Lady Bird Lake, also known as Town Lake, is a 468-acre reservoir located on the Colorado River in Austin, Texas. It is one of the significant bodies of water in Austin and represents a scenic attraction for residents and tourists. The ecosystem of the lake is actively taken care of by the city’s staff along with different NGOs that organize volunteers, such as The Trail Foundation. Naturally, it comes with many activities that visitors can participate in to make the most of their stay.
Although it is called a lake, Lady Bird Lake is actually a man-made reservoir. It was formed in 1960 by building the Longhorn Dam. Its primary purpose was to act as a cooling pond for the (operating at the time) Holly Power Plant, which in turn was discontinued in 2007. Although the power plant was decommissioned in 2017 leaving no industrial purpose for the lake beyond its touristic value, no plans are currently in motion to remove the Longhorn Dam. At the time of its formation, the reservoir was called Town Lake. On July 26, 2007, the Austin City council renamed the lake Lady Bird Lake in honor of Lady Bird Johnson who passed away the same month, one of the significant figures who formed the Town Lake Beautification Committee in the 1970s. This committee took on the responsibility of turning the area into the biodiverse and attractive green scenery it is today. The region is still being maintained by non-profit organizations and local volunteers.
Geography and Biodiversity
The Longhorn Dam is 760 feet long. According to the Texas Water Development Board’s survey done in 2008, Lady Bird Lake has a total reservoir capacity of 7,338 acre-feet. It comprises 465 acres at conservation pool elevation (429 feet above mean sea level). It has a max depth of 18 feet.
The area surrounding Lady Bird Lake is home to heavily diverse wildlife. The data gathered on-site reports 190 species of birds, 24 species of mammal, 11 amphibians, and 45 reptiles. Additionally, there are 36 known species of fish inhabiting the lake.
Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail
One of the most significant trails in Austin, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail serves as an easily accessible path for citizens and visitors to enjoy the natural scenery of Lady Bird Lake. The trail shapes a loop around the lake, forming a partition between Austin’s urban aspects and the natural environment the trail and lake offer. The trail records more than 2.6 million visits a year, ensuring its popularity and its ability to grant a unique experience to its tourists.
Kayaking and Canoeing
Motorized water vehicles (driven by non-city staff) are banned from usage on Lady Bird Lake, creating a safe and entertaining environment for those who are enthusiastic about rowing around the waters. Some of the services and clubs that can be found for kayaking include but are not limited to Texas Rowing Center, Austin Rowing Club, and Austin Kayak Polo Club.
In short, Lady Bird Lake provides a haven for citizens in the city looking for activities amidst a natural environment, as well as tourists who are searching for ways to make the most of their stay in Texas.