Town Lake love affair


On Sunday afternoon we drove downtown, parked under MoPac, and walked the 3-mile loop around Town Lake. Reds, oranges, yellows—the trees along the lake blazed with color. Well, they blazed by Austin’s standards.

It was a gorgeous day—about 79 degrees and partly cloudy—and we strolled along, just leaf peeping, people watching, and checking out the improvements along the trail. These were numerous. I hadn’t been to Town Lake since last spring—I avoid it during the heat of summer—and I noticed new stone work, trail markers, and plantings all along the route, thanks to the fundraising and hard work of the Town Lake Trail Foundation, a group that has picked up where the city left off years ago on much-needed trail maintenance.

Gigantic bald cypresses line the lake, their feathery leaves a rusty orange. I couldn’t believe the size of some of them. Their trunks must be 30 feet around.

A balding man gazes up at a mighty bald cypress.

The tree’s sinuous roots reach into the water. This is a tree that likes wet feet. I had to watch my step so as not to trip over cypress knees (roots) rearing out of the embankment.

The trail was dusty, since it hasn’t rained in a while, and the plants alongside the trail were seemingly frosted with fine dust. But the day was fine.

Kayakers were out up and down the lake. If you aren’t from Austin, you may wonder why the river through town is called a lake. Yes, it is the Colorado River, but it’s dammed and so technically a lake, even though it still looks and flows like a river. Motorized boats aren’t allowed on Town Lake, and it’s a favorite place for rowers, crew teams, kayakers, and canoers. On summer evenings, bat-watching cruises (motorized) are allowed to take passengers on a gentle ride down the lake to the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the bats emerge for their hunt.

This is one of the new retaining walls along the trail. It replaced old, rotten railroad ties, as I remember. A nice improvement.

A spiky yucca and a red rose pair beautifully.

More color at Lou Neff Point.

Children like to feed the ducks along the Barton Creek inlet near Lou Neff Point. Here a strawberry blonde and a ponytailed redhead relaxed with their child beneath a rusty bald cypress. That baby is bound to be a redhead too.

Kayakers found the spot favorable also.

Now this is the life.

A wooden bridge crosses the Barton Creek inlet into Town Lake, making for a picturesque view. We like to look for turtles from the bridge. This time we saw some large fish down there too. What that fisherman needed was a spotter up on the bridge to locate them.

This bamboo grove puts me in mind of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It used to be a favorite spot for homeless people to camp until the city came in and thinned it out.

Autumn texture

The Pfluger Bridge—seen here under the Lamar Boulevard Bridge—provides a safe crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists. Before it was built, you had to use the narrow shoulder of the Lamar Bridge, and accidents with cars were not uncommon. The new bridge is not only a beautiful, safe crossing but an overlook destination in itself. I’ve even heard of spontaneous musical concerts happening up there in the evening.

From the Pfluger Bridge you get a good view of Austin’s growing skyline and political sentiments graffitied on the railroad bridge.

The dome of the capitol peeks over fall foliage. This is similar to the view from Zanthan‘s yard, as I recall from one of her earlier posts.

Looking the other way, over the Lamar Bridge, toward the hills of west Austin.

A bald cypress hangs onto its greenery on the north side of the lake.

Late afternoon light slants across Town Lake.

A freeze is expected on Thursday, and those colorful fall leaves will soon be floating down the lake. At the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful that our family was able to enjoy this perfect day on the Hike-and-Bike Trail.

4 Responses

  1. Hilary says:

    I always love looking at your photos. We seem to be going to a lot of the same places and your pics help me remember things I forgot. keep up the great pics.
    thanks, hilary

    Thanks, Hilary. Isn’t it great to be able to enjoy Austin’s cool season and beautiful outdoor places again? —Pam

  2. Laura says:

    Those cypress trees at the beginning of your post are gorgeous! Can you guess about how tall they are?

    I don’t know . . . maybe 60 to 80 feet? Tom Spencer at Soul of the Garden recently posted about these trees too. He claimed that the big cypresses are 1,500 years old, but I think that can’t be right. My husband and I did a little research about old trees on the internet, and Austin’s trees don’t make the lists.

    Moreover, according to the Town Lake Trail Foundation, “It surprises people to find out that around 40 years ago, the banks of the Colorado River here were practically barren. Regular floods, common in the Hill Country at that time, regularly swept trees and brush away. The tree-lined shores you see today are result of the stablity introduced by damming the river. Tom Miller Dam . . . was first constructed from 1890 to 1893. That structure was destroyed by a massive flood. It was rebuilt as Austin Dam from 1909 to 1912. That structure was also destroyed by flood. Each of these floods wiped out the great majority of trees that lined the river. The current structure was built from 1938 to 1940 atop the remains of the previous structures . . . ” So it seems to me that these great cypresses would be only about 66 years old, though favorable conditions (lots of water) have allowed them to attain their huge size rather quickly.

    That’s a long answer to your question, but I was intrigued by these trees too. Thanks for asking about them. —Pam

  3. Tressa Williams says:

    Where is this structure featured in your very last picture? You seem to know/appreciate town lake very much. I would like to hold my wedding ceremony at Lou Neff Point, would you recommend it?

    Thank you so very much.


    Tressa, it’s called, interestingly, Opossum Temple and Voodoo Pew, also known as Possum Point. I know next to nothing about good wedding locations, but if you don’t mind sharing your wedding with the joggers, I’d think Lou Neff would be a beautiful spot. —Pam

  4. […] The bats, which make up the largest urban bat colony in North America, live in crevices under the bridge and are a big attraction for tourists and locals alike, who gather on the shores of Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) and on the bridge to watch them emerge at sunset. Batfest takes a natural phenomenon in Austin and makes a party out of it. Garden Rant gals, you’d have loved it. […]