LCRA to close Lake Travis to recreational boating due to rising water levels

Lake Travis will be shut down to all recreational boating activity at 8:30 P.M. Officials with LCRA made that announcement Monday as Lake Travis continued to rise after last weeks storms.

Getting onto Lake Travis, even before the closure notice was announced Monday, was no easy task. So when Thomas Felux pulled up to this barricade with his ski boat in tow the disappointment was not a total surprise.

"We've been watching the LCRA reports and we knew it would be a shot in the dark, we came and played yesterday, had a good day on the water yesterday. today and tomorrow maybe I guess we'll find something else to do," said Felux.

In an attempt to ease the pressure on Mansfield Dam, LCRA River managers opened a fourth gate around 10 Monday morning. At the level of 681' Lake Travis is considered to be full.

Before the sunsets Monday, the water level is expected to reach 693'. As a result, LCRA VP for Water John Hofmann announce it was time to pull boats off the water.

"We are closing Lake Travis to recreational boat traffic because of increased hazards submerged items and to the detrimental effect that wave traffic has on property," said Hofmann.

Violating the boating ban is a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500. Swimming and fishing are still allow.

Homes started to flood this past weekend mainly at Graveyard Point. It typically happens under these kind of conditions. Parks and roadways are  swamped. In some cases the only way you'd know where the shoreline is would be with a mapping system on a boat.

The high water backs up well past Pace Bend Park and the community of Spicewood. At the Narrows a few years ago it was a much different scene during the drought. It was so dry that you could practically walk across the Colorado River without getting wet

After enduring the drought, Janie Martinez said she never dreamed her husband and grandson would now be fishing from the park picnic area.

"What was it about four months ago, we came by it was still there was. Water but as high as it is now I mean you could not walk across at the lake anymore but it was nothing like this," said Martinez.

The drought started taking hold intensifying in 2011. As the years past with no significant rainfall the lake started to fall back into the original River channel. By 2014 some wondered if the lake would ever be full again. But the rebound started a year later and surged after an extremely wet May.

"To the people that get surprised by what we've seen over the course of the last 12 months, welcome to central Texas. This is exactly the kind of extremes and weather that we see within a 12 month. But a year ago we are looking at a lake that was over 50 feet lower than what it is today," said Hofmann.

It's not known how long LCRA will keep the lake closed but it's anticipated flood gates operations may continue through the week.

Lake level projections are updated frequently and can be found by going here.

Lake Travis is currently sitting at 120 percent full, a big difference from two years ago when the lake dropped to about 40 percent full.

“According to the GPS, my boat right now is completely on land,” said Robert Weiss with Lake Travis Scuba. 

But Robert Weiss' boat was not on land, not by a long shot.

He said all the rain that flowed into Lake Travis has created new challenges for boaters.

“Getting out to our boats, we used to have to basically walk out about a half mile out on the shoreline here to get out to our boat. Now, we actually have to get boated out because our dock is too far away from the shoreline because the waters so high,” said Weiss. 

Over the years, Weiss and scuba diver Ron Carlisle have watched as the lake levels climbed up and dropped down over and over again.

“When it drops its dropping farther every time than the previous time,” said Carlisle.

FOX 7 got a first-hand look at how Lake Travis has changed now that it's 120 percent full.

“Having it up like this high that quickly does create some problems,” said Carlisle. 

The lake is covering the dry land area at windy point. Now picnic tables, dumpsters and barbecues are floating in the water. 

Weiss and his crew even found a bench that used to sit on dry land floating in the middle of the lake. They pulled it from the water so it could be returned to a safer location.

Several walkways at Mansfield Park are unusable because the water line is so high.

“Boat ramp is over there, which is now unusable, so before the boat ramp was completely out of the water, now it's completely covered by water,” said Weiss. 

Mansfield Dam currently has three floodgates open for the first time in almost a decade. The dam towered above the water line two years ago, now the lake is only about 20 feet from the top.

“I think it's a little too high because it's flooding homes out over in Graveyard Point, so that's not good. They’re releasing water out of Mansfield Dam so that's affecting downstream, so it'd be nice if we could keep it at 681 a lot more than it is,” said Carlisle.

The large rock formation at Starnes Island is not even visible today. From the water, there's barely any evidence that the island even exists.

“So right now there's no rock showing. It’s all just right at the tree line,” said Weiss. 

Before heading back to shore, Weiss showed us a flooded RV and Carlisle and his son Michael got in the water to take a closer look.

“It's higher on it then it was yesterday, that's for sure,” Weiss said. 

With more rain filtering into Lake Travis the water line is expected to rise even more in the coming days.

According to LCRA, Lake Travis rose to a record high of 710 feet in 1991. That caused significant flooding around Lake Travis and downstream.