Lake Waco, Brazos open for holiday boating, but flood damage lingers

Local boat ramps and waterfront parks have reopened to boaters and swimmers in time for this week’s Independence Day festivities, but bouts of recent flooding have left them worse for the wear.

High water and strong winds have caused significant erosion at Lake Waco’s parks since mid-May, when water levels crested at 16 feet above normal. While most of Lake Waco recreational areas are back open for the summer as of this week, Airport Park, the lake’s largest lakeside camping site, is expected to remain closed until Aug. 1, as lake officials get repair estimates.

“Since October, which is when our fiscal year starts, we’ve had three floods,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park ranger Mike Champagne said. “As far as finances go, we don’t have money to make repairs and the money we had was to maintain what we have. We’ve had to burn through that to fix stuff to get it over, but then we go through another flood.”

Also still closed are Airport Beach and day use area, Koehne Park, and the day use area and boat ramps at Reynolds Creek Park.

Still, the cleanup has progressed enough that Midway Park, Reynolds Creek Park campground and equestrian campground, Twin Bridges Park’s front beach, boat ramp and group shelter, Speegleville Park boat ramp and beach were all open for residents to use.

The day-use boat ramps at Flat Rock and Lacy Point are also open. On Monday morning, Lake Waco measured about 0.4 feet above the full pool level of 462 feet.

Lake Waco, a reservoir located entirely in the city limits of Waco, has about 10 recreational areas positioned around the lake. Champagne said Airport Park was hit the hardest, as waves eroded large chunks of shoreline from around campsites and destroyed electrical outlets and park shelters.

“The truth of it is, the purpose of the lake is flood control and it protects the city of Waco, protects downstream in Bryan-College Station, Houston and all of our water that goes into the Brazos River goes down to the Gulf,” he said. “We hold it back for them, but in return, we take the brunt of the damage on our own facilities, causing recreation to serve as a secondary purpose.”

Boat ramps also reopened last week along the Brazos River in Waco. Carla Pendergraft, marketing director for the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said with the majority of ramps open ahead of the Fourth of July, she is seeing more traffic on waterways.

“We are all delighted that they are finally back open,” she said. “Fourth of July is mostly aimed at locals, since nearly every town in the U.S. has its own celebration, but those who love water will have to really make a concerted effort to get out there to make the most of what’s left of summer.”

Interim city parks director Jonathan Cook said a key event for the city and boaters alike will be the annual Fourth on the Brazos and H-E-B fireworks show from Touchdown Alley at McLane Stadium, starting at 9 p.m. Thursday.

“This is our fifth year that we’ve had the event out here at Touchdown Alley at McLane Stadium and unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of rains over the past five years. In two of those years, we haven’t been able to have boat traffic,” Cook said. “This weekend, our boat ramps at Brazos Park East that are now back open were quite active throughout the weekend, so we are prepared, with the good weather, to have a lot of boat traffic.”

Cook reminded all boaters to have all occupants to wear life jackets and remember the Brazos River through Waco is in a no-wake zone.

Article: Waco Trib


Photos: Staff Photos Waco Trib

Ironman officials reveal race course, anticipate ‘spectacular’ inaugural event in Waco

Todd Behringer knows he’s a little biased. As the CEO and President of Bicycle World Texas, the title sponsor for the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Waco Triathlon, he is fully invested in helping Waco put on a great race.

But Behringer also knows of which he speaks. He has competed in 17 Ironman races in the past, both at the full distance (140.6 miles) and the half varieties. Plus, he has already made the rounds on the Waco course, and he’s convinced.

“You have to be careful not to be biased, but it has the potential to be a spectacular race,” Behringer said. “Really, with the comparison of courses with what we’ve seen out there, to be able to start downtown and to be able to quickly get out with very good roads and no traffic, it’s getting harder and harder with the Ironman events.”


The inaugural Ironman 70.3 Waco replaces the Austin race on the Ironman schedule, and organizers were pleased and even overwhelmed by the interest. They capped registration at 3,000 participants in June.

Behringer said that Ironman officials want to stage races in urban, downtown areas, but it’s become harder to do in high-traffic cities like Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.

“So they’re really looking for mid-markets such as Waco, they can come downtown, still get the excitement of the event being downtown, but still be able to quickly get out and not let traffic be an issue,” he said.

Race organizers revealed the swimming, biking and running courses at a Friday press conference at a Waco’s Bicycle World location, simulcasting the announcement on Facebook Live. The event will begin with a 1.2-mile swim in the Brazos River, leading off from the Waco Paddle Company’s dock near the Waco Suspension Bridge. Racers will make a single loop before transitioning to a 56-mile bike course that traverses Martin Luther King Drive, China Spring Road and other McLennan County country roads before returning downtown. Though parts of that stretch are relatively flat, bikers will gain a total of 1,116 feet of elevation along the course.

“There’s enough straightaways that you want as a competitor, because you’re trying to go fast. You’re not looking around a whole lot,” Behringer said. “But, really, on the back side of the course there’s enough countryside turns to keep it to where it’s still interesting. So we like that.”

Finally, participants will embark on the 13.1-mile (half-marathon) run that utilizes much of Cameron Park. The running course features a double loop before the triathletes eventually cross over the Suspension Bridge for the finish.

The course bears some similarities to the 10-year-old TriWaco, and yet the sway of Ironman helped open up some new avenues, Behringer said.

“With this event and Ironman’s power, so to speak, their brand, they’re able to get road closures and they’re able to pull off things and have the manpower that we with TriWaco could not do,” Behringer said. “To get those roads (China Spring Road, FM 185) closed was really unheard of for any event.”

Will Phipps, executive director of the Greater Waco Sports Commission, said that he first responded to a Request for Proposal (RFP) from Ironman in early 2017. In May of that year, Ironman officials visited Waco, and the race was finalized and formally announced last November.

Race director Greg Pennington praised how both county and city officials have “opened up their arms” to welcome this inaugural Ironman event in the city.

Race officials were delighted by the registration response. Last year’s final Austin 70.3 event featured around 2,000 competitors, so the Waco race’s turnout represents a 50 percent increase – with room to grow even more.

“We capped it at 3,000. There are very few 70.3s that have that many participants,” Behringer said. “We think next year that this could literally be the largest 70.3 (race) in the nation.”

Ironman has reached a five-year agreement to hold the race in Waco, and Bicycle World of Texas has a similar commitment as title sponsor.

Race officials also believe that the event sets up well for spectators. From the vantage point of the Suspension Bridge or Washington Avenue Bridge, fans will be able to watch the swimmers as they make their loop on the Brazos. Because of the two-loop running course, fans sitting along the street should be able to view the athletes twice on their run before making a short trek over to the finish line at the Suspension Bridge to see them complete the race.

Waco owns a unique triathlon history. It hosted the state’s first triathlon in 1980 at Lake Waco’s Airport Park. The race continued on an annual basis until 1996, then faded away. But it experienced a rebirth in 2008 with the introduction of TriWaco, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary last month.

And if this inaugural Ironman race goes well, it could grease the bicycle spokes for future triathlons in Waco.

“There’s other triathlon events out there,” Behringer said. “Ironman can set the stage, you have USAT nationals, lots of other races. It really sets it up any time you do something successfully, it opens the doors for others.”

Waco Tribune-Herald