We didn't know we needed Buffalo Bayou Park.

No one was clamoring for our own version of Central Park or Navy Pier; no one was holding their breath for a dramatic makeover of the waterway best known for eating cars and flooding. We had our makeshift dog park at Allen Parkway and Montrose, a few dug-out put-in spots along the bayou that only the truly adventurous took advantage of, and a couple of hidden wetlands areas that felt like places out of time, trapped between the riparian edge of the silt-brown water and the traffic screaming past on Memorial Drive.

But if Houston at large isn’t great at identifying its needs, the folks at the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, are. Because since they officially opened the brand-new Buffalo Bayou Park to the public in October 2015, it has been an unparalleled success.

Day and night, pedestrians walk the park’s five-foot-wide asphalt Kinder Footpaths, kids clamber over felled logs and beat on colorful drums in the Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play Area, cyclists whiz down the Sandy Reed Memorial Trail that hugs the water near Shepherd Drive, and dogs dash through the ponds at the Johnny Steele Dog Park (turns out we really did need that one). In just 16 months, the park has become a landmark on par with the Astrodome…only more useful. It turns out Houstonians really do enjoy getting outdoors.

Built in typically Houstonian style through a public-private partnership, the $58 million undertaking was financed in part by a $30 million donation from the Kinder Foundation (the same folks who made Discovery Green possible), with the aim of building a beating heart out of the city’s main artery, Buffalo Bayou, which has been the source of creation in Houston since the Allen Brothers founded our big, sprawling swamp on its banks in 1836. And it’s the non-profit Buffalo Bayou Partnership alone—not the City of Houston, nor any other public entity—that’s responsible for maintaining the 160-acre park and its 10-mile waterway, making it even more unusual among its national peers.

Most important: The park is built to flood, unlike most other areas of our city, meaning that our fabulous new front porch will be here to welcome generations of Houstonians to come. Within these pages, Houstonia’s guide to everything you need to know to make the most out of our city’s newest civic treasure. 

In This Feature:

Buffalo Bayou Park: An Aerial Tour

We take a drone tour of Houston's front porch and latest civic treasure, the newly completed Buffalo Bayou Park.

01/23/2017 Videography by Blueprint Film Co.

Here's Houstonia's Handy Annotated Map of Buffalo Bayou Park

We've got the inside track on where to find the top picnic spot, best wildlife-viewing area, most dramatic skyline views and more.

01/23/2017 Illustrations by Tanyia Johnson and Monica Fuentes

How Do You Plan a Park That’s Meant to Flood?

Because, this being Houston, things are going to get really, really wet.

01/23/2017 By Roxanna Asgarian

Here's Where You Should Begin to Explore Buffalo Bayou Park

The Dunlavy and Lost Lake are good places to start.

01/23/2017 By Katharine Shilcutt and Adam Doster

5 Instagram-Worthy Spots Along Buffalo Bayou

Because if you don’t filter, share and hashtag your day in the park—#parkitlikeitshot, people—you might as well stay home.

01/23/2017 By Sarah Rufca Nielsen

The City's Greatest Landmark Is Right Under Your Nose

Houston's recently revitalized underground "ruin," the Cistern, has become one of its most popular new tourist attractions.

01/23/2017 By Jeanne Lyons Davis

Tracking the 3 Most Popular Places in Buffalo Bayou Park

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

01/23/2017 By Katharine Shilcutt

The "World's Smelliest Canoe Race" Celebrates Its 45th Anniversary

The Buffalo Bayou Regatta is now largest canoe race in Texas and the fifth largest in the country. (And it's not that stinky.)

01/23/2017 By Adam Doster

Where the Wild Things Are in Buffalo Bayou Park

There’s more to Buffalo Bayou than bats. Alisa Kline, the park’s Texas Master Naturalist, clues us in on some surprising species to watch for.

01/23/2017 By Jeff Balke

Buffalo Bayou Wasn't Always a Walk in the Park

Four folks who made Buffalo Bayou Park happen, on their biggest challenges—and how they overcame them

01/23/2017 By Roxanna Asgarian

Have You Found All the Hidden Art in Buffalo Bayou Park?

You may need to pause for a moment.

01/23/2017 By Katharine Shilcutt

Tune In to Buffalo Bayou Park

Houston Public Media collaborated with Buffalo Bayou Park to bring Houstonians an audio walking tour of the park.

01/23/2017 By Katharine Shilcutt

What's Up Next For Buffalo Bayou?

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership is already hard at work on the next leg of redevelopment east of Allen's Landing.

01/23/2017 By Roxanna Asgarian