lady bird lake

Bryan Winter for KUT

After this weekend's rain, the city imposed a temporary ban on boating and recreational use of Lady Bird Lake. But even with that ban lifted, there's still one thing you definitely can't do in the lake: Go swimming. 

It may be well-known to longtime residents (who probably still call it Town Lake), but swimming in Austin’s “crown jewel” is illegal. Seems it has been for 50 years. 

Still, when contacted, public information staff at several city departments seemed surprised to hear such a ban exists.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The poor condition of the dam that holds in the waters of Austin’s beloved Lady Bird Lake continues to vex city officials.  Emails obtained in a public information request reveal challenges the city faced in performing maintenance on Longhorn Dam, which crosses the Colorado River beneath Pleasant Valley Road. Documents tell of water lost through the dam’s gates that could potentially stay in upstream reservoirs, and show city departments struggling to assign responsibility for the structure and plan a long-term solution.

Austin Energy, the city-owned electric utility, and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) have long known about the need for work on the dam. Austin Energy is the city department that operates the structure. The LCRA operates dams upstream from Austin and coordinates with Austin Energy when they release water downstream.

Mengwen Cao/KUT News

Water, the outdoors, music: all things Austinites enjoy, especially when the weather is nice. And all three can go well with some type of beverage in hand.

That was the case during this weekend’s Aqua Olympics. The fourth annual family/tattoo/dog-friendly event, presented by Fun Fun Fun Fest, took over Fiesta Gardens on Saturday afternoon. Events included classic outdoor games like a potato sack race, balloon toss and a ‘6-legged’ race. And, in typical Fun Fun Fun Fest fashion, there were activities like a paddleboard joust on Lady Bird Lake, a taco cannon, a belching contest, and a ‘lagoon launch’ where some of Austin’s best BMX bikers shot down a ramp, flew and flipped through the air, landing in the lake. For many, it could be considered a typical Austin afternoon.

The Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk opened June 7. The 1.3 mile boardwalk completes a 10-mile loop of trail around the lake.

While a boon to runner and cyclists, the new boardwalk also lets users view downtown Austin from a fresh vantage point. Many in Austin have already utilized the boardwalk to capture new perspectives of the city after this weekend’s grand opening.

Mose Buchele/KUT / KUT

The Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk is set to open to the public on June 7.

The 1.3 mile boardwalk will complete a ten-mile loop of trail around the lake. Howard Lazarus with Austin’s Public Works Department says the boardwalk will play a key role in expanding biking and pedestrian options throughout the region.

This weekend, a new art installation will open that will be hard to miss. THIRST, from Women and Their Work, comprises two components: a series of 14,000 prayer flags which will form a 2.5 mile loop near Lady Bird Lake, and a 35-foot cedar elm tree that will hover above the lake itself.

As reported earlier this month, the Austin City Council got a look at the final version of a plan to redevelop the land along Waller Creek into a chain of parks.

They liked what they saw: Today, the council unanimously voted to approve the design plan developed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates with little argument.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The city’s Public Works department has given a midterm progress report on the Boardwalk Trail at Lady Bird Lake. 

It’s over a mile of extensions and renovation to the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail east of Congress Avenue, including newly-created boardwalk sections that will extend over the lake on concrete piers. 

Lake Austin Community Meeting To Take Place Tonight

May 20, 2013

As summer sets in, the City of Austin is looking for input on issues along Lake Austin.

The Lake Austin Task Force was formed last year to assess issues on the lake, including shoreline erosion and wake-free zones, and the group presents its findings tonight in a public meeting.  

Chuck Lesniak of Austin Watershed Protection says that the report also addresses the problem of construction along Lake Austin in recent years.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The City of Austin is holding the first of three public meetings today over what to do with the Seaholm Intake Facility.

The city wants the community’s ideas for how to incorporate part of the old power plant along Lady Bird Lake into the park and trail system.

Runners, cyclists and trail patrons welcomed the return of the water coolers at the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail this morning.

RunTex, a local sporting goods store, has provided the water to trail-users for twenty years. But last November, the city removed the coolers over sanitation concerns.

The familiar orange water coolers are poised to return to Austin’s hike and bike trail, after the city council agreed today to waive permitting fees for the businesses that operate the watering stations.

RunTex has been bringing water to Lady Bird Lake since 1990, but the coolers were removed last November after concerns about their security and sanitation. 

Paul Carrozza of RunTex estimates that his store spends $100,000 a year transporting water and ice to the trails. The store spends $3,000 a month in paper cups alone. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Two separate projects on Lady Bird Lake may temporarily get in the way of folks using part of the hike and bike trail.

The city is getting ready to begin work along the Shoal Creek peninsula near the Seaholm Power Plant. Construction begins soon, and is expected to last six months. Portions of the hike and bike trail near the peninsula and the parking lot west of Shoal Creek and South of Cesar Chavez will be closed and those using the trail will be detoured to Cesar Chavez.

It may be time for a do-over on the Emmett Shelton bridge.  

Better known as the Red Bud bridge or the "Low Water" bridge, it spans Lady Bird Lake just below Tom Miller Dam, linking Austin to newer communities to the west.

The city's latest proposed bond package includes $3 million to design a "better bridge at a better angle" across the lake, according to Austin Public Works spokesperson Sara Hartley. She says the bridge is the only one in Austin that is not rated structurally "good" or better, though she says its rating of "fair" means that it is safe to travel.

Caleb Bryant-Miller/KUT News

Thinking about watching the bats on Congress Street Bridge the evening?

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Service Department released information today that a bat from under the Congress Street Bridge has tested positive for rabies.

Carole Barasch is with the Health and Human Service Department. She says it isn’t unusual to find a bat with rabies – problems arise when these bats come into contact with humans. The Health and Human Service Department is on alert because it's received word from a third party that an adult female came into contact with a rabid bat at 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3.

City of Austin

The Austin City Council approved a $21.7 million construction contract for the Lady Bird Lake boardwalk today.

The project, largely funded via a bond election back in 2010, will close a 1.1-mile gap in the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake with a boardwalk that's both partially over land and over water.

To help allay costs, which were initially pegged at $17.4 million, the city will reallocate $5.8 million from the 2010 Bond Street Reconstruction Program. The city will also receive a $3 million donation from the Trail Foundation, a trail advocacy group.

The Sustainable Design Assessment Team; Photo courtesy U.S. Army; Photo by NBAE/Getty Images

Three Proposals for Future of Austin's "South Shore"

A team of architects and planners has been studying the south shore of Lady Bird Lake near Congress and South First Street. Last night, they presented three proposals for future of the south shore.

The first focuses on using the area as a natural resource for things like urban agriculture and recreation. The second proposal would include public space but also make room for hotels and food trailers. The third option would include lots of housing and transit.

The expert team will present a more detailed report in the next few months.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News; Photo by Lucia Duncan for KUT News; Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Initial Findings Announced for Lady Bird Lake

Tonight, a team of riverfront planners, landscape architects and green builders will share their vision for the future of Lady Bird Lake’s south shore.

The team has spent the last few days studying what they call “South Shore Central”—which is the area around Congress and First Street. The city says the area is lacking in infrastructure.

Austin won a grant for sustainable development that covers the consulting fees. The team toured the shoreline by land and by boat and listened to recommendations from Austinites.

Image courtesy City of Austin

The City of Austin wants to know: What do you want our waterfront to look like in 20 years?

Starting tonight, planners are facilitating a three-day discussion on the future of Lady Bird Lake’s “south shore central” area – Congress Avenue, First Street and eastward, including sites like the Hyatt Regency and Austin American-Statesman building. The talks kicked off this morning with boat tours of the area at stake.

Alan Holt, a principal planner with the city, says that this area is lacking in good infrastructure and “like it or not, slated for some big changes because there are a lot of parking lots and development at the end of their shelf life.”

Photo by KUT News

Austinites will flock to the city's numerous parks and waterways this weekend. We've put together a guide for what you need to know about rules and safety.

Watercraft Ban: Put Away that Motorized Surfboard!

If you’re planning to celebrate the long Memorial Day weekend on Lady Bird Lake, you'll need to leave your motorized surfboard at home. The Austin Police Department will be enforcing an annual ban on motorized personal watercraft – like jet skis – from sunset on Friday until sunrise on Tuesday.