Our Story (click here)

Owner’s Howard and Dorothy Barnett

Pictured here recieving award from Council Member Ann Kitchens for their 50th Year in Austin as a small business.

Howard Barnett and Dorothy Lopez Barnett

When Howard was 18 years old, he left home in Tyler, Texas for a summer job in Yellowstone National Park which eventually lead to three summers as a smokejumper with the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula, MT.  while attending the University of Texas.

After graduating, Howard and Dorothy decided to stay in Austin where Howard worked as a staff writer for Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Because of their concern for conservation of the environment, Dorothy organized the very first meeting of the Austin Sierra Club and they began going on canoe trips.

One beautiful spring day in 1969, Howard was driving across the Lamar Street Bridge and was astounded that no one was boating on our beautiful Town Lake (now Lady Bird Lake).  So Howard and Dorothy submitted a two page proposal to Austin Parks and Recreation Department to rent canoes on Town Lake and were granted the very FIRST contract of this type in Austin. 

Howard and Dorothy saved up enough money from Howard’s salary at Texas Parks and Wildlife to purchase the initial inventory of 9 canoes from the owner of Bull Creek Lodge, now known as County Line on the Lake. Howard remained at Texas Parks and Wildlife and Dorothy, with daughter Laura in tow, worked at Zilker Park Boat Rentals.

Having been staunch environmentalist for most of their life, they support efforts to bring awareness of Barton Creek and Lady Bird Lake through free programs for children who might not have an opportunity to see nature in their backyards.  This is their desire going into the future.

Dorothy has has served on the board of several organizations at the city, state, and national level. While helping with Zilker Park Boats, Dorothy received her Diploma from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in Anthropology, an MA in English/Creative Writing, and is a Post Graduate Michener Fellowship from the Michener Center.  She also completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. She published a memoir of her unusual childhood entitled, Road Songs, was a founding member of the Round Top Poetry Festival, Founding member of The Rio Review for Austin Community College and Created the ACC Creative Writing Program, and eventually retired as Assistant Dean of Communications at Austin Community College where she taught English and creative writing.

Howard and Dorothy are still active in the business and live nearby.  They share their home with two rescue dogs Pepper and Jack.  Over the past 50 years their family has grown!  Another daughter, Cory, and son-in-law, Jon and three grandchildren complete the group, Reagan, Hudson, and Paige.


Laura Massengale

Daily Operations/General Manager