Austin Rocks: Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk

Sheila Scarborough at Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk Austin TX

The view back west toward downtown Austin, on the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk “Waterfront Promenade” section (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

(Part of the Austin Rocks series of posts by a local about things to do and see in Austin, Texas) 

It has been a few decades since I would ride my bike down from the University of Texas campus area to go for a run on what we then called the Town Lake Trail. The “lake” – which is actually the Colorado River flowing through town – was renamed Lady Bird Lake in 2007, after First Lady and nature advocate Lady Bird Johnson.

Despite the passing of many years, my gimpy knees enjoyed a recent afternoon stroll on the newest part of the Trail, the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk.

The Boardwalk section of the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail was completed in mid-2014, but I’d never gotten around to seeing it. I hate becoming one of those locals who say, “Never been there.”

Here is a PDF map of the entire Butler Trail – you can make a nice big loop on it.

Getting to the Boardwalk section is not difficult if you’re running, walking, or cycling on the Trail already, but as always in downtown Austin, finding parking can be a little tricky if you want to drive and then see only a portion.

It’s pretty busy with runners and cyclists, but the birds poking around in the underbrush nearby didn’t seem to mind. The path is nice and wide so it can accommodate a lot of people at varying speeds.

There are great views of Austin looking back across the lake, but the best ones are probably a bit further west of where we were walking, on the “Skyline” segment off of East Riverside Drive.

If you have a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, there are plenty of places to launch along the Boardwalk, too.

Part of Belting it Out public art on Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk Austin TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

At the bottom of the photo – one of the “Belting it Out” musically-themed bronzed belts that are public art on the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk, Austin TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Public art always brings a whole different element to a town’s experiences. If you pay attention to the Boardwalk side rails, you’ll soon see a music-related public art installation, which is fitting for the “Live Music Capital of the World.”

The photo above is part of “Belting it Out” by Texas artist Ken Little. It’s a total of 36 bronzed Western belts along the Boardwalk, each stamped with music lyrics from all sorts of classic songs.

“Take the ribbon from your hair” is from “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” covered by many musicians but written by a singer-songwriter who was born in Brownsville, Texas, and is a Phi Beta Kappa, a Golden Gloves boxer, an Army veteran, and a Rhodes Scholar….Kris Kristofferson.

A breath of fresh air, some time with nature, a blood-pumping workout, or a little musical history; it’s all there for you on the Boardwalk, down by the lake.

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