It represents the best Austin has to offer: proximity to downtown Austin, outdoor recreation in a scenic environment, and a diverse mix of people.
What everyone knows
With over 4 million visits a year, this 10-mile urban path has multiple points where one can access the trail and explore the numerous attractions along the path such as skyscrapers, eateries, ball fields, parks, bridges. As well as various opportunities to rent electric bicycles or SUPs, kayaks and canoes to further explore Lady Bird Lake.
What they don't tell you
Did you know, in 1963, The Austin Boat Club started an annual event of boat drag racing at Festival Beach (on the eastern side of Town Lake). Together with the tens of thousands of attendees that flocked to the former Austin Aqua Festival each year, created not only noise and traffic, but litter as well as land & water pollution. Thanks to numerous protests, the boat racing came to an end in the late seventies. However, the last Austin Aqua Festival was in 1998.
Also, in 1994, a bronze statue sculpted by
artist Ralph Helmick commemorating the life and music of singer/songwriter Stevie Ray Vaughan was erected. This 8 foot tall statue can be found along the shore of Lady Bird Lake across the lake from the downtown Austin Public Library, and about 100 yards away from Auditorium Shores - the site of numerous concerts by SRV. It has become a large tourist attraction where you can find flowers and other devotions at its base. A little known fun fact about this statue is that on Dec. 21 at 1pm every year, the real shadow cast by the sun over the SRV statue perfectly lines up with the fake bronze shadow that’s part of the statue’s design. Conspiracy theorists say that the sidewalk leading to the statue resembles a giant Vox Teardrop guitar, from a birds-eye perspective. At the south end of the sidewalk (near Riverside Dr.) You will notice six concrete structures that represent tuning knobs, as well as 22 slabs of concrete heading north down the sidewalk toward the statue, which represent the spaces on the fretboard on the guitar. Not to mention the six rows of roses in the garden, directly in front of the statue, which represents the six strings on the guitar. However, Stevie Ray Vaughan did not use this type of guitar.
The blues legend perished in a helicopter crash a half mile away from the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI, where he performed in a superstar jam finale with brother Jimmie, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy at the outdoor venue 40 miles southwest of Milwaukee. The helicopter was bound for Chicago and Vaughan, the pilot and three members of Eric Clapton's entourage were killed instantly. SRV was only 35 years old.
Do it like a local
Be sure to check out the 7250 ft. long boardwalk on the south side of the lake. it is open from 5 AM to 12 PM. Be sure to bring your camera as it offers great views of Austin’s beautiful skyline! There are convenient benches and awnings, and if you look carefully, you will find many western-style belts integrated into the railings of the boardwalk which are a part of the city’s Art in Public Places program (which includes other works of art such as the Kempelin Owls located in front of hotel proper at the end of Butterfly Bridge). Artist Ken Little created this art installation called Belting It Out, which includes song lyrics from well-known Texas singers and songwriters embossed on each belt.
For the History Buffs
The origin of the idea for this trail is quite fascinating! It all started in 1971 when the wives of a former U.S. President and Austin mayor happened to be staying at the same hotel in London. Together standing on a balcony overlooking the Thames River, they both admired a stretch of the beautiful green path adjacent to the river. Both ladies agreed that something similar can be created along Austin’s Town Lake.
In 1971, the Town Lake Beautification Committee was formed, and included many notable Austin citizens including honorary chair Lady Bird Johnson, Les Gage, Ann Butler, Carolyn Curtis, Emma Long, Betty Wilson, and Jim Pfluger among others.
Decades later, the vision of these two nature-loving ladies, as well as the efforts of many individuals and a community spirit the trail remains as one of Austin’s most recognized and popular recreation areas.
In years past, the banks of the Colorado river were barren due to numerous floods in the Hill Country at that time. Stability was finally introduced when the Tom Miller Dam was constructed from 1938-1940, atop the remains of two previously built dams that were destroyed by massive floods. The Seaholm Power Plant produced electricity for downtown Austin via hydro-electric power the dam created.
A couple decades later, the population grew and the demand for electricity was greater. Thus, the Longhorn Dam was constructed providing a reservoir for cooling water via the Holly Power Plant east of downtown. (Fun factoid: The name of the dam relates to the use of a crossing at that location as a ford across the Colorado for longhorn drives as part of the Chisolm Trail in the late 19th century).
In 2007, following the death of Lady Bird Johnson, the lake was renamed Lady Bird Lake. In 2011, the Town Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail was renamed the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.more deets here
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