Lake Travis Overview
Located on the northwest side of Austin Texas, Lake Travis is a unique and valuable resource. It attracts numerous Central Texans and visitors from around the world. The large, man-made lake provides fresh drinking water and outdoor recreation for millions of people. Formed by the construction of the Mansfield Dam in 1942, the lake also supplies electrical power and flood control. With its steeply sloped limestone cliffs and dramatic sunsets, it is the sparkling jewel of the Highland Lakes.
Lake Travis is not the largest body of water in Texas by surface area. But it is the deepest, and offers the most diverse array of scenery and recreational opportunities. There are excellent marinas and numerous places to explore with a powerboat, sailboat, jet ski or pontoon boat. Many boaters also enjoy water skiing and parasailing. Central Texas’ largest body of water provides ample room for ski boats and parasailers to maneuver and avoid other marine traffic. The lake is also home to several of our Texas State Parks which offer camping, hiking, swimming and sightseeing.
With sunny skies and pleasant weather year-round, Lake Travis is a magnet for recreational boating. On any given day you’ll find large watercraft (houseboats, motor yachts and party barges), small boats (kayaks, canoes, sailing dinghies and jet skis) and everything in between. The most common water craft are ski boats and bass boats, as you might expect given the popularity of water skiing and fishing in the Austin area. Runabouts and pontoon boats are also prevalent, especially for boat rentals.
The water levels of Lakes Buchanan and Travis are variable – they rise and fall depending on the amount of rainfall and the amount of water distributed to local and downstream users. This fluctuation can create some challenges for boat owners. They may not be able to launch or haul their boats when the water level is down. As the water level drops below 631’ above MSL, all of the public launch facilities are closed. So for most boaters, the best solution is to rent a boat slip at one of the popular Lake Travis marinas. The most convenient are those located on the main channel of the Colorado River — to ensure access when the lake is low.
Creation and History
In 1936 the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) announced a plan to build the Marshall Ford Dam to control flooding and generate electrical power. The project moved forward with the support of Texas legislators including then-Congressman Lyndon Johnson. The U.S. Department of Interior provided funding for this work. The initial dam was completed in 1939. But increased flooding of the Colorado River motivated the expansion to a much larger structure that was finished in 1942 (and subsequently renamed Mansfield Dam). The total cost of construction was $28.7 million.
The Lake Travis reservoir volume is 1.13 million acre-feet. This is more than any of the other Highland Lakes including Lake Buchanan (.876 million acre-feet). After the water level rose sufficiently, it was stocked with a variety of fish species including Largemouth Bass, Guadalupe Bass, White Bass, Striped Bass, Catfish and Sunfish. The clean water and robust ecosystem have created an ideal environment for the aquatic food chain. Fishing continues to be one of the most popular forms of recreation on Lake Travis.
Lake Travis Facts and Statistics:
- Maximum width: 4.5 miles
- Average depth: 62′ Maximum depth: 210’ (deepest in Texas)
- Surface area: 18,930 acres
- Shoreline: 270 miles
- Capacity: 1.13 million acre-feet = 382 billion gallons at 681’ above MSL (‘full’)
- Highest level: 710.4 above MSL (12/25/91)
- Lowest level: 614.2 above MSL (8/14/51)
- Cost of construction: $28.7 million (1942 dollars)
“Of all the endeavors on which I have worked in public life, I am proudest of the accomplishment in developing the Colorado River.”
– President Lyndon B. Johnson
For a great deal on renting a Lake Travis boat slip, call today to learn out about West Beach Marina’s great location, facilities and 1 MONTH FREE SLIP RENTAL for new customers.
West Beach Marina — 17317 West Beach Road — Austin, Texas 78734 — (512) 266-2277