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Austin is one of the sunniest cities in the U.S.
As far as we’re concerned, that means kayak-time!
With the Colorado River flowing right through the center of the city, there seems to be no shortage of places to go kayaking in Austin. You don’t even have to travel far from urban areas to be surrounded by nature.
We have put some information together to help you find some of the best spots in and around Austin, whether you’re looking for peace and quiet, good fishing or a little whitewater.
1: Colorado River
Flowing right through downtown Austin, you don’t have to travel far to access the Colorado River. But a good spot to paddle on this famous waterway is just a few miles east of downtown, launching at Little Webberville Park.
From this launch you can paddle the (roughly) 50 miles to Bastrop. But if you want an easier, shorter trip, you can paddle along to (Big) Webberville Park which is just 5 miles downstream. If you need to rent a kayak, Cook’s Canoes is located right next to the park and they also offer a shuttle service between parks if you have your own boat.
2: San Marcos River
The San Marcos River lies around 30 minutes south of Austin and can be accessed from City Park, San Marcos. This can be a popular spot for tubing, with several tubing outfitters dotted along the riverbank.
You can also rent kayaks from Sewell Park Outdoor Center, on Texas State University campus if you’re a Texas State student or alumni or member of staff. Kayak rental is available for the general public at Olympic Outdoor Center.
Once you paddle out of downtown San Marcos, the river becomes less lazy and a little more rapid, with Class I and II whitewater. This stretch can be quieter and more peaceful, with opportunities for wildlife viewing and fishing.
3: Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is a reservoir on the Colorado River near the Rainey Street Historic District in Austin. The lake covers 416-acres and can be a great spot for checking out the Austin city skyline.
There are several access points and short paddling trails, making it ideal for beginners. Another benefit of this lake is that gas-powered motor vessels are banned and there’s a 5 horsepower limit on electric motors, so it can be a little safer if you’re a new paddler.
You can launch your boat and rent kayaks at Zilker Park. If wildlife is your thing, you might want to paddle along to the Congress Avenue Bridge to see over a million Mexican Free-tailed Bats take flight every evening during the summer. This is the largest urban colony in North America.
4: Inks Lake State Park
Inks Lake State Park can be an ideal paddling spot for beginners, families, anglers and experienced kayakers looking for wildlife and natural scenery. The lake itself is a reservoir on the Colorado River and it has a no-wake zone dedicated to paddle sports.
You can rent kayaks at the park store, where there’s a launch area. And there is camping on site if you want to make it a weekend trip. There are also fishing piers where you can fish without a fishing license. The lake has lots of quiet coves and creeks to explore.
5: Lake Bastrop
Lake Bastrop is around 20 miles east of Austin and covers 900 acres. It can be a great spot for kayak fishing or shore fishing and ideal for families with children.
There are boat ramps available both at North Shore Park and South Shore Park where you’ll also find campsites, nature trails and restrooms. You can rent kayaks and canoes at both parks.
The lake is a cooling reservoir for a power plant so the water temperature tends to be a little warmer.
6: Lake Austin
Lake Austin is part of the Colorado River just north of downtown Austin. This can be a quieter spot for kayaking compared to Lady Bird Lake. If you have your own kayak, there’s a public boat ramp operated by Travis County Parks, just under the Pennybacker Bridge. You can also launch at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.
A little farther upstream you can rent kayaks from Peace Paddling. Motorized vessels operate on the lake, so you do have to watch out for boat traffic. However, there are lots of little creeks and areas close to the banks where it can be a little quieter.
7: Lake Travis
Another reservoir on the Colorado River, Lake Travis can offer scenic landscapes with hills and trees around 20 miles outside of downtown Austin. There are plenty of boat ramps for easy launching. A good spot to launch if you have your own kayak is at Arkansas Bend Park, where you’ll also find restrooms and other facilities.
You can rent kayaks from Viking Ship Kayak Rentals, but you have to order ahead and they’ll deliver them to you.
The lake can be a popular spot for other watersports, including wakeboarding, so it can get busy at times. But there are lots of coves and inlets that can be quieter for paddling.
8: Walter E. Long Lake (Decker Lake)
If you’re looking for a peaceful spot for kayak fishing, Walter E. Long Lake can be the ideal place. It offers excellent fishing opportunities if largemouth bass is your target and the lake often holds fishing tournaments.
This large reservoir covers 1,200 acres and is surrounded by Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park. The boat ramp is at the southern end of the lake. If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent one for 24 hours from Austin Kayak but you’ll have to transport it to the lake yourself.
9: Barton Creek
Barton Creek can be easy to access from downtown Austin and flows into Lady Bird Lake. Depending on the water levels, Barton Creek can offer up to Class III whitewater from the launch just off the Loop 360. Launching from Gus Fruh can be more relaxing with up to Class I.
There are several access points along the creek, which is also a Greenbelt with lots of hiking trails, nature and wildlife.
Kayak Rentals And Tours Around Austin
If you don’t have your own boat, there are several places where you can rent a kayak or join a guided tour.
- Cook’s Canoes – Colorado River (rentals)
- Sewell Park Outdoor Center – San Marcos River (rentals)
- Texas Canoes & Kayaks – San Marcos River (rentals and tours)
- Olympic Outdoor Center – San Marcos River (rentals and tours)
- Zilker Park Boat Rentals – Lady Bird Lake/Barton Creek (rentals)
- Texas Rowing Center – Lady Bird Lake (rentals)
- Inks Lake State Park – Inks Lake (rentals)
- Lake Bastrop South Shore Park – Lake Bastrop (rentals and tours)
- Lake Bastrop North Shore Park – Lake Bastrop (rentals and tours)
- Peace Paddling – Lake Austin (rentals)
- Viking Ship Kayak Rentals – Lake Travis (rentals)
- Lakeway Marina – Lake Travis (rentals)
- Austin Kayak – Walter E. Long Lake/Austin (rentals)
- Rowing Dock Rentals – Barton Creek/Lady Bird Lake (rentals)
Paddles Up! Final Say…
There are so many fantastic places to go kayaking and kayak fishing in Austin. And many of them are within easy reach of downtown. Even if you don’t have your own kayak there are lots of outfitters around Austin where you can rent one for a few hours or a couple of days.
Have you checked out some of these locations? Maybe you’ve found a better one? Let us know. And help us to encourage new paddlers by sharing this.