how deep is lady bird lake

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Of the many places in Austin to take a swim this summer, Lady Bird Lake is not one of them.

The lake, which is technically a reservoir, has been off-limits to swimmers since 1964 when Austin City Council banned swimming in what was then Town Lake, according to the city’s watershed protection department.

The 1964 ordinance bans swimming between the Tom Miller Dam and the Old Montopolis Bridge in Colorado River waters.

Why did they ban swimming? Liz Johnston, the city’s deputy environmental officer in the Watershed Protection Department, said the ban began after several drownings on the Colorado River and the lake.

Pollution is not the primary reason and would not be a reason today to prohibit swimming, Johnston said.

“There are a lot of urban streams that flow into Lady Bird Lake, and so I can understand why people consider it to be polluted,” Johnston said.

The watershed department and state monitor Lady Bird Lake’s contact recreation standards, which look at E. coli levels. Johnston said the water does meet standards for stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and —technically — swimming. But other safety hazards are still reasons to keep swimming prohibited.

Prior sand mining operations, gravel mining operations and floods are some reasons why the river remains off-limits to swimming. There are also currents from Lower Colorado River Authority water releases that create a danger to swimmers. There are also destroyed bridges under water that could be treacherous.

Most of the lake is between 10 to 16 feet deep with some shallower and deeper areas, Johnston said.

While no rule prohibits dogs from swimming in the lake, Johnston said it is “swim at your own risk” and recommends dogs rinse off after. Harmful algae have been found in the water, which has killed some dogs in recent years.

“If there’s a lot of algae around, then it’s very possible that there could be toxic algae present,” Johnston said.

“Enjoy your time on Lady Bird Lake,” Johnston said. “But…any body of water could have risks associated with it, and so just wash off afterward.”

History edit Longhorn Dam impounds Lady Bird Lake.

Town Lake was created in 1960 when the City of Austin built the Longhorn Dam. In order to provide a cooling pond for the Holly Street Power Plant, which was in operation from 1960 until 2007, the city required the reservoir. [2].

Town Lake’s shoreline was primarily made up of trash, unkempt shrubs, and weeds prior to 1971. [3] The lake was called a “eyesore” by the local television station KTBC. [3] A few worried Austinites spearheaded little initiatives to purify the lake. To lead parkland development around the lake, Roberta Crenshaw, chair of the Austin Board of Parks and Recreation, bought almost 400 trees and shrubs. [4] Austin Mayor Roy Butler established the Town Lake Beautification Committee with the help of the Austin City Council during his two terms in office (1971–1975), and he named Lady Bird Johnson as the project’s honorary chairman. Because of Johnson’s involvement, the Town Lake project received funding and attention, including $19,000 from her personally. As a result, hundreds of trees and shrubs were planted. Additionally, the city constructed a network of bike and hiking trails around the lake’s edge.

In honor of Lady Bird Johnson, who passed away earlier that month, the Austin City Council approved a resolution on July 26, 2007, renaming the reservoir from Town Lake to Lady Bird Lake. [6] During her lifetime, Johnson had turned down the opportunity to have the lake named in her honor. The City Council renamed the lake in honor of Johnson’s commitment to making it more aesthetically pleasing and her work building a network of recreational trails around the lake’s edge. [7].

“Clean Lady Bird Lake” was introduced by the nonprofit organization Keep Austin Beautiful[8] in 2009. [9] Every year, the program organizes thousands of community volunteers to carry out targeted cleanups throughout the year and large-scale cleanups along the lake every other month. [10][11].

The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, which bears the names of a former Austin mayor and his spouse, underwent paving in 2014 to establish a boardwalk. [12].

Following the discovery of four other bodies recovered from the lake in 2023, first responders to the Austin Police Department’s call to the 300 block of West Cesar Chavez Street on Monday, February 5, around 1:30 in the afternoon, found a deceased body that had been discovered by citizens. [13][14].

Recreational uses edit View of Lady Bird Lake and the Downtown skyline seen from the

One of Austin’s main recreation areas is Lady Bird Lake. The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail circles the lakes’ banks, and along its lakefront section, businesses provide services for recreational boats. Zilker Park, Austin’s largest downtown park, is located next to the lake, and Barton Springs, a popular swimming hole, empties into it.

Swimming in Texas’s oldest swimming pool, Deep Eddy Pool, and the naturally occurring Barton Springs Pool on Barton Creek, which empties into Lady Bird Lake, are two more water activities available near the lake’s edge. Red Bud Isle, a small island created by the McDonald Dam’s collapse in 1900, is a recreation area below Tom Miller Dam. It has a dog park and access to the lake for fishing and canoeing. [17].

It is untrue that Lady Bird Lake is unsafe for swimming because of numerous drownings and debris from bridges and dams that were destroyed by previous floods, not because of bad water quality from runoff from nearby streets. The prohibition was implemented by the City of Austin in 1964, and the maximum fine is $500. [18].

At least five dogs are said to have died after being exposed to the toxic blue-green algae for the first time, which was discovered in the lake in August 2019. [19].

Fishing edit

Several fish species have been added to Lady Bird Lake in an effort to increase the reservoir’s suitability for recreational fishing. In Lady Bird Lake, largemouth bass, catfish, carp, and sunfish are the most common fish species. Most species have daily bag and length limits, and fishing is controlled and requires a license.

The City of Austin declared in 1990 that fish caught in the lake could not be consumed due to the fish’s abnormally high chlordane levels. [26] Despite being prohibited from use as a pesticide in the US in 1988, chlordane is still a chemical that adheres well to soil particles and can contaminate groundwater years after it is applied. In 1999, the prohibition against consuming fish obtained from the lake was eventually lifted. [27].


Is Lady Bird Lake safe to swim in?

If you are an Austin local, you know there is no swimming allowed in the lake.

How many bodies have been found in Lady Bird Lake?

Now a family wants answers. A dead woman was pulled from Lady Bird Lake in Austin, cops say. Texas police said the case was not a homicide, but her case was far from the first for the lake. Over the last 20 months, over 10 bodies have been pulled from the same lake, according to Austin police records.

Are there fish in Lady Bird Lake?

Lady Bird Lake contains an excellent population of largemouth bass. It is not uncommon for anglers to catch and release 20-30 bass per day in the 2-3 pound size range. Quality panfishing is also available. This reservoir contains some very large redear and redbreast sunfish.

Is it safe to kayak in Lady Bird Lake?

Paddleboarding, Kayaking & Canoeing It’s a safe haven for families since there are no motorized boats on the water, making it a great place for children to learn the ropes on the lake. Because there is no motorized boat traffic on Lady Bird Lake, paddlers of any kind can take full reign over the lake.