Fall on the Bayou

A Misty Sunrise on that Bend in Buffalo Bayou

And the Benefits of Wildness in the City

Nov. 21, 2022

It was a beautiful misty morning on Buffalo Bayou in Houston’s Memorial Park. Technically it was fall but our seasons are not obvious in Houston. Unless it’s hurricane season or an ice storm perhaps. Definitely winter if there’s ice hanging from the drooping telephone wires and people are trapped in their homes.

Perhaps we should name our seasons after what actually happens, as the Egyptians did.

We were traipsing through the forbidden woods just after dawn, talking too much probably, headed towards the high bank overlooking that bend in the river we’ve been documenting throughout the seasons for over eight years now. Jim Olive, our boss photographer, was not available so the assistant photog was leading the way down the shadowy dirt path, accompanied by a backup assistant.

The big woods were forbidden, still, because the private conservancy that manages our public park decided several years ago for dubious reasons that the paths through these lovely woods were closed, throwing up threatening signs, wire fencing, and piles of cut tree trunks and branches.

In rebellious response, someone recently had blocked out the “Not” on the “Do Not Enter” sign. The simple path, as always, was well maintained by anonymous volunteers and well used by walkers, runners, and other creatures.

Altered sign attached to beaten down wire fencing blocking the path into the bayou woods on the southeast side of Houston’s Memorial Park.

The flow was fairly high – over 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), far above median flow of about 150 cfs. There had been some rain earlier, and now the US Army Corps of Engineers was releasing the impounded stormwater from the normally dry federal dams upstream.

We were talking so much because we were exchanging memories. We both had had the privilege of growing up playing in the woods and on the banks of the dreamy bayou, losing our shoes in the quicksandy banks, daring to cross the stream, carefully, arms out, on a massive fallen tree; watching out for water moccasins and catfish, picking dewberries, telling secrets. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience and enjoy the wild bayou and its wondrous woods, which is one big reason why this great public park is so important.

Wildness in the City

In a conversation not too long ago, someone asked what was wrong with private park conservancies since they raise so much money to help public parks. Certainly we are grateful for the private support given to parks and for the hard work of the private staff. But private conservancies are private, unaccountable to the public. And their job is to raise money and spend it on projects. If they don’t do that, they can’t justify their jobs. Which can sometimes lead to doing projects when it might be best to let a park just be. And in fact, research has shown that city dwellers derive the most benefit from access to “wildness” in the city.


A misty sunrise on that bend in Buffalo Bayou. Taken from a high bank in Memorial Park by SC on Oct. 30, 2022.