Boaters packing Lake Austin instead of Lake Travis

Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin, and the Colorado River downstream of Longhorn Dam are closed until Wednesday, June 1 at noon. (KXAN File Photo)
Police searching for lake-goers boating while intoxicated (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Even with the rain in the forecast this weekend, the three-day holiday typically sees a lot of people hitting area lakes. Beginning Friday night, a personal watercraft ban goes into effect on Lake Austin. That means jet skis or motorized surfboards can’t be used until Tuesday morning. Canoes and kayaks are exempt from the ban, however.

But boaters might see even more boats out on Lake Austin this Memorial Day weekend. That’s because boaters who typically choose to use Lake Travis are picking Lake Austin instead because Lake Travis continues to be low — even with all of the rain.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials said the rain hasn’t caused many issues for Lake Austin, since the Lower Colorado River Authority keeps it at a constant level. Boaters might find debris, like logs, from runoff. Officials are warning people to keep an eye out, but the big concern is making sure boaters watch out for each other on the lake — especially if they are pulling a tuber or someone water skiing.

“Lake Austin is a very skinny lake. There isn’t much room, and with as many boats this weekend that will be on the water, everyone needs to take special precautions and watch what is going on,” said TPWD Game Warden Theron Oatman.

Game wardens will also be out this weekend doing spot-checks on boaters for safety equipment and to make sure the boat’s operator isn’t drinking.

“We take boating while intoxicated very seriously,” said Oatman. “It’s the same as driving on the highways when you are intoxicated; it’s the same offense, whether you are on the water or the land.”

The Austin Police Department will also have officers patrolling the lake over the weekend.

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