Congress Avenue Kayaks

With the summer heat beginning to turn up the temperature, Congress Avenue Kayaks provides a way for people to cool off and get out on Lady Bird Lake.

CAK owner Darla McDonnell said running a kayak and stand-up paddleboard business has been an exciting experience. She added that CAK is one of the "most fun places you could be associated with" because it is beginner–friendly and appeals to a wide range of people.

"Our kayaks are stable and don't require a lot of instruction. You don't need to know how to be a great navigator, and children can go in it and paddle," she said. "It offers a lot to a large number of people. I think that's why it's the most fun and why I like doing it."

CAK opened along with the Waller Creek Boathouse in May 2012 and is based out of one of the boathouse's lower bays. CAK shares space with the Austin Rowing Club and In Motion bike rentals.

McDonnell, who rented out kayaks at Bushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park before opening her own business, said CAK's location on Lady Bird Lake is ideal because it provides access to the water on the north shore and is part of a boathouse that offers a variety of watercraft options.

"This is an area that I think the city truly wanted to see become a full-fledged boathouse with all these various boats around," McDonnell said. "It used to be the rowing shells were the only ones here, [but] this has expanded [the offerings]."

In October, McDonnell said she made the decision to rent stand-up paddleboards as well as kayaks.

The stand-up paddleboards are about 12 feet long, have a fin on the underside and require about 3 feet of water to be paddled, she said.

The CAK fleet totals about 68 kayaks and paddleboards, but McDonnell said CAK keeps adding more inventory to try to eliminate any wait times.

McDonnell said the key to enjoying a kayak or paddleboard is to be patient and get comfortable maneuvering the watercraft.

"Whatever you're going to do, just take your time doing it," McDonnell said.

Guided bat tours

Because of Congress Avenue Kayaks' location just downstream of the Congress Avenue Bridge, the company offers guided bat tours in which people can rent kayaks and go on the water to watch the bats fly from under the bridge.

Owner Darla McDonnell said the tour guides give out bat facts, and sightseers can paddle to whatever spot they like to watch the bats. McDonnell said the best spot to see the bats is from about the middle of the lake to the north shore.

Tours are offered Thursday through Saturday, and boats launch at 7:30 p.m. Tours last until about 9 p.m. Tours are $30. To reserve a kayak, visit


CAK offers both single- and two-person kayaks for rent. McDonnell said the two-person kayaks are the most popular choice among customers.

"We're primarily doing two-person boats because they allow one person to paddle and the other person to take photos, if they want," McDonnell said. "It's less moving back and forth, and we're leaning more toward that."

McDonnell said a two-person kayak is also popular because it makes carrying and eating lunch on the water easier for two people.

The kayaks available at CAK are sit-on-top kayaks with adjustable seat backs.

Rental prices are $10 per hour for a single-person kayak and $15 per hour for a two-person kayak. A half-day rental, which is for four hours, costs $25.

Stand-up paddleboards

CAK also offers stand-up paddleboard rentals. The boards are shaped similar to surfboards with a fin on the underside and measure about 12 feet long.

McDonnell said the stand-up paddleboards can sometimes take a little more getting used to than the kayaks.

"They take a couple extra outings to get totally comfortable on them," McDonnell said. "Some people take to them like a duck to water, so it depends on the person."

Customers must be age 16 or older to rent a stand-up paddleboard. The rate for renting a paddleboard is $20 per hour.

Congress Avenue Kayaks, 74 Trinity St., 512-809-8916,

  • Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–7:30 p.m.,
  • Sat.–Sun. 8:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m.