Kayaking Near Austin (10 Great Places to Paddle)

Texas is packed with amazing places to kayak, but the city of Austin holds a special place in every water enthusiast’s heart. While the city is known for its live music venues and bustling nightlife, it also has gorgeous outdoor areas perfect for kayaking all year long.

While the summers can get hot, all you have to do is bring some sunscreen and take a dip in the water to stay cool. You might need a light jacket during the cooler months as you travel through the waterways.

When Austin is your travel destination, make sure to check out these top places to go kayaking for an adventure that will have you ready to fill up on some Texas barbecue.

Colorado River at Webberville Park

Considering that this river flows through downtown Austin, it is hard to miss. This is also one of the most iconic places to go kayaking in Austin. While you’ll find many places along the river to put your kayak in the water, you can find a perfect little launch spot if you travel just a couple of miles east of downtown.

Here, you’ll find Little Webberville Park, which has basic amenities such as portable toilets and a playground for kids. If you prefer a shorter trip, you can travel about five miles to Big Webberville Park, or you could go for the long haul and paddle 50 miles to Bastrop.

Lake Bastrop

This lake is known for being one of the best places to kayak near Austin, Texas, because it has a little something for everyone. In addition, anglers love that the lake is a power plant cooling reservoir since it helps to keep the water perfect for fishing during the colder months of the year.

While the lake is filled with people enjoying everything from tubing to kayak fishing, you won’t feel cramped. With 900 acres to explore, you don’t have to worry too much about bumping into someone else’s path.

If you love to fish, you’ll find Florida largemouth bass, channel catfish, and flathead catfish all just waiting for you to reel them in.

Red Bud Isle

At the base of Tom Miller Dam, you’ll find a 13-acre island that attracts kayakers from all over the world. With views of towering cliffs and the opportunity to spot some Texas wildlife, you’ll find that this kayaking spot feels different from other locations.

This is also one of the most dog-friendly places you can go kayaking in Austin. If your dog likes to ride along in your kayak, then you can treat them to the opportunity to run free in an off-leash dog park.

While the water here is relatively easy to navigate for beginners, you will want to be cautious of getting too close to the foot of the dam if you aren’t a confident paddler. The currents can get unpredictable the closer you get to the dam.

Lady Bird Lake

Red Bud Isle lies upon this lake, but there is so much more to explore. The 400-acre lake is within the Austin city limits, making it a favorite paddling destination for locals who want a quick drive to their launching spot. Powerboats are prohibited on the lake, giving paddlers free range to explore without worrying about getting tipped over by a wake.

The lake is surrounded by beautiful cypress, elm, and sycamore trees, and you might spot a few raccoons, squirrels, and native birds along the shores.

However, if you can stay on the water until dusk, then it’s worth checking out the scenery at the Congress Avenue Bridge. Here, you’ll get the opportunity to watch as over a million bats come flying out for their nightly meal.

San Marcos River

San Marcos is a fun little suburb just around half an hour from Austin. People tend to flock to the San Marcos River because it is well-known for having a “lazy river” type feel that allows for a leisurely and relaxing trip.

The water also hovers around 72 degrees all year long, which gives you a predictable place to go kayaking in Austin during any season.

The ideal place to launch here is at City Park, and you can enjoy floating along leisurely until you get out of downtown. As you head further out of the downtown area, you can find some class I and II whitewater rapids for a little more of a challenge.

After you enjoy your trip, you’ll find lots of eateries and shops to give you a place to cool down until you head back to Austin.

Inks Lake State Park

Located about an hour from Austin, this state park offers a lake that is a reservoir of the Colorado River. Beginners and people with kids will appreciate that the lake has a no-wake zone where they can paddle around with greater comfort and safety.

If you love to fish, then you’ve got your choice of bass, crappies, and catfish all swimming below the surface.

Your experience at Inks Lake can vary according to the water levels. During periods of low rainfall, the water level can dip low enough to bring your boat uncomfortably close to rocks and downed trees.

Keep an eye out and check the water level report so that you set out on your adventure aware of the conditions.

Since this location is an hour from Austin, you might also want to know that the site offers cabins and camping spots for overnight stays. If your schedule permits, this might be your best option for being able to attend one of the many night paddling events that the state park offers throughout the year.

Lake Austin

You should find it pretty easy to remember the name of this kayaking destination. People pick this place to kayak in Austin because it tends to be less crowded than other areas.

Unfortunately, the lake is mostly surrounded by private property, which makes finding a launch spot tricky.

You’ll want to tread carefully anytime you enter or exit the water to ensure that you aren’t crossing any boundary lines. However, you can find an excellent spot to launch at the public boat ramp near the Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360.

The bridge has a perfect view of the Texas sunset, which gives you a lovely place to snap a photo to commemorate your adventure at the end of your day.

The lake does allow motorboats, but you won’t find it hard to stay away from the wakes. There are many secluded areas along the lake’s perimeter and opportunities to catch a few largemouth bass and catfish.

If you bring along your rod-and-reel, then focus your casting on the weed beds that you’ll find along the shoreline. The bass tend to hang out here the most, and you’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful paddling trip.

Lake Travis

The entire state is known for having a strong stance on littering, and you’ll see the evidence of their anti-littering campaign with greater clarity in the clearness of the water here. Lake Travis is known as being the cleanest lake in Texas, and the surrounding landscape also reveals its beauty.

The lake’s shoreline is filled with sprawling hills and waterfront mansions that give a kayaking trip a sense of luxury. There are also many different parks, beaches, and campgrounds lining the 270 miles of shoreline.

If you want to take a break from kayaking, then you’ve got options such as scuba diving and swimming to keep you entertained. If you prefer to launch at a boat ramp, then you’ll find multiple access points scattered around the perimeter of the lake.

Walter E. Long Lake (Deckers)

Anyone who loves kayak fishing will appreciate knowing that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has dubbed this lake among the best locations in Central Texas to go kayak fishing. The populations of largemouth bass here are above optimal, and you can try your hand at catching sunfish, catfish, and hybrid striped bass.

This lake also has a beachy, family-friendly vibe that makes it fun for planning group kayaking trips. In addition, the lake is surrounded by Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park, which provides opportunities to enjoy sand volleyball or a grilled meal when you take a break from paddling.

You can explore numerous coves and channels that make up the lake on the water. The water conditions here are known for being excellent the majority of the year, and there’s a range of people kayaking from all experience levels.

Zilker Park

Zilker Metropolitan Park is just a fun place to visit, and people come here to play disc golf, attend special events and go jogging on one of the many trails. For kayakers, the draw to this lake comes from its easy access point to Barton’s Creek.

Paddling along the creek gives you a chance to possibly sight a few ducks swimming along beside you in the water or turtles sunbathing along the shore.

Like Red Bud Isle, this park offers a dog-friendly experience that includes a little spot called Barking Springs, where your pup can cool off in the designated dog swimming area. If you choose this location, you’ll need to know that kayaking above the Barton Springs Pool can bring unpredictable water conditions.

It’s best to stay on the lower part of the creek where you can leisurely paddle without worrying about getting caught up in rapids or discovering washouts.

Be sure to check out more fun things to do in Austin.

Conclusion

Going kayaking near Austin is the perfect way to plan a well-balanced trip that includes everything from an outdoor excursion to a visit to the Capitol building. When you pack for your trip, remember that Texas requires a life jacket for each person in your boat, and you’ll want to check the weather beforehand to monitor for rainstorms that affect the water conditions.

Other than that, a kayaking trip in Texas doesn’t take much more planning. Soon, you’ll be able to enjoy gliding along some of the most beautiful rivers and lakes in the country.

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.