Lake Travis and Lake Austin History

Happy New Year! 2021 is already gearing up to be an exciting year, and Float On wants to offer you a code good for $100 off any boat rental from now (Jan 2021) through Feb. 28th 2021. Use code is winter2021 when booking online. This week we are highlighting the history of our lakes and how much has changed to what we see and enjoy now. 

Lake Austin and Lake Travis are more than just great places for partying, floating, and boating! There is tons of history behind our beautiful lakes here in central Texas, and knowing some of it helps understand Austins love and admiration for the water we protect and enjoy. 

The History of Lake Austin

Lake Austin was originally named Lake MacDonald before changing its name to Lake Austin. The construction of the Austin Dam in 1890 obstructed the flow of the Colorado river, and led water and sediment to be washed downstream and trapped. This event, with the contribution of rain and flooding, created Lake Austin. Today, Lake Austin is a water reservoir in Austin, Texas that spans 22 miles. The lake has famously lived through two dams: the Austin Dam and the Tom Miller Dam–which was named after Austin’s mayor at the time of its 1938 creation, Tom Miller. In the late 1890’s one of the busiest areas of Austin is where present day Hula Hut is. Once home to the Ben Hur Steam boat, a large 2000 passenger steam boat that traveled on a 60 mile round-trip with dinner parties, dancing, and vaudeville burlesque shows. So chartering our 24ft pontoons is an homage to history here on Lake Austin!

The beauty of Lake Austin’s relationship with the Tom Miller Dam is that it pushes 21,000 acres of water that help generate 17 megawatts of electricity. Best of all, Lake Austin is the central hub of Austin’s famous bridge, the Pennybacker bridge (otherwise known as the Loop 360 bridge.) 

The History of Lake Travis

Between the years 1930 and 1950, the Texas Colorado River Basin was plumaged with flood after flood. To cope with all the water flowing through central Texas, Mansfield Dam was built in 1936 forming Lake Travis. The Mansfield Dam with Lake Travis are the only structures that were specifically created to contain floodwaters, and they do just that. Across Lake Travis’s 65 miles, it can hold up to 260 billion gallons of water. It is the largest reservoir on the Highland Lakes, which includes Lake Austin.

The areas of Lake Travis and Lake Austin were nothing more than undeveloped lands and a collection of farms when in the early 1900’s. Today, they are booming lakes that look on to the capital of Texas, Austin, as well as accompanying towns, like: Bee Cave, Spicewood, and Lakeway. People from across Texas– and the country– flock to Austin to visit Lake Travis and Austin.

Things to Do in Lake Austin

Lake Austin is special because of its many parks and trails: Emma Long Park, Commons Ford Parks, Selma Hughes Park, Mary Quinlan Park, and Fritz Hughes Park. It has scenic views and a wide range of opportunities for recreation. Lake Austin is always cooler than lake travis because Mansfield Damn bottom releases water from deep beloow Lake Travis. The Averge discharge temp. at the damn is 56*F! On a hot summer day most of Lake Austin is generally in the low 70*s, making it a super popular cool off spot to beat the texas heat. People visit Lake Austin for family fun and adventure. Most of the shorelines along Lake Austin are privately owned, but those who can find a place to fish will come across a plethora of unique fish. This lake is known for their large population of large-mouthed bass, many of which have earned trophies. Along with bass, the reservoir also has many: bluegills, flatheads, and blue catfish. This lake is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the tranquility of the water. 

Emma Long Park

Things to Do in Lake Travis

Lake Travis is an incredible place to visit for adrenaline junkies. The reservoir keeps Austin from flooding, but it also provides fun, adventurous activities for its many visitors. Those who head down to Lake Travis can learn how to: wakesurf, wakeboard, jetski, flyboard, go diving, paddleboard, and more. The adventurous nature of Lake Travis offsets the calm and tranquility of Lake Austin. Among the many water sports, Lake Travis has bars, movie theaters, breweries, and waterparks. It’s a top place to visit for a family vacation. What was once a reservoir made to help with flooding, is now a great place for fun in the sun. The reservoir also has plenty of luxury cruises and tours that guests can choose from. Dont forget to check out Devil’s Cove!


Scuba Diving at Lake Travis

Lake Travis and Lake Austin have great places to relax by the beach and enjoy time with friends and family. They are important to Austin’s vibrant lifestyle and beauty. They offer watersports, parks, and lots of cool activities and wildlife to learn about. Holler at Float On to book today to get out on one of these beautiful lakes! 

Contact / Hours

(512) 436-3505
Office Hours: 9am-6pm

Lake Austin Boat Rentals
5019 Capital of Texas Hwy N
Austin, TX 78746

Lake Travis Boat Rentals
16405 Clara Van Street
Austin, TX 78734

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