It’s been raining around Austin since Labor Day. And the cold front that came through yesterday morning has been dumping rain in the Highland Lakes’ Basin. The Llano River rose to march its historic high of 40′ this morning, taking a bridge out. Sandy Creek, the San Saba, and Pedernales Rivers are over flood stage as well. Lake Travis is the flood control lake in the chain and it has risen over 25′ in the last week, 16′ of those since last night.
We drove to the marina today. The lake’s rise is almost visible while you’re just standing there looking at it. So far, our docks are fine, being let out as the lake rises. But the rain continues to fall, and the lake is supposed to go up another 12-15′ by tomorrow, flooding many places along the shores of Lake Travis. This flood has yet to play out, so we’re watching carefully.
I love the water and being out on our boat on the lake. We are out there nearly every week, year round. I don’t take for granted the beautiful scenery and the freedom of feeling the sun and wind on my face. We have fun too; lots of fun with friends. We spent Friday through Monday on the lake this past July 4th weekend. We were sun-baked, sore and tired when we finally got home. But we did get home. Sadly, on Lake Travis alone, on this one weekend of the year, there were several accidents and drownings: a 2-year old baby girl fell off a dock near Emerald Point and drowned before her family could rescue her; a bi-plane crashed into the crowded waters off Windy Point, thankfully with no casualties; two motor boats collided one evening near Devil’s Cove, sending ten people into the water in the dark, four people to the hospital, and one driver to jail for DUI; and the body of a 50-year old man was found drowned off Graveyard Point. The previous weekend a 9-year old girl was injured by the spinning propeller of a motor boat operated by her father as she was floating off the back of the boat near Mansfield Dam Park. And there have been 2 or 3 other drownings on Lake Travis just in the last month. Tragic. Sad. It makes you pause. It should make you pause. It is easy to underestimate or disregard the potential dangers of being on the water, and the responsibility all boaters have to take care for ourselves, our guests, and the other boaters whose paths we cross.
The lake can look serene, but can be deadly. Put your lifejackets on your kids! Keep yours on or at least within reach if you are in the boat, and always put one on if you get out of the boat to swim or jet-ski or kayak or SUP or ski or wave-board. Learn the rules of the road… who has right-of-way, when. Maintain the required 50′ minimum distance from other boats while underway. Study the maps of the lake so you know where you are and where you are going. Don’t drink and drive a boat. Learn how to anchor securely and safely. Don’t drive over the anchor rodes of boats you are approaching. Pay attention to the wind to know how it will blow your boat relative to other boats at anchor. Know that your boat throws a wake and be courteous to other boaters. Learn to recognize marker buoys: hazard buoys, no-wake buoys and channel markers. A cove with a no-wake buoy means just that: don’t drive your boat or jet-ski at a speed that will create any wake. Do not operate your motor if anyone is near your boat or any lines are floating near your boat. Watch out for floating debris in the water. Use your running lights after sunset. Learn how to interpret the running lights on other boats to know in what direction they are moving. And for God’s sake, slow down.
The lake levels are dropping from the 693′ levels from earlier this week. Lake Travis was reopened today. It’ll need to get to about 683′ before we have power on our docks restored. But we’ll probably head out there this weekend anyway. The shot below is of the downstream side of Lake Travis’ Mansfield Dam, with 3 flood gates open, from last weekend. What a difference a year makes!
Hello September, and… good morning! One of the nice things about anchoring in Arky cove is that you are treated to beautiful sunset and sunrise views – this was the view off the port-side of Nirvana, as I was drinking my morning coffee.
Back at the marina, we popped into Shades for lunch for the last time this season, after this weekend they close up shop until next spring. This is the sobering view of the marina from the restaurant. The lake is at 620′ and some change. Just 6 feet from the all-time low for Lake Travis of 614.18′ in August of 1951. Less than 3 years ago, the lake was brimming at 680+ with the lakewater lapping the parking lot. With the LCRA’s mismanagement of this incredible natural resource, and with no rain in the future, we’re sure to go much lower than that this year. All docks are now moved out, off-shore, accessible via shuttles that leave from the courtesy dock. No electricity or water on the docks for the forseeable future. This is sad, not only because we love playing on the lake, but scary because this is Austin’s drinking water supply, quickly disappearing downstream.