Ultimate Guide to Buffalo Bayou Park

Tracking the 3 Most Popular Places in Buffalo Bayou Park

Plus: a note on etiquette when it comes to the No. 2 spot.

By Katharine Shilcutt January 23, 2017 Published in the February 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The Houston Police Officers’ Memorial

Last year, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership placed temporary counters in 13 different locations throughout the park. Using infrared technology, they not only calculated how many pedestrians and bicyclists were using these areas on a daily basis, but identified the peak times for each.

Three in particular proved so popular that the counters “broke,” which is to say they hit their internal counting limit of 14,000 people per month before February was even over.

Those spots continue to be three of the most popular today, each for its own reason:

Green Tree Nature Area

Where: On the north side of the bayou between Montrose and Waugh, across Memorial Drive from Spotts Park
Why: This mini–nature preserve features a gravel trail that allows pedestrians to explore a section of the park that’s buffered from the sounds of the city. Tall pines tower overhead, while rabbits, squirrels and dozens of different birds scurry in the brush.
Peak usage: 5–7 p.m. weekdays, 10–11 a.m. weekends

The Houston Police Officers’ Memorial

Where: South of Glenwood Cemetery and north of Memorial Drive, on a bending section of the bayou crossed by the Carruth Bridge
Why: In addition to being adjacent to one of the park’s most popular jogging trails, the striking, Greek cross–shaped monument—designed by Texas-born Jesús Bautista Moroles and installed in 1990—has become a photo-op in and of itself.
Peak usage: 5–7 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.–noon weekends

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Downtown at dusk from Eleanor Tinsley Park

Image: Shutterstock

Eleanor Tinsley Park

Where: Just off Allen Parkway between Park Vista Dr. and Crosby St.
Why: Since its designation in 1998, this gently sloping park with a dramatic downtown backdrop has been the site of many Houston festivals and events, from Free Press Summer Fest to the annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration.
Peak usage: 5–7 p.m. weekdays, 10–11 a.m. weekends

A Note on Etiquette

Long before the park around it was transformed into Houston’s No. 1 pedestrian destination, the Houston Police Officers’ Memorial has stood quietly and starkly just off Memorial Drive, guarded day and night by HPD officers who consider the task an honor.

Today, those guards are still there around the clock, but the memorial itself has drawn attention for reasons other than the names of over 100 fallen officers chiseled into its granite face. The steps that lead up each of the pyramid’s four sides meet at a small reflecting pool, which, at 12 feet high, also happens to be one of the best spots in the city for snagging that perfect skyline shot. We get it. But it’s also worth remembering that the memorial is just that—a tribute to men and women lost in the line of duty. (In a sad side note, the sculptor himself, Jesús Bautista Moroles, was killed in a car accident in 2015 at the age of 64.)

To that end, a few etiquette guidelines to follow the next time you visit: While you’re invited to climb the pyramid to visit the reflecting pool, this isn’t the place to propose to your partner or engage in an endless stream of selfies, nor is it the spot to post up with a picnic blanket (pssssst…there’s a great grassy meadow with big oak trees for that just across the bayou). Pay your respects, snap that shot, and continue exploring the park beyond. After all, there are 159 more acres to visit while you’re here.

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