Walter E. Long Park

By Leah – October 4, 2011

This Sunday, Austin’s long-distance triathletes will be out at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park for Ironman 70.3 Austin.  They’ll be swimming 1.2 miles in Decker Lake, riding 56 miles on their bikes, and then running a half marathon (13.1 miles at the end).

Later in December, runners will be back out at the park for the ARC Decker Challenge (race #3 in the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge), a half marathon (mostly run on the very route that those triathletes were biking over) with an option for “the double”–running the course twice to make it a marathon (26.2 miles).

In June, Decker becomes the scene for the Danskin Women’s Triathlon, a sprint distance triathlon (1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 5K run).

All these athletes know where Decker Lake is–do you?

Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park was named after one of Austin’s outstanding citizens.  Walter E. Long is considered the father of city planning in Austin, and he had a hand in projects as varied as securing dams to create our beautiful highland lakes system and purchasing property to enlarge The University of Texas beyond it’s original 40 acres.  He wrote some 40 books about Austin, and the park was named for him after he died in 1974.

Decker Lake makes up a large part of the park; it covers 1,200 acres of the total 3,802 acre recreational spot.  The water in the lake is used to cool the nearby power plant, and so the water stays a bit on the warmish side (though that’s always relative).  The City stocks the lake with all sorts of freshwater fish, and there are ramps and sites for fishing all around the shores.  You can boat and jet ski there, too; the lake’s maximum depth is 60 feet and, on a good day, there’s a bit of visibility to the lake water.  Because Decker Lake is a reservoir, it’s almost always a constant level, which is something to keep in mind in case next year is as bone-dry and hot as this last summer here in Austin was.

Often, you see families hanging out at the reservable picnic sites.  While you can’t camp there, it’s a great place to relax, fish, watch the water, swim, and explore.  And it’s all very close, just minutes from downtown Austin out east.

Feel free to go cheer on the athletes this weekend, who will be covering every inch of the park and quite a lot more of Austin and the surrounding area in their quest for a Half Ironman finish.  Or you can go out Saturday and have a peaceful moment on a beautiful fall day.


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