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Austin, Texas

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Austin TX - Lake Austin
View of Lake Austin from Mount Bonnell
Photo Courtesy of Chandra Moira Beal


Excerpted from Splash Across Texas by Chandra Moira Beal

Riverboats were very popular at the turn of the century and made regular excursions to what was then known as Lake McDonald. A paddleboat called the Ben Hur used to take people up to Camp Chautauqua for parties before the Colorado River was dammed. The water level is fairly constant. At 1,830 acres and twenty-two miles long, Lake Austin is ideal for water-skiing, boating and swimming.

What is now Lake Austin was once a thriving area of early settlements. The water has since covered up several springs. Power House Springs was discovered during the construction of one of the dams in 1893. Bee Springs, just above Tom Miller Dam, is under the convergence of Bee Creek and Lake Austin. Mormon Springs was the site of a Mormon settlement in 1846 and was also used for a gristmill. Mount Bonnell Springs is a cluster of water sources near the mountain. Santa Monica Springs was also a popular watering hole and many artifacts were found there. The waters of Lake Austin, being rich in minerals, were once bottled by early settlers in the 1890s.

Austin Texas - Stepping across Lake Austin
Stradling Lake Austin
Photo Courtesy of Chandra Moira Beal

Walsh Boat Landing

This is a great place to stop and rest on Lake Austin Boulevard just north of Oyster Landing — a very popular little strip of trendy restaurants and shops. The boat launch has a dock where you can swim up to fifty feet out from the shore. An open water swim is held here each September. There are a couple of picnic tables and bathrooms for public use. The LCRA headquarters is located across the street and has information about Lake Austin and other facilities.

Fritz Hughes Park

This park is off of RR 620 on Low Water Crossing Road (turn left on Fritz Hughes Road). It's a five-acre day use park with rest rooms, picnic tables and grills, a playscape and sports courts. The park is faced by residential housing on one side and the lake on the other. The access road winds around to the lake front. It's not a great swimming spot because the water can be swift, but it is allowed.
Mary Quinlan Park
This park at the very end of Quinlan Park Road, has the only boat ramp within several miles. It is 5.8 acres and for day use only. The park has rest rooms, a few picnic tables and grills, sports courts, and easy access to the lake.
Austin, Texas - Lake Austin, Selma Hughes Park
Selma Hughes Park
Photo Courtesy of Chandra Moira Beal
Selma Hughes Park
This park off of Quinlan Park Road on Selma Hughes Park Road is a quiet five acres for day use only, with rest rooms, picnic tables and grills. It is a small shaded park with a sandy beach.
Hwy 360 Boat Ramp

Located just under the Percy Pennybacker Bridge, there is a three-acre grassy area where picnicking is allowed. The boat ramp and park are for day use only, and rest rooms are available. This park has gained a reputation for moonlight skinny-dipping. Swim at your own risk.

Access is limited to the narrow, northern portions of Lake Austin.

May 2002
Excerpted from "Splash across Texas" by Chandra Moira Beal
with permission
Austin TX Mount Bonnell  view of Colorado River
View of Lake Austin from Mount Bonnell
TE Photo, July 2002
Austin, Texas - Tom Miller Dam and Lake Austin
Tom Miller Dam and Lake Austin
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
Tom Miller Dam and Lake Austin

From Dam Fun - Highland Lakes and Dams by Rob Hafernik

Tom Miller was the mayor of Austin when the dam was completed, so they named it after him. Two dams had been previously constructed on the spot and both had been washed away, with catastrophic consequences. The first time, in 1900, the dam was a masonry dam (built of granite blocks) and about half of it washed away. The second dam was hollow and used wooden gates. It was damaged in 1915 and several more times in the 1930's until the city finally built Tom Miller dam, which stands to this day (although with some upgrades)...

Above the dam is Lake Austin, a constant level lake with many, many expensive homes and boats. It holds about 21,000 acre-feet of water and, when it's flowing the way it is right now, pushes enough water through Tom Miller Dam to generate 17 megawatts of electricity. It's also home to the Pennybacker Bridge, which is a sort of Austin icon (although everyone just calls it the "Loop 360 Bridge").

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Pennybacker Bridge Loop360 Austin TX
The Pennybacker Bridge or "Loop 360 Bridge"
over Lake Austin

Photo courtesy TXDoT, Photographer Stan A. Williams, October 2005
Related Topics:

  • Splash Across Texas
    by Chandra Moira Beal

  • Austin, Texas
  • Texas Rivers
  • Texas Lakes
  • Texas Trips

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