Looking to spend quality time in Travis County? Then you’re in for a real treat! Sandwiched between Dallas–Fort Worth, and San Antonio, this charming county in south central Texas is known for its diverse culinary scene and wealth of tourist attractions. From museums and parks to historical landmarks and resorts, it’s the perfect destination for revelers. Outdoor fun lovers also have many other exciting locations to discover, including the region’s stunning lakes.
Travis County hosts 21 lakes on at least 33 of its 1,023 square miles. Which of these bodies of water is the deepest one? This article answers that popular question and discusses essential details about the lake. If you’re considering visiting it, we’ll also let you know what’s in store to help you prepare in advance. Let’s get this show on the road.
Which is the Deepest Lake in Travis County?
With a maximum depth of 210 feet, Lake Travis on the Colorado River is the deepest lake in Travis County. Impressively, this reservoir has more than that on its resume — it boasts uniquely beautiful crystal-clear blue waters, and spectacular lake views, even in the peak of winter. Because it covers 18,929 acres, it’s also on the list of Texas’s largest lakes.
While many people recognize Lake Travis as one of the premier destinations near Austin, only a few know the story behind its formation. It all started in the 1930s when floods dominated the Texas Colorado River Basin. Devastated but determined to keep the residents safe, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) established the Mansfield Dam in 1936 to contain the floodwaters.
Initially, Mansfield Dam was meant to be a small body of water, but things didn’t pan out as planned. Before its completion in 1939, a catastrophic flood wreaked havoc on the area, prompting the builders to enlarge the dam’s size to collect more water, leading to the birth of Lake Travis.
Is Water in Lake Travis Safe?
Lake Travis has the largest storage capacity among the Highland Lakes and can hold up to 1,135,000-acre feet of water. The LCRA monitors the body of water regularly and hasn’t found toxins that could harm people or animals.
Since Lake Travis’ water is safe, many regions within Austin and the nearby metropolitan area use it. The county receives ample rainfall during the wet season – usually between April and September – conveniently preventing the lake’s water level from dropping.
Besides being a dependable freshwater supplier, Lake Travis is handy for electrical power generation. Its first power production unit was established in 1941; this was the same year the Mansfield Dam acquired its name to honor U.S. Rep. J.J. Mansfield, who invested his time and resources to see the project to fruition.
Where is Lake Travis Located on a Map?
Lake Travis is a reservoir located on the Colorado River in central Texas, approximately thirteen miles northwest of Austin in Travis County. Both Pace Bend Park and Mansfield Dam Park have access points along the reservoir.
How to Enjoy Your Day at Lake Travis
Lake Travis welcomes at least 200,000 guests annually. Considering its unlimited fun opportunities, this body of water warrants all the attention. These are our top recommendations if you’re looking for exciting ways to spend time here:
1. Take a Dip
Lake Travis is perfect to beat the brutal Texas summer heat waves. Its waters are clear and warm, not to mention free of toxins. On top of that, this water body has up to ten locations for swimmers – so space should be the least of your concerns. These include:
Bob Wentz Park
Covering 211 acres on the shores of Lake Travis, Bob Wentz Park is on 7144 Comanche Trail. It’s popular among swimming enthusiasts and offers many spots for other watersports, such as sailing, scuba diving, and windsurfing. Supposing you only long to relax while sharing memorable moments with your loved ones, the barbecue grills and picnic tables are at your disposal.
Bob Wentz Park opens its doors to guests daily. Keep in mind that they charge entry fees based on factors like a person’s age and whether there’s a special event. For example, seniors (62 years or older) pay $3 to access the park, but children aged 12 years or younger can enter it for free. If you plan to hold a party that requires a license agreement, expect to spend about $150.
Make sure to follow Bob Wentz Parks’ rules to avoid clashing with its staff. You’re prohibited from engaging in some activities on-site, including camping, bringing your off-leash pet, and public alcohol consumption.
Lakeway City Park
Situated at 502 Hurst Creek Road, on the south-central side of Lake Travis, Lakeway City Park is another excellent option to consider when you want to plunge. Stick to the designated swim areas for your safety. Also, remember to borrow a life jacket at the station near the lower-level picnic area to enhance the latter.
If you visit Lakeway City Park with your little ones, take advantage of the two play areas designed for them. Your furry pal will have a great time at Bark Park, where they’ll interact with other dogs. Meanwhile, mull overindulging in other entertaining activities here, such as hiking and picnicking.
Pace Bend Park
Pace Bend Park sits on the northwest edge of Lake Travis. It’s home to three designated areas for swimmers — Kate’s Cove, Mudd Cove, and Gracy Cove. Because these locations lack lifeguards on duty, we recommend only coming here if your swimming skills are top-notch. Otherwise, you could endanger your life since no one’s around to save you from accidents like drowning.
Notably, Pace Bend Park also offers amazing camping experiences. With 20 improved sites, both small and large groups can camp here, even with kids. Thankfully, most of these locations are on the park’s east side, only a small distance from Lake Travis.
Mansfield Dam Park
Mansfield Dam Park is right opposite Mansfield Dam on Lake Travis. It offers a private cove for swimmers, but you must bring your equipment for this watersport, including life jackets and goggles. Since you’ll require a place to relax after hours of water fun, consider booking one of the pavilions on-site; each can accommodate about 30 guests. Alternatively, make the most of the picnic tables available.
Like all the parks on Lake Travis, the 71-acre Mansfield Dam Park is open daily. Furthermore, it has set various rules and regulations to guarantee the safety and comfort of all visitors. For example, fireworks, ground fires, cigarettes, and glass containers are a no-no. You must also keep away from the Mansfield Dam to stay out of harm’s way.
2. Try Your Luck at Fishing
Lake Travis provides quality angling opportunities all year round. The largemouth bass population is pretty decent, and you can hook many white bass in spring. Since the Guadalupe bass is a Colorado River native, it’s available in all parts of this reservoir, which also has crappie, sunfish, striped bass, and minnows.
Some anglers have visited Lake Travis hoping to hook plenty of fish only to go home empty-handed. The truth is, the size of your catch will depend on aspects such as your experience. If you’re a beginner, you might lack the right bait or lure to catch the species available. For instance, most bass anglers get lucky with suspended jerk baits and Jumpin’ Minnows, meaning you should have them in your arsenal to increase your chances of success.
Timing may also affect your fishing experience at Lake Travis. The days before storms are great for anglers because fish usually detect a shift in barometric pressure and become more active. This means they’re easier to catch since the water is also clear.
3. Marvel at the Wildlife and Plant Species in the Area
Aside from fish, Lake Travis is a haven for many other wildlife species you’ll see during your visit. The shorelines of nearly all its parks have zebra mussels that – though tiny and incredibly fascinating – can be dangerous if you’re barefoot. These intriguing creatures tend to attach themselves to almost everything they come across. What’s worse, their sharp shells will easily cut through your feet, begging the need to wear shoes, even while you swim.
People have reported sightings of the Burmese python, rattlesnakes, hairy spiders, gazelles, Chinese red-headed centipedes, the Rio Grande wild turkey, buck moth, and deer around Lake Travis. Hippie Hollow Park has a refuge for endangered species, such as the black-capped vireo and the golden-cheeked warbler.
Plant Life Around Lake Travis
Some sections of Lake Travis’ shore have dense covers of Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), found in many regions worldwide. It’s an exceptionally resilient plant and can withstand even the hottest conditions. The frog fruit (Phyla nodiflora) is also a pretty dominant species in this area, which also has Juniperus ashei. The latter is a fairly small evergreen shrub with a shreddy back and countless stems.
4. Get a Tan
Are you wondering how you can attain the coveted summer glow? About 30 minutes from downtown Austin is your solution — the Hippie Hollow Park, Texas’ only clothing-optional public park. This glorious gem will welcome you any day, but you must be at least 18 to enter. Speaking of which, you must come here fully dressed because nudity is prohibited in the parking lot. Nonetheless, you can remove your clothes to soak up the sun inside.
Lake Travis’ Hippie Hollow Park has designated areas for sunbathers. We recommend these tips to get a safely:
- Wear a 30 SPF sunscreen, whose strength is enough to allow you to tan and block harmful UVA rays.
- Change your positions regularly to avoid burning one part of your body.
- Take breaks to protect your skin from the intense heat.
- Exfoliate your skin before tanning to prepare it and prevent it from flaking off.
- Eat beta-carotene-rich foods like sweet potatoes and carrots to protect your skin against burning.
- Drink a lot of water lest your dehydrated skin looks wrinkly after your tanning session.
- Wear sunglasses or shades to protect your eyes and the skin around them from UV rays.
Besides sunbathing, Hippie Hollow Park has locations for swimming and hiking, but unfortunately, your furry friend can’t tag along.
5. Go on a Boat Ride
A boat cruise should undoubtedly appear on your list of must-do activities during your visit to Lake Travis. You’ll have over 30 boat rentals at your disposal, all offering you the opportunity to sail its trademark blue waters in style.
A boat tour on Lake Travis lets you relish glorious views of Austin, especially at sunset. If you’re there during summer, it’s the perfect chance to avoid crowds without necessarily leaving the location. Moreover, you’ll enjoy many photo opportunities and make memories with your small, fun-loving crew.
But can you enjoy a memorable boat rental experience if you’re a beginner? The answer is a resounding yes, especially when you follow these tips:
Hire a Captain
While it might seem unnecessary, getting a boat captain on board is essential. It ensures you have an expert to handle the emergencies you and your friends can’t. For instance, if your vessel starts to make squealing noises when you’re in the middle of Lake Travis, they can identify and fix the problem. With a professional around, you can also let your worries float away because you know someone’s in control.
Like camping, boating requires you to pack a few things. Your checklist should include essentials such as refreshments (drinking water and non-perishable snacks), binoculars, sunscreen, hats, a fully-charged camera, sunglasses, and towels. You can also bring wine or alcohol, but the captain should refrain from indulging to avoid impairing their ability to operate the vessel. Additionally, safety equipment is a must-have; this includes life jackets for everyone on board, a first-aid kit, GPS, flashlights with extra batteries, and boat hooks.
Take a Boating Safety Course
A boating safety course is indispensable before your cruise, even with a captain on board. It enlightens you about the key aspects of boat safety to ensure no harm befalls you or your crew members. Furthermore, in the event of an accident, you’ll know what to do to save your life and the latter’s.
Lake Travis boat rentals sell out quickly, especially during summer. Hire your boat in advance to avoid missing out, preferably months or at least a few weeks before your trip. Luckily, you don’t require a boating license to secure a vessel here.
Also, pick an appropriate vessel depending on the size of your crew and planned fun activities. For example, pontoon boats are spacious and ideal for groups of up to 16 people. But if you’re only 10, a deck boat will do.
Have a Ball at the Deepest Lake in Travis County
Hopefully, you now have a clue as to what awaits you at the sublime Lake Travis. Since there’s no direct connection from Austin to the water body, take the line 30 bus, which stops at 7503 Mesa/Greystone. From there, take a taxi to Travis County’s deepest lake.
By good fortune, Lake Travis is open throughout the year unless there’s a flooding event or severe drought. Even more convenient, you can explore a wide pool of lodging options, including bed & breakfasts, houseboats, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. Consider factors such as amenities, budget, travel buddies, and location before making your pick.
We also suggest you decide on the activities you’d like to enjoy before coming to this lake because it’ll make planning your time easier upon arrival. Nothing is set in stone, though. If, for instance, you can’t resist the urge to plunge into the water, throw on your swimsuit, despite it not being on your bucket list.
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