Lakes are for Living
Folks around the Hill Country know how to beat the summer heat — head for the water. Lakes in our area are focal points for fun and relaxation. Boating adventures and evenings by the campfire are perfect for some; fishing and hiking excursions fit the bill for some others. But whether you want to dance on a party barge or unwind at a spa, the opportunity waits for you at one of several nearby lakes. We’ve put together a few ideas to get you out on the water and enjoying some of the greatest natural resources in Central Texas.
Take a Staycation at a Lake in the Hills
We live in a land of lakes, and few places are more welcome in the heat of the summer. Although there are swimming holes and rivers all over the Hill Country, there are a few large lakes that are complete destinations, and well worth a day or more. Boating, skiing and swimming are just a few of the activities available for visitors; you can relax in a spa or take in a round, eat a great meal or just lose yourself in the spectacular scenery.
Fed from the waters of the Guadalupe, Canyon Lake is one of the most beautiful recreation locations in Texas. The cool waters provide a great environment for catfish and many others, including our state fish, the Guadalupe bass. Boating, skiing, kayaking, parasailing and even scuba diving are popular pastimes, with 23 boat ramps available along 80 miles of shoreline. Stay in the style to which you’ve become accustomed: everything from primitive camping to RV hookups to vacation condos are available. Several resorts dot the shore, offering luxurious accommodations, private cabins, wedding and event facilities and excellent restaurants. There are plenty of opportunities for golf, including Canyon Lake Golf Club, which also offers tennis.
While you’re out at Canyon Lake, take some time to visit the Canyon Lake Gorge. This isn’t your average canyon — it was formed over just a few weeks, instead of the more customary thousands of years. In 2002, massive flooding caused the lake to escape the spillway at 67,000 cubic feet per second — about 200 times the normal rate. When the water receded, layers of limestone dating back 100 million years were laid bare. Scientists began finding ancient fossils and dinosaur footprints, and examining the unique geological features uncovered by the event. The gorge was opened to visitors in 2007, and today it is available by guided tour, a challenging hike of about three hours.
The largest of the Highland Lakes, Lake Travis is also the most popular, due to its proximity to Austin and the many recreational opportunities it affords. Mansfiled Dam created this massive body of water — almost 64 miles long and as much as 4.5 miles wide. There are boats on the water just about every day of the year and, during the summer months, visitors can sometimes walk from boat party to boat party without ever having to set foot in the water. Fishers can find a quiet cove where they’ll catch bass, catfish and sunfish. Hikers will discover more than 270 miles of shore that meander through hills dotted with spectacular vistas.
Mansfiled Dam Park serves 300,000 folks per year, and features the deepest and most accessible boat ramp on the lake, as well as four underwater dive platforms, an underwater trail and a compass course wandering through sunken boats and geological features. Bob Wentz Park provides loads of spots for picnicking and sunbathing, and includes tables, barbecue grills and two sand volleyball courts. Pace Bend Park is a popular park for hiking and camping; this natural wildlife preserve is home to deer, raccoons, foxes and ringtail cats that live among some of the best views of the Hill Country.
In 1965, Lake Granite Shoals was renamed for our 37th president. At the time, he and Mrs. Johnson owned a ranch on its shores, and he entertained people there during the time he served in office.
He couldn’t have chosen a nicer place to show the world what Central Texas has to offer. Lake LBJ is maintained at a fairly constant level, which means there are year-round opportunities for fishing, boating, and all kinds of water-related fun. The lake has been stocked with bass, catfish and crappie, and is a tremendous spot for both personal fishing as well as guided excursions. There are almost a dozen parks in the area surrounding the lake, with opportunities for hiking, biking, camping and climbing.
Lodging is plentiful, with campsites, vacation homes, full-service hotels and quaint bed and breakfasts offering accommodations in every style. One of the most distinctive is Horseshoe Bay Resort, named the “Best Golf Resort in the Southern Region” by Meetings + Events magazine. Play golf on three championship golf courses. Serve ‘em up on three different types of tennis courts, including the Andy Roddick Kids Courts. Take out a boat, yacht, pontoon, jet ski or kayak from the resort marina. Relax at the full-service spa. You’ll feel like you’ve escaped to a four-star vacation paradise, but you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to get there.
Sidebar of Related Information
Boating Is Better When It’s Safety First
Whether you own or rent, boating can be one of the best ways to fill the summer days. To keep those days trouble-free, here are a few tips that will keep you in the swim.
- If you’re new to the water, boating classes are available to help you learn navigation and become familiar with the equipment. Those born after 9/1/1984 must take a course before they can legally operate a boat.
- Life jackets are for everyone. Make sure that all occupants have a life jacket in the boat, and that children 13 or younger wear a jacket at all times.
- Alcohol doubles the risk of being involved in a boating accident. Boats — just like cars — must have a designated driver. Boating while intoxicated is a crime, and the law is strictly enforced.
- Pay close attention to low water area markers, especially in drought conditions like those we face this year. Running aground at high speed can be fatal.
- Maintain a 50-foot distance between yourself and all other watercraft, including jet skis, unless the boat is idle.
- Etiquette is important. Avoid rocking other boats with your wake. When fueling, remember that others are waiting to fuel and don’t linger. Anchor in a place where you won’t disturb other boaters, especially if you’re playing music or cooking. Give other boaters their own space, and keep a respectful distance.