Water, Water Everywhere

In the old days, Texans fell into two categories: lake people and folks who wouldn’t be caught dead within a hundred yards of the shore. But times have changed—lakes are more accessible, facilities are more family friendly, and activities include a heck of a lot more than going out on a boat and drinking beer. We scoured the state from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande to find twenty great adventures, from skiing on Lake Texoma to flying high above Lake Conroe. So dive right in. The summer won’t last forever.

1. Horse Around
Lake Whitney, near Whitney

When the summer sun lures you to the lake, you’ll be tempted to hit the water as soon as possible. But cool your spurs. There’s no better way to enjoy the lush landscape of Lake Whitney than to ride horses. Saddle up at Arrowhead Resort, located on the lake’s wide southeast edge, which is the only outfit in town where you can “borrow” a horse for a lazy, forty-minute jaunt. The head wrangler will guide you along a shady path that leads right down to the shoreline. Inexperienced riders (read: city folk) needn’t worry about skittish behavior from the mounts; Hoover, a 23-year-old Appaloosa, has earned the nickname the Mover because he’s so unhurried. If you have your own horse (a Coggins test is required to prove that the animal is free of disease), you’ll want to explore the maze of equestrian trails at McCowan Valley Park, also on the east side of the lake, which ambles through rolling pastures and dense woodlands and has campsites that accommodate trailers. As for beating the heat after a dusty day on the trail, you’ll know what to do next.
Arrowhead Resort: From Whitney, head west on Texas Highway 22 for 3 miles, then turn right on County Road 2105 and follow the signs for 1 mile to resort entrance; 888-412-3044 or arrowheadatlakewhitney.com; trail rides $24, lead-line rides $7.50. McCowan Valley Park: From Whitney, head north on FM 933 for 4 miles, turn left on FM 1713, and go 6 miles. At fork, veer left and continue on Spur 1713; trailhead is at the McCowan campground; 254-622-3332; day use $1 per person (an additional $1 if camping overnight), camping $12 per site per night. JORDAN BREAL

2. Live It Up
Lake Lewisville, near Lewisville

Lots of people who go to the lake don’t own boats and, for that matter, are not particularly wild about waterskiing, bass fishing, or sailing. They go simply to hang out, drink beer, stare at good-looking people in bathing suits, listen to loud music, and shout, “Let’s party!” If you’re such a person, then visit Sneaky Pete’s, the giant restaurant-bar on the southwest corner of Lake Lewisville, the 29,000-acre lake twenty miles north of Dallas. You also need to catch a ride on someone’s boat to the Party Cove, a little inlet just around the corner from Sneaky Pete’s that has been regularly described as “a waterlogged Bourbon Street.” The patrons think of Sneaky Pete’s as their own country club. There is a swimming pool, a beach, four sand volleyball courts, and an indoor sports bar where bands play at night (classic rock, of course). On your first visit there, you’ll no doubt say, “Ah, TTB (trashy Texas bacchanalia) at its finest.” But that’s before you hit the Party Cove, where, on weekend afternoons, dozens of gigantic cabin cruisers, ski boats, cigarette boats, and Jet Skis pull alongside one another. As you might expect, one thing leads to another. If you’re a voyeur, bring a camera. Don’t, however, bring your kids.
Sneaky Pete’s: 2 Eagle Point Drive, 972-434-2500 or sneakypetesonline.com; open daily. SKIP HOLLANDSWORTH

3. Win $100,000
Sam Rayburn Reservoir, near Jasper

If your friends roll their eyes each time you talk about landing a twenty-pound largemouth bass (which, for some reason, looks smaller in your pictures), here’s your chance to show off your skills. Each year the Sam Rayburn Reservoir hosts upward of three hundred tournaments for both amateurs and pros alike. The most famous is the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Lone Star Shootout, held in March, which attracts more than one hundred professional anglers. (This year’s winner, Louisiana’s Greg Hackney, walked away with $100,000 after landing a total catch of 79 pounds, 10 ounces.) Making a run at that title will earn you plenty of face time on ESPN2, but maybe it’s better to consider putting your jigs in at Mill Creek Park or trying an amateur tournament instead. The reservoir is also the site for the Big Bass Splash, in April, which draws nearly four thousand contestants. Don’t worry. You can always tell your pals it was for pros only.
Mill Creek Park: From Jasper, take U.S. 96 north 21 miles, then go northwest on Loop 149 for 2 miles, then 1 mile west on Spur 165 to park entrance; 409-384-5716 or 877-444-6777 or swf-wc.usace.army.mil/samray/; $3 boat launch fee. BRIAN D. SWEANY

4. Sail, Sail, Sail
Canyon Lake, near New Braunfels

The way to learn to sail Canyon Lake is to hook up with somebody who’s been at it a while. Like Bubba Horner, a retired family doc from San Antonio who’s been sailing in general since his dad built him a two-man Snipe when he was eight—he’s eighty now—and navigating Canyon Lake specifically since he and nineteen buddies founded the Lake Canyon Yacht Club, in 1967. Horner retired from competition last year after winning the one-man Sunfish class, but he still goes to the marina most weekends to officiate races and instruct kids. Get out on the water with Horner and you’ll learn just by listening to him think out loud: If the surface of the Guadalupe River–fed lake, normally the color of pale-green olives, turns suddenly black, then the wind is picking up; races start with the wind blowing into a sailor’s face, forcing boats to avoid the section of water in front of them between ten and two o’clock (“I call that the JC Zone, because nobody but Jesus Christ can get anywhere sailing straight into the wind,” Horner says); and there is no sight prettier than a pack of boats that have rounded the final turn and are headed to the finish line, their spinnakers filled with air. “Sailing’s like golf,” Horner says. “I could teach you in a weekend everything you need to know, and you could do it for the rest of your life, but you’d still never perfect it.”
Lake Canyon Yacht Club: From New Braunfels, take FM 306

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