don’t want all of the headaches and time-consuming maintenance hassle that owning a boat entails.

Fishing, Swimming and Underwater Diving

Of course, some might argue that the best thing to do on a lake is go fishing. The lake is frequently stocked, so there are ample opportunities to catch dinner. Largemouth bass, Guadalupe bass, white bass, catfish and sunfish are all relatively common, with some anglers reporting occasional striped bass and crappie catches as well. Each species has its own unique preferences for good hangout spots, and experienced fishermen will have a blast discovering all the nooks and crannies.

Lake Travis is also a great place for swimming. There are plenty of docks, outcroppings and designated swimming areas where you can perfect your cannonball. Pace Bend Park is a promontory on a hairpin curve of the lake. With more than nine miles of shoreline and beach-like entry points at Pace Bend, it is a favorite with swimmers. The west shore of the park has a number of high limestone cliffs, numerous rocky coves for swimming, and incredible sunset vistas.

Because Lake Travis submerged a land full of canyons, some parts of the lake can get quite deep. You can charter a pontoon boat with a dive instructor and head out to sites such as Wreck Alley, Oasis Wall, and Shaker Plant and take part in instructional, recreational, or technical dives. Water here is frequently 100-feet deep or more. Some of the land that the lake now covers used to be occupied, so there are a number of structures underwater to explore.

Spend the Night and Explore Nature

If you’re looking for a night under the stars, there are plenty of parks and camping options around the lake.

Pace Bend Park has approximately 20 improved campsites that include water and electrical hookups and more than 400 primitive, unimproved campsites. Most visitors to Pace Bend Park get to the piece of shore they want to visit from the six-mile road that makes a loop around the park. But nature lovers also enjoy exploring the interior of the park.

The central section is a managed wildlife preserve providing a home to whitetail deer, raccoons, foxes, ringtail cats, and dozens of bird species. Visitors can reach this section by foot, bicycle, or horseback only. A number of trails head up into hills and forest of the interior furnishing excellent views of the lake and the Hill Country.

Convenient Access and RV Sites with Full Hookups

Mansfield Dam Park is a popular access point as well. In part because of its proximity to Austin, its ample parking, and deep boat ramps, it is one of the most frequently used lake access points for boaters.

For a modest admission fee, the park offers more than convenient boat ramps. You can also enjoy a hike-and-bike trail, picnic sites, barbecue grills, a playground, horseshoe pits, swimming areas, and chess tables. Divers appreciate the dive stairs and underwater dive platforms. Primitive camping is allowed on the shore near the diving area, so you can bed down close to the water.

The Camper Resort on Lake Travis offers 40 RV sites with full hookups to those looking to camp in style. Guests have access to 1,000 feet of private shoreline, a laundry facility, and a recreation hall with games, books and TVs, all right on the shore.

Experience Even More Adventures

For an unusual and thrilling look at Lake Travis, you may want to consider zip-lining. A Zipline Adventure Tour will send you zooming over canyons and water, giving you some great, adrenaline-pumping excitement and memorable views at the same time. The tour consists of five exhilarating zips, ranging anywhere from 250 feet to 2,800 feet.

Recreational options on Lake Travis are nearly endless. You can find everything from wakeboarding lessons to parasailing. Because of the lake’s position in the midst of the Texas Hill Country, even a simple picnic or short day-hike can provide convenient, scenic, and relaxing breaks from day-to-day life in the city.

Fun Facts about Lake Travis

Here are a few more interesting facts and statistics about Lake Travis. The lake covers almost 19,000 acres of land, stretches 63.75 miles in length, and is 4.5 miles at its widest point.  The lake has about 270 miles of shoreline. While the average depth is an impressive 62 feet, the lake’s maximum depth plunges to a staggering 210 feet. When full, the lake holds 382 billion gallons of water.