Having Fun Boating in Austin, Texas

Boating in Austin, TX

The Highland Lakes in central Texas provide many opportunities for Austin boaters. You can rent a slip at a popular Lake Travis marina or trailer your boat to a different lake every weekend. Renting a boat slip ensures you’ll be able to get out on the water even when the boat ramps are closed (fairly common on Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis when the water level is low). But either way, it’s great to take your boat out and have fun on the Highland Lakes.

The six man-made lakes in the Highland chain support a broad variety of water sports. This 85 mile long segment of the Colorado River provides numerous places for cruising, fishing and swimming. For the more adventuresome, the larger lakes support parasailing, wake boarding and water skiing. And there are plenty of scenic areas on these Austin-area lakes for canoeing, kayaking and sailing.

Most Popular Austin Boats

Although there are quite a few sailboats on Lake Travis, the vast majority of boats on the Highland Lakes are motorboats. These range from large cabin cruisers and cigarette boats, to ski boats and pontoon boats, and down to small runabouts, bass boats and personal watercraft (jet skis). Most marinas can accommodate any of these boat types for a small monthly fee. Most Lake Travis boat slip rentals typically cost between $200 and $500 per month (depending on slip length and services); and jet ski slips are even less.

A few of the larger cruising boats and high powered runabouts have inboard engines; but most Austin boats are propelled by outboard motors. Most of these outboards run on gasoline; although the use of electric motors is increasing for low power applications like trolling motors for fishing boats. Outboard motors are easy to access and maintain; and if they need servicing, they can be taken to a repair shop without having to haul the boat. There are plenty of Austin boat motor repair shops and skillful outboard mechanics who can keep your outboard in good running condition.

Lake Travis Boat Ramps

The largest two Highland Lakes – Travis and Buchanan – are used as reservoirs to maintain the other lakes at a constant level. Accordingly, the water levels in Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan vary with the amount of rainfall – and the water consumption by communities, businesses and farming along the Colorado River downstream. But even in the worst drought conditions, Travis and Buchanan have much more water than any of the other Highland Lakes.

However, when the Lake Travis water level falls below 632’ above MSL (Mean Sea Level), all the public boat ramps must be closed – because they no longer reach the water. This is bad news for Austin boat owners who trailer their boats; they can’t use the public boat ramps to get their boats into the water. The same problem occurs on Lake Buchanan – when the water falls below 993’ above MSL, all the public boat ramps are shut down. At the time of this writing (9/21/13), Lake Travis is at 620’ and Lake Buchanan at 985’ above MSL – so all the public boat launch ramps are closed.

Marina Slips vs. Trailering

There are a few Austin boaters who like to take their boats to different lakes – or even the Gulf shore -- for a change of scenery (or better fishing luck!) Road trips can be fun; but with trailering, you’re going to spend a significant portion of your time on the logistics of trailering, and less time enjoying your boat. Lake Travis is 64 miles long and 4.5 miles wide; there’s plenty of space, scenery and variety there to make every day on the water a uniquely enjoyable experience.

With Lake Austin and Lake Travis boat slips priced from $200/month, there’s little financial incentive for trailering your boat. If you consider the cost, wear-and-tear and inconvenience of driving your boat to and from the lake every time you want to go fishing, water skiing or cruising; a boat slip starts looking awfully good. These days, most people don’t have a lot of time for recreation; so why spend this messing around with the trailer, waiting in line at the boat ramp (if you can find one), and finding a place to park your trailer? This can easily take an hour or more from your time on the water. Which would you rather be doing?


Lake Travis Marinas



Popular Austin Boat Types



Fun on a Ski Boat





Pontoon Boat Party






Sport Yacht