Low Lake Level Hiding Dangers

Sandy Creek, which feeds into Lake Travis from Jonestown, is creeping back into its original channel.

The expanded shoreline has also pushed out the new boat dock for Travis Co ESD1.

“Unfortunately we have the same amount of people but a lot less room,” said Captain David Daigle.

The lower water has increased the number of calls for the Lake patrol.

“I’ve been with this department 10 year and this is one of the busiest summers we’ve had so far, as far as emergency calls,” said Daigle.

Navigating now more than ever requires a close eye on the depth gauge because the scene ahead can be deceiving.

“You can look, right off this point and see the trees coming out of the water, down that gradual slope ... If you cut the corner out here, you will run aground,” said Daigle. 
Sometimes, according to Daigle bad judgment happens before boats are on the water.

“When people don’t check their boats and go out during the day before you know if the suns gone down and their lights are out, that’s a lot of what we run into, their safety is compromised because They didn’t do a safety check before they left.”

As of Monday morning Lake Travis was at 65% capacity. The loss of water in the lake isn’t just because of evaporation and what’s release downstream. Managers with the LCRA posted Monday morning that in July the city of Austin pumped out almost 5 billion gallons of water from the Colorado River system. That’s an average of about 160 million gallons a day.

The low spots are not limited to the Sandy Creek part of the lake. If you go on down about 9 miles from here to Mansfield Dam you’ll see the Sometimes Islands. They are starting to look like a peninsula. The outcropping of land stretches from Mansfield Dam Park to the where the old channel of the Colorado River bends around a high slope. It was the location of a concrete mixing plant used to build the Dam. some structures are still there -just below the surface. Like an old Conveyor line according to Sgt Greg Lawson with the Travis Co Sheriff’s office.

“They’re made out of wood, looks like railroad timbers, they’re big square Timbers, that it’s made out of, so I can neither confirm or deny whether they’re still there, I know they were there.”

The potential for trouble is not limited to boaters. Sgt. Lawson says they’ve worked seven drownings so far this season. 

“But one of the real killers is, when you don’t swim well and you’re walking in 3 feet of water and you step off into 100 feet of water, and that’s what it is out here, it’s like a flooded canyon, so you’re stepping right off a cliff,” said Lawson.

The other problem comes from people who don’t know or forget that the lake is designed to fluctuate.

“So if you haven’t been out here in a while and you come out, you’re coming out to a different lake,” said Lawson.

With that in mind, most of the enforcement initiatives and prevention programs focus on catching a problem before it hits the water.