Yes, We have Rocks in Houston. And No, That’s Not a Problem: That’s a Beautiful Pleistocene Cliff.

May 31, 2014

Floating down Buffalo Bayou past Memorial Park with only clear ground springs trickling through the fine sand and bright red clay banks. We put in last Friday morning under the Woodway Bridge, as they were spraying turf grass on the ugly drainage project that replaced the nature trail that used to exist downstream of the bridge. Led by a small white egret, with mockingbirds and cardinals calling in the trees and graceful herons crisscrossing in front of us, we floated with Memorial Park on our left all the way to the Shepherd Bridge.

This is a short video of the riparian forest the Harris County Flood Control District plans to destroy so that they can “restore” it.

What you can see when they are not flushing the 18,000-year-old mother bayou with sediment-laden water from the failing Addicks and Barker dams is: rocks. Yes, we do have rocks in Houston. Beautiful gray stone tables and ledges, huge slabs of ancient flat sandstone, mostly broken, alas, in a purposeful, barbaric act of destruction by the Harris County Flood Control District. Some years ago they drove a huge-wheeled crushing machine down the banks. Why? Who knows? Maybe they thought breaking up gajillion-years-old stone slabs would slow the water. Maybe they just don’t respect the bayou or our natural history.

But enjoy while you can the intricate, woven roots of boxelders, towering sycamores, and willows holding the historic banks together; the sparkling, natural springs surrounded by tiny green liverwort, seeping out of the layered red clay.

And regard the high Pleistocene cliffs we have here on the prairie. And no, that hard-packed cliff is not about to collapse or fall in the water. That’s what nature looks like, ladies and gents. According to the people who know this bayou well, that old cliff has been there like that for more than forty-five years, or maybe thousands.

See for yourself. This video is just under eight minutes long. If you want to watch a longer, fifteen-minute movie with informative dialog and text, you can find it here. Watch both!

Red clay bank and riparian forest on Buffalo Bayou by Memorial Park.

Red clay bank and riparian forest on Buffalo Bayou. Memorial Park on the left.

2 thoughts on “Yes, We have Rocks in Houston. And No, That’s Not a Problem: That’s a Beautiful Pleistocene Cliff.”

  1. Emani Dansby says:

    My family, ancestors are from this land and I deeply value the earth’s richness. The red clay is so beautiful. The bayous are so beautiful. Please let me know what’s current in ecological preservation. I’d love to be a part of these efforts!

    1. Thanks, Emani. We’ll keep you informed. Meanwhile, you might find useful our page of Books and Articles on Rivers, Nature, and Flooding.

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