Safe boating

​​​Navigating the Highland Lakes, especially Lake Travis, can challenge even the most experienced boat operator.

Safely enjoy boating on the Highland Lakes by following these tips:

  • Know the rules. Before you visit the lake, be familiar with the Texas Water Safety Act and the LCRA Land and Water Use Regulations. The regulations include limits on boat speed and noise levels.
  • Be aware of changing conditions. The Highland Lakes are not "constant-level lakes." Lake elevations may change daily, creating potentially hazardous boating conditions. Know the different types of buoys and markers.
  • Don’t drink alcohol and operate a boat. It’s against the law in Texas to operate a boat while intoxicated. Violators of boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws can receive fines and jail time, lose their driver license and temporarily have their boat confiscated.
  • Take a safe boating class. Learn about navigation, required equipment and state laws for all types of boating. State law requires people under 18 to take a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department safe boating class before handling a boat on Texas waters. Personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis, must follow all boating laws in addition to specific rules.
  • Learn the lay of the lake. If you’re unfamiliar with the Highland Lakes, take a boat trip or two with someone who knows the lakes and can show you around.
  • Know where you are and carry a map onboard. Aerial contour maps of the Highland Lakes include many known hazards, a global positioning system (GPS) grid, color infrared aerial photography and other helpful information. Convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations and other retail businesses sell the maps.​

Navigating shallow waters and other hazards

  • Be aware of shallow areas.
    • Inside of a bend in the river.
    • V-shaped shallow areas downriver of an island or sandbar.
    • Around a point of land or the mouth of a cove.
  • Lighter-colored water is often more shallow. Changes in water color often indicate a change in water depth.
  • Water is usually deeper on the cliff side of lakes. The shallow side usually slopes gradually down to the water.
  • Tree stumps and floating debris are common, especially during and after periods of heavy rainfall or high water.
  • Deadheads (also called sinker logs) are a serious hazard. Impact at a high speed with a deadhead can punch a hole in a large boat or destroy a small one. Deadheads are almost impossible to see at night.