From watersports and world-class fishing to camping and bird-watching, lakes across Texas offer fun and relaxation for all. Here are some of the best lakes across the state for all outdoor enthusiasts.
In the Texas Hill Country about an hour northwest of Austin lies Inks Lake, a reservoir on the Colorado River with rock outcroppings, wildlife, and plenty of foliage. The lake is a refuge away from the hustle and bustle of the city, which makes it perfect for camping. There are nearly 200 campsites at Inks Lake State Park and 22 cabins (two of which are ADA-accessible). Many of these sites are lakeside, and several camping loops have playgrounds. The state park also has nine miles of hiking trails through shaded forests and rocky hills, and the park store sells camping supplies, souvenirs, and snacks.
Northwest of Del Rio, where the Devils River meets the Rio Grande River, lies Lake Amistad. While the area has great fishing and recreational activities, the lake’s cave paintings are what make it special. This area was once home to Native Americans, who left behind the cave paintings for modern-day boaters to enjoy. Amistad National Recreation Area has two major rock art sites open for public visitation: Panther Cave and Parida Cave. Check lake conditions before visiting by calling the park visitor center.
With more than 270 miles of shoreline, Lake Travis near Austin has some of the best beaches around. Popular beach spots are Windy Point Park and Montina Beach. For those 18 and up, Hippie Hollow Park on Lake Travis is clothing optional and offers spectacular views, a designated swimming area, and hiking trails. There are numerous lodging options along Lake Travis that range from basic tent camping to luxurious resorts.
Close to Inks Lake, Lake Buchanan offers boating, fishing, camping, and more open-water fun. But it’s the birding that has visitors coming back for repeated visits. Lake Buchanan is a haven for winged creatures, and visitors can spot little blue herons, great blue herons, crested caracaras, American white pelicans, black vultures, great horned owls, red tailed hawks, osprey, and the American bald eagle. Vanishing Texas Cruises even offers scenic wilderness cruises around the lake, and a special eagle cruise during cooler months.
Known as “PK” to locals, you’re more than likely to find a party on this lake. The lake is known for Hell’s Gate—two towering cliffs that stand as “gates” to the entry of a cove on the south end of the lake—and is where partygoers flock during warm months. On the Fourth of July, boaters head out to Hell’s Gate early to tie up their boats and wait for the epic firework show at night over the cliffs. During the day, think ski boats, jet skis, people on floats in the water, and Jello shots being thrown via slingshots from boat to boat. This has also been the site for recent Red Bull Cliff Diving competitions, where divers from across the world freefall from as high as 88 feet into the waters below. Even when there’s not a major event happening, this is the place for a good time.
Way out in East Texas north of Beaumont is Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the largest reservoir completely in the state of Texas. With 114,500 acres of surface area, Sam Rayburn Reservoir is a fisherman’s sanctuary, where massive catfish, bass, crappie, and more can be caught all year long. The reservoir is even a location for the Big Bass Splash, the largest amateur fishing tournament in the state. Other critters in the reservoir include alligator gar, bowfin, and alligators.
Located on the Texas-Oklahoma border, Lake Texoma is one of the largest reservoirs in the U.S. With a surface area of almost 75,000 acres, this lake is a paradise for water sport enthusiasts who need room to get wild. More than 6 million people visit the lake each year, and the lake features almost 20 marinas to make water skiing, boating, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, jet skiing, and kayaking a breeze.
Just north of Fort Worth, Eagle Mountain Lake has a history of being a boater’s lake. Eagle Mountain is home to the world-class Fort Worth Boat Club, which was founded in 1929 and today still has active members and events like annual regatta competitions. Spread out across almost 9,000 acres, this lake is great for cruising around or anchoring down for some R&R.
Situated right in downtown Austin is Lady Bird Lake, named after former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. This is a popular lake for kayaking, canoeing, rowing, and paddle boarding, and no motorized watercraft are allowed on the lake, keeping it peaceful and serene. The lake’s prime location in the city means it’s close to hotels, shopping, hiking trails, restaurants, and more, making it a great lake for city folk who need a getaway but can’t escape the concrete jungle.
For sheer beauty, head out to Lake Cypress Springs, about two hours east of Dallas. The lake is spring-fed, so water levels tend to stay the same year-round. Popular activities here are camping, boating, and swimming in the clear water. Keep an eye out for the beautiful homes lining the shore.