History and Scenery at Buffalo Bayou Park
Buffalo Bayou has been flowing through the landscape of Southeast Texas for about 18,000 years. Native Americans inhabited the area for much of that time, among them the Akokisa tribe, who in the mid-1700s had five villages in the Houston area. In 1836, the Allen brothers purchased a sizable amount of land in what is today downtown Houston. The convenience of the waterway, situated as it was upriver from Galveston Bay, drew the brothers to the area. More settlers soon arrived and a docking area was constructed at the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou, an area wide enough for a ship to turn around. The city developed rapidly from then on and is today the fourth largest city in the United States.
Buffalo Bayou served as a protector of sorts to the city, leading flood waters away and out to the bay. Its banks could provide scenic views, yet the water would always be muddy in color and debris would always mar its appearance. To modern day visitors, it may be a bit of a disappointment, yet we should keep in mind that this is a waterway expected to take the blunt force of nature’s occasional assaults. As we walk along the paths of Buffalo Bayou Park, we receive a lesson maybe not as much in the beauty of nature as in its enormous power.
In the 1930s a plan was initiated to take control of the bayou and engineer it to become more efficient in the face of flooding. This would have stripped the bayou of its status as a natural waterway. There were soon efforts underway to stop the project. The group responsible for this, the Buffalo Bayou Preservation Association, instead led the way toward the establishment of Buffalo Bayou Park.
When you arrive at the park, you won’t see extensive garden areas. I must admit that I did expect there to be some and was a little disappointed at their absence. You do quickly realize though, considering the debris along the banks, that it’s much wiser to not invest the money in something that will likely be gone after the next big storm.
What you will find at Buffalo Bayou Park are several curving paths on both sides of the bayou, some amazing views of the city, a nice variety of trees and several convenient and nicely designed walking bridges. At the northern end of the 1924 Sabine Street Bridge, you can enjoy some close-ups views of Houston's high-rises. In this same area you'll also find a multi-level playground, a skatepark, and a bike rental facility. A tour of Houston's 1926 underground cistern might be especially enjoyable on hot days.
Dog owners will enjoy the dog park at Montrose Boulevard. There are two separate enclosures available which separate the large breeds from the small, both of which include a pond where dogs can cool off in the summer. Between Shepherd Drive and Waugh Drive, you'll find The Kitchen at The Dunlavy, which offers a simple but healthy menu. You might have to stand in line for a while to get in, but the unique interior is well worth a short break. Waugh Drive Bridge serves as a year round home to a colony of 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. If you’re in the area at sundown, find a spot to sit and watch as the colony takes flight in search of their night time meals. All in all, Buffalo Bayou Park is really quite scenic and it’s so nice to find a place that allows you to walk for miles without the need to cross any streets.