4 In North America/ Travel

Getting Outside In Austin? Kayak Lady Bird Lake

Renowned poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” English romantic poet, William Wordsworth expressed a similar sentiment in his time, saying “A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.”

I won’t pretend I heard those quotes before just now. Contrary to these legendary wordsmiths, I rather unpoetically (see what I did there?) Googled, “quotes about being on water.” Point is, I knew these majestically-worded sentiments were out there after spending time on Austin’s Lady Bird Lake, kayaking with Rowing Dock’s Carrie Morton. (Though to be fair, it looks more like a river and is actually a reservoir on the Colorado River, created by the 1960 Longhorn Dam — Thanks, Wikpedia!)

Carrie, boasting a wide-smile as bright as her sunny blonde hair, greeted us as casually as a friend you’ve known your entire life. This type of authentic friendliness was rampant throughout Austin, save for the massive gun rally we stumbled across at the statehouse. It was a tale of two Austins to say the least.

Without much hesitation — throw a life jacket on and sign away your life on a standard waiver — Carrie had all four of us in a comfortable single kayak, paddling away from shore. The weather epitomized an idyllic setting, especially for four freezing souls escaping the cruel, biting cold of Cleveland in January. Here, it was 70-degrees and sunny. The emphasis being on the sun. Man, how I missed thee, sweet burning flame that warms me whole!

There was no rush to do much of anything on Lady Bird Lake. Nowhere to go, nowhere to be. I was quickly becoming envious that this was Carrie’s job, who left it to us to decide when to head back in. “I can stay out here all day,” she laughed.

First we meandered west toward Red Bud Island, a tiny off-leash dog park sitting in the middle of the lake. The surrounding landscape grew quickly as we sailed away from the dock. Mansions sat high atop the adjacent ledges. These weren’t just big-box, suburban McMansions. These were beautifully ornate mansions that drew a comment from every kayaker passing by.

Next, we headed back southeast toward the Barton Springs Pool, passing a group of canoe polo players (which is apparently a thing) having it out underneath the MoPac Expressway. The water became incredibly shallow as we approached the pool. Greenery was floating to the top, the ground clearly visible. This is where the turtles come out to play.

Something about these little guys seemed so playful! Y’know, despite their usually inanimate stature. But they were, indeed, everywhere — swimming alongside the kayaks, perched on a floating branch, or seemingly hibernating below. It was tempting to reach out and grab one for my own amusement, but then I thought how annoying it would be if some stranger came by my home and plucked me out of my comfort zone for their amusement.

After over two hours of our quasi-adventure, we headed back to shore. But it was clear that Carrie would’ve been completely content staying out until the sun set. Luckily for her, she can come back tomorrow and the next day, continually absorbing the impenetrable calm of Lady Bird Lake.

Unfortunately for us, it was back to the frozen tundra, where the sharp winds of Lake Erie feel as if they are intent on peeling the nerves off your bones one by one.

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  • Joel
    February 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Ladybird Lake and the Rowing Dock are our regular hang out in the spring/summer in Austin… it is about as peaceful a place as you can find!

    • Joe
      February 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Glad to hear you’re finding a peaceful time at Rowing Dock. Can’t thank them enough for showing us the ropes of Lady Bird Lake.

      Thanks for reading, Joel!

  • Hanne
    February 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Very nice, Joe! Thanks fo sharing! No pictures of the turtles??

  • Joel
    February 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    not the best photos i’ve done but here are a couple i’ve done in the past with the turtle(s):