Lake Travis
Austin, TX
Texas Outside Rating: 8.8

Acres Of Water & Miles Of Shoreline
18,829 acres and 270 miles of shoreline


Brief Overview:

Review of Lake Travis

Hurrah!  Lake Travis is at capacity as of June 2016

Lake Travis is northwest of Austin and is the second lake in the Chain Highland Lakes which stair-step up the Colorado River from Austin. Travis is 63 miles long with 270 miles of shoreline, has a maximum width of 4.5 miles, a maximum depth of 210 feet, and an average depth of 62 feet.

Lake Travis was created by the impounding of the Colorado River from the construction of Mansfield Dam in 1937 to 1941. The dam is 266.41 feet high, 7,089 feet long, and 213 feet thick. It has 3 Pen Stocks which divert water to 3 turbines with a total electrical generating capacity of 93,000 kw.

The shoreline is fairly well developed with very large and expensive homes, yet there are plenty of places to beach or anchor for swimming or fishing. The water is very clear and emerald green. There are some huge and fast boats and lots of jet skis and other boats, so the lake can get rough on weekends. 

Lake Travis consistently has a problem with low lake levels - in August 2013, the lake was 59 feet below normal - but there is still plenty of water.  Check with the marinas and ramps to make sure they are open.

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A Typical Texas Outsider Day

Normally, we'll search for some calm water to ski or board for an hour or two. Then cruise by some of the houses and of course you have to cruise by Hippie Hollow, which is the only clothing optional State supported beach in Texas.

Boat over to the party cove which is across from Emerald Bay Marina. On weekends this cove is packed with multiple lines of boats rafted together. It's so big that Tugs BBQ cooks and delivers BBQ from their boat.

End the day with appetizers or dinner at Rusty Rudder, Sundancer Grill, on Niks on the Lake.  See the Lake Travis Map to find the restaurants, party cove, boat rentals and more. 

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Other Cool Things To Do:

Volente Beach Water Park is on the lake if you want to boat or drive over and spend the day at a nice water park. Visit some of the restaurants for lakeside dining or music.

If you are anywhere near Lake Travis, then you've got to zip over to Lake Travis Zip Line Adventures and take an exciting and thrilling zip line tour.  You can launch from a 20 story cliff and take a fun two and a half hour tour on 5 zip lines, including the longest zip line in Texas, that takes you across Lake Travis canyons and inlets.

New in 2013 is a fun and exciting adventure based at Lakeway Marina - flyboarding.  You've got to give this a try - strap on some boots, jump in the water, and 1000 pounds of water will lift you out of the lake.  Check out our article about flyboarding with Aquafly on Lake Travis.

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What To Do If No Boat:

Gather 20 to 50 of you closest friends and rent a party barge or houseboat for the day, weekend or week. Click here for a list of some of the options for renting jet skis, party barges, ski boats, houseboats or pontoon boats.  Drive to Lucy's or the Oasis for dinner overlooking the Lake and both offer great views of the lake and sunsets. T

Nearby Activities:

Austin has plenty of everything to keep you entertained. Visit the Guide to Austin to find some fun things to do. There are some outstanding golf courses (Lakeway and River Place are nearby and are Texas Outside Favorites) very close to Lake Travis -- visit our Austin Golf Map and Best Austin Golf Courses to find a good course. .

Restaurants, Bars, & Music:

There is a wide choice of fun lakeside restaurants with bars and live music, some of which include: Sundancer Grill, Gnarly Gar, Rusty Rudder, or Niks.

Wake Boarding & Skiing:

There are plenty of coves for good skiing when the water level is up. Near the dam or further up the lake you will usually find some calm water.


According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, Lake Travis is noted for producing good numbers of largemouth bass, although they tend to run small. Very few trophy largemouth bass have been caught. White bass runs occur in the spring (February-May) in the major creek arms and in the Pedernales River. A low-density striped bass fishery is available in the extreme lower end of the reservoir. Blue, channel, and flathead catfish occur throughout the reservoir.

Lake Travis is dominated by rocky banks, steep cliffs, and clear water typical of a highland reservoir. The water tends to become more stained as one moves up the lake, with some portions of the upper end more closely resembling a flatland type impoundment. In the lower end of the reservoir marinas, floating boat docks, rockpiles, ledges, and steep drop offs provide cover for game fish. When the water is high, largemouth bass anglers should concentrate on the flooded terrestrial vegetation that lines the banks. The upper end of the reservoir will have more flooded vegetation. Many large creeks enter the lake and hold game fish year round.

Largemouth bass anglers have their best success on this reservoir during the spring and fall months. Bass fishing from June through August can be difficult for even the most experienced anglers. Topwater baits such as Zara Spooks, Jumping Minnows, Pop- R's, and suspended jerkbaits are popular with bass anglers. Double willowleaf spinnerbaits with metal flake blades also work well. In Lake Travis, largemouth bass are famous for suspending over points, along drop offs, and in the major marinas. Often a topwater, jerkbait, or spinnerbait pulled near the surface will call them to the top. During the spring, sight fishing for spawning bass is popular among anglers. A jerkbait pulled along the shoreline this time of the year will catch some of the bigger female bass that are waiting to go on the nest. In fall, a big topwater worked on windy main-lake points can be deadly for both numbers and quality-sized largemouth bass. For live-bait fishing, try minnows suspended under corks in the same places where an artificial would work.

For white and striped bass, fishing at night around the lighted boat docks in the lower end of the lake has become popular during winter months. White bass start to run up the major creek arms and into the Pedernales River on their annual spawning run starting in late February or early March. They may stay in these areas until May as they slowly trickle back to the main lake. Anglers can catch these fish using small spinners, jigs, and crankbaits. Striped bass anglers should concentrate their efforts in the lower lake from the dam to the mouth of Sandy Creek. In April and May, these fish often school to chase shad and can be caught using a topwater bait. During the summer, downrigging with bucktail jigs and trailers over submerged humps and deepwater points is often effective. Stripers are not stocked in this lake. They depend entirely on the movement from upstream reservoirs, so their population levels can fluctuate from year to year.

Catfish anglers can find channel, blue, and flathead catfish throughout the reservoir. Blue catfish dominate. Stinkbait and cutbait work well for the blues and channels, while live bait is preferred for large flathead catfish.

Species Poor Fair Good Excellent
Largemouth Bass
White Bass
Hybrid Striped Bass

*Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife

Camping, Waterfront Lodging, and Day Use Parks

There are plenty of options for lodging on Lake Travis, has a listing of some of the rental properties on the lake.  

If you are looking for a campground, Pace Bend has RV and tent sites. Within minutes of Lake Travis is one of the best luxury RV parks in Texas, La Hacienda RV Resort. In addition to great sites and amenities, La Hacienda has cabins that will sleep from two to eight.

Lakeway Resort & Spa overlooks Lake Travis and it is fantastic with a marina, boat rentals, sailing, pools, spa, restaurant, golf, and more.  Read our review of Lakeway Resort.

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Ramps & Marinas

Texas Parks & Wildlife has a very comprehensive list of ramps, marinas, day use areas, and campgrounds. You should also check out Texas Outside's camping section.

Texas Outside Rating of Lake Travis
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Lake Lodging & Camping: 
Texas Outside Rating of Lake Travis
(scale of 1 - 10)
Water Clarity:
Skiing & Board Conditions:
Crusing & Touring:
Restaurants & Bars:
Safety Level:
Lake Lodging & Camping:

More Pictures

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Texas Outside Lakes Rating Scale

Texas Outside rates lakes on a 1 to 10 scale based on:

  • Beauty: high scores are given for lots of trees, hills, or pretty houses
  • Water Clarity: if you’re standing in two feet of water and can’t see your toes or the water has a deep brown color, we’re talking a 1
  • Water Conditions:  rough water with waves over a foot (good for PWCs or surfing) due to consistent wind or boat wakes don’t rate high on our scale
  • Skiing & Board Conditions:  on the weekends if you can typically find a good cove or part of the lake with glass, we’re talking a 10
  • Beaches:  don’t you hate those beaches when you step into the water you sink in mud up to your knees and loose your flip-flops or it’s all slime and weeds or small rocks – if so, that’s a 1
  • Fun Scale: lakes scoring a 10 have fun restaurants and bars, great coves for raft ups or swimming, and fun rental toys
  • Cruising & Touring:  if you can cruise the lake and look at beautiful houses, nice marinas, pretty coves, or anything similar it will score high
  • Restaurants & Bars:  nothing better than cruising over and having some good food and listening to some great music on the deck of a fun restaurant – the ride back with smooth water and a fun moon is also pretty cool – we’re talking a 10
  • Safety Level: lakes with lots of wild and crazy jet skiers or fast cigarette boats will score low
  • Camping:  we’re looking for beautiful spacious sites right on the water with a nice sandy beach to swim and park the boat
  • Fishing:  the bigger the better and they have to be easy to hook


*Fishing information was provided with permission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife ( in 2006. Texas Parks and Wildlife does not endorse Texas Outside or information presented on ©Copyright Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

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