Business on Lake Travis looking up for some as drought lingers on

LAKE TRAVIS, Texas (KXAN) — Business owners near Lake Travis say they’re already posting better sales than the year before. That’s welcome news in the midst of a continuing drought that has left lake waters at extremely low levels.

But some lakeside businesses are finally hopeful the worst is behind them.

GOING IN-DEPTH // Low levels

  • While things may be better than just a few months ago, a year-to-year look shows the drought has seriously affected the Highland Lakes for several winters now.
  • Just three years ago, Lake Travis was about 666 feet above sea level in February 2011. That’s just shy of the typical level of about 669 feet.
  • But by February 2012 the lake dropped by close to 40 feet.
  • Despite a slight increase the next year, it is actually lower now. In February the LCRA said Lake Travis was only about 628 feet deep.

“The economy is up a little bit,” said Bill Gauspohl, general manager at VIP Marina on Lake Travis. “We’re getting calls for paddleboats all the way to luxury houseboats, day charters, spend the night weekend deals. People I think are tired of sitting at home and are ready to come out and have some fun.”

The water level in Lake Travis is up six feet from Labor Day. The slight increase has helped boost morale around the lake. But Bill credits other reasons as well.

“In the past they weren’t sure what the economy was going to do so they were kinda holding back,” he said. “Now I think they see that it’s going to be stable. People now are seeing that there’s room for some fun and were seeing that increase.”

“After closing for the off season, the Gnarly Gar has reopened on weekends. Despite the progress, many boaters remain grounded.

“It’s really hard to get a boat in and out of Lake Travis right now,” said Andrew Benray. “Unless your boat is already here it’s very expensive to put in in one of the other marinas.”

“So long as the lake stays where it is or comes up, which is what were hoping,” added Gausphol, “I think were gonna see this place thrive. But at least the money is starting to.”

The low levels have taken a toll on several lakeside businesses.

In September the owners of Carlos N’ Charlies closed for good after several years of declining sales. On Labor day, the restaurant held a party, followed by an auction of restaurant memorabilia.

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