Video shows why swimming in Lady Bird Lake is unsafe


by SHELTON GREEN / KVUE News and Photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheltonG_KVUE

Posted on May 22, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 23 at 10:56 AM

AUSTIN -- Two weeks ago a man impaled his foot and ankle on rebar under the surface of Lady Bird Lake. KVUE News set out to get a closer look at what lies beneath the water. 

“There's a lot of debris in there and that's what we always try to get across to people. It's a flood control lake. It's a beautiful thing to look at but there's a reason the City of Austin says you can't swim in it,” warned Palmer Buck with AFD. Buck was one of the first on the scene when the man jumped into the water from the bottom of the Lamar Street bridge.
“That's when we've seen the most injuries, when people are jumping off the bridge. Not just because they land wrong, just because the bottom is so uneven. You [could] be in a place where it's 10, 20 feet deep and you can be in a place where it's two feet deep. That that changes within the course of just several feet,” added Buck.
The fireman told KVUE that there’s no one particular part of Lady Bird Lake where debris is worse than any other.
“There's so many different places that there's problems. The closer you get to Tom Miller Dam is more of an issue,” added Buck.
Nearly all of the debris in Lady Bird Lake is from decades old bridges and structures which were covered up when the City of Austin decided to transform the Colorado River into a flood control lake.
“They didn't go and have bulldozers that cleaned it out and made it a nice sandy bottom they just got some of the bigger things out of the way and flooded the lake so old trees, some legacy construction work, houses things like that,” said Buck.
We saw a number of signs at the bottom of the Lamar and Pfluger Pedestrian Bridges warning people about not swimming. 
Austin lake patrols routinely look for people swimming and diving into the murky water.
“Obviously we can't man the whole lake at the time and we do have police that come in and make sure and tell people when they do swim,” said David Mitner at the Texas Rowing Center.
The fine for people caught swimming in Lady Bird Lake is $118. The ticket doubles if the swimmer is caught diving.