Aerial Photos of Buffalo Bayou

Float In The Air Down Buffalo Bayou With Houston Photographer Jim Olive

Updated April 30, 2017

Updated Oct. 2, 2016

Travel down the remarkable historic stretch of our 18,000-year-old bayou proposed for “restoration” by the Harris County Flood Control District and the City of Houston. The $6 million project, now estimated to cost as much at least $12 million, violates virtually every Best Management Practice for riparian areas. By cutting down the trees and vegetation, digging up, landscaping, and running heavy equipment over the banks (as well as in the channel) the project demonstrates to landowners exactly the wrong thing to do for protecting property against erosion.  The plan would pointlessly destroy and rebuild over 1.25 miles of a forested, naturally-functioning bayou as it flows past Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary on the north and the River Oaks Country Club on the south. This is an irreplaceable public asset, a historic nature area accessible to all, and it should be preserved.

Photos taken on October 2, 2015, Sept. 29, 2016, and April 7, 2017. Thank you, Jim Olive!

This first gallery shows Jim’s aerial photos taken on April 7, 2017. Compare these photos with the flood control district’s plan for digging up, filling in, and rearranging our beautiful bayou through this lovely woodland area. In the linked graphic, orange is fill and yellow is excavate.

  • Buffalo Bayou flowing into the 1.25 mile destruction zone, which begins just above the outcropping of concrete slabs (visible on the lower right ) that someone has been dumping into the water, apparently in an effort to deflect the flow, possibly from the stormwater outfall on the opposite privately-owned bank. Memorial Park on the right.
  • The beginning of the flood control district's 1.25 mile project area is just upstream of the small fence on the upper (south) bank (visible in the upper left corner). Memorial Park is on the lower (north) bank; River Oaks Country Club property opposite. The trees in this area will be razed, and the banks and channel dredged and rebuilt extending for a hundred feet or more from the center on both sides.
  • Another view of the beginning of the lengthy stretch that the flood control district plans to bulldoze. The trees and sandy bank on the left, which is Memorial Park, will be dug up beyond the center of the channel, and the country club bank on the right, already armored with riprap, will be filled in, moving the meander northwards and cutting off public land.
  • Looking upstream over the beginning of the flood control district project. The trees here would be razed to a width of about 100 feet on both sides, the channel dredged and altered, and the forested point on public parkland on the right would be excavated.
  • Here one sees the impact of removing the trees on the far (south) bank and extending the country club golf course and concrete path to the edge of the eroding bank. The project in this stretch would primarily shore up country club property to the detriment of public woodlands in the park.
  • Slightly downstream, this forested meander, including a major tributary draining the park, also would be razed and filled on the public side (Memorial Park, on the left) and the channel, trees, and the bank on the private (right) side excavated.
  • A long view of the same forested meander with the country club golf course in the distance. A large amount of forest was removed on this section of the golf course during the recent renovation. The club receives an annual multi-million dollar state property tax reduction for maintaining a "green belt."
  • Looking upstream. The original project plan showed a wide path for heavy equipment cut through this public forest on the right. Current plans are not yet known. No heavy equipment was to enter through private country club land.
  • Coming round the bend and looking back. Erosion is part of the natural process of a river. Trees falling into the stream or on the banks are also a necessary and natural part of a river ecosystem. Woody debris collects and removes sediment from the stream, naturally rebuilds banks, and provides wildlife habitat.
  • Looking downstream as the bayou flows directly towards the ancient high bluffs and sandy banks of a meander called the middle meander. The eastern edge of Memorial Park is directly ahead. This stretch would be filled and a new bayou channel cut through the woods on the right, shortening the channel, accelerating the flow and force of the bayou, potentially causing greater flooding and erosion downstream. A heavy-equipment access road leading from the maintenance yard on the left would be bulldozed through the public forest.
  • A closer look at the sandy banks and the high bluffs, typical of the region's west-to-east flowing streams, of the meander known as the middle meander. All this would be destroyed beyond recognition.
  • This is the middle meander at the eastern edge of the park that will be completely filled, the ancient high banks leveled and graded. This is a natural floodwater detention area. The Harris County Control District is spending millions to create detention ponds elsewhere. The new channel, to be cut through the woods on the south (right) bank, would detach the bayou from its natural wetland floodplain area.
  • Looking south over the same meander that would be filled. The park forest (containing neglected trails) in the bottom of the photo is a wetland and natural detention area. It would be isolated from the bayou and destroyed by heavy equipment accessing the project area from the city maintenance yard in the park.
  • Moving slightly downstream and looking upstream over this meander, called the middle meander. Public park forest on the right.
  • Moving slightly downstream and looking back at the bayou winding around the publicly-owned wooded point, the tip of the Hogg Bird Sanctuary, owned by the people of Houston. These undulations will be obliterated and redesigned. Beavers live here. People also live behind the trees on the right, though the bank upstream of the point is owned by the flood control district.
  • Looking directly at the forested point that is the tip of the Hogg Bird Sanctuary. It will be dug up and cut back, while the private club land on the opposite bank, which has been denuded of trees, will be shored up. This entire stretch in both directions, just downstream from the high cliffs of the middle meander, will be dredged, rebuilt, and reshaped.
  • The woods of the Hogg Bird Sanctuary, a city park, on the right. This entire stretch, including a tributary, would be dredged and filled on both sides, including the channel.
  • Looking upstream towards the west. A wider view of Buffalo Bayou flowing between the city-owned Hogg Bird Sanctuary on the right and the River Oaks Country Club golf course. There was an extensive forest on the club bank decades ago, and some trees on the upper bank until recently. This entire stretch will be extensively dredged, filled, reshaped, and rechanneled.

These are Jim’s aerial photos taken in October of 2015 and September 2016.

  • This massive new drainage outfall on Buffalo Bayou at Woodway, soon to be once-again a public boat launch, is not in the project area targeted for "restoration" by the proposed $6 million Harris County Flood Control project. But this formerly forested area in Memorial Park, destroyed for a $1.3 million City "erosion control" project, is for many the beginning of a float trip through the threatened historic natural area in the park. Photo by Jim Olive, Oct. 2, 2015
  • The same drainage outfall/boat launch in Memorial Park at Woodway one year later after an "accidental" mowing of riparian plants by a Memorial Park maintenance crew and now, apparently, bulldozing of what remained for some reason. Photo by Jim Olive on Sept. 29, 2016
  • Concrete riprap placed by the River Oaks Country Club in August 2015 on a terrace below the high bank and adjacent to a wetland at the beginning of the proposed $6 million Harris County Flood Control project. The young box elder and other vegetation naturally planted there by the bayou were destroyed by soil-damaging heavy equipment. The mowed golf course extending to the edge of the high bank and the concrete path for motorized golf carts likely contributed to erosion of the high bank. Memorial Park on the left. Photo by Jim Olive, Oct. 2, 2015
  • Another view of the environmentally-damaging riprap recently placed by the River Oaks Country Club on the south bank at the upstream limit of the proposed project area. Sandy beach of Memorial Park on the left. Photo by Jim Olive, Oct. 2, 2015
  • Aerial view of a lovely meander in Memorial Park showing very old high bluffs on the right. The meander would be filled and the high bluffs leveled by the proposed Memorial Park Demonstration Project. Jim Olive photo, Oct. 2, 2015
  • Another view of the meander with its charming sandy beaches and magnificent high cliffs as we move downstream through this remarkable historic nature area in the middle of Houston targeted for destruction. River Oaks Country Club property on the left. Photo by Jim Olive on Oct. 2, 2015
  • The same meander nearly a year later on Sept. 29, 2016. Photo by Jim Olive
  • Brush on the banks taken down by the Memorial Day 2015 Flood is collecting sediment and naturally rebuilding the banks. The project proposed by Flood Control mimics this natural bank stabilizing process but would pointlessly spend millions of public dollars to destroy the superior work of nature and replace it with costly engineering likely to fail. Memorial Park on the left, River Oaks Country Club on the right. Jim Olive photo Oct. 2, 2015.
  • Sandy forested banks of the River Oaks Country Club on the right. Sandy beach on the left owned by the Harris County Flood Control District, though the property behind is privately owned. Photo by Jim Olive Oct. 2, 2015.
  • Kayakers on Buffalo Bayou in the area targeted for destruction on Sept. 29, 2016. Photo by Jim Olive
  • Kayakers on Buffalo Bayou on Sept. 29, 2016. Photo by Jim Olive.
  • Riprap installed by the River Oaks Country Club on the south bank of Buffalo Bayou in August 2015. Photo by Jim Olive on Oct. 2, 2015.
  • Aerial view of a wetland and the riprap placed on a denuded bank, once forested, by the River Oaks Country Club in August 2015. Sandy beach on the left owned by the people of Houston (as part of the Hogg Bird Sanctuary), with the point owned by Harris County Flood Control . Photo by Jim Olive on Oct. 2, 2015
  • Aerial view of the same riprap one year later on Sept. 29, 2016, showing additional riprap installed at the downstream end. Photo by Jim Olive
  • Wider view of the meander showing south bank armored by riprap in 2015 and 2016 and sandy point on north side owned by the Harris County Flood Control District in front of private residences. Photo by Jim Olive on Sept. 29, 2016
  • Aerial view of the tributary and high banks of the Hogg Bird Sanctuary on the north, a public park, and the River Oaks Country Club golf course on the south near the downstream limit of the area targeted for dredging, grading, and filling by the Harris County Flood Control District. The high bank in the sanctuary slumped during the spring high waters, but the brush lying there is collecting sediment and naturally rebuilding the bank. Photo by Jim Olive on Oct. 2, 2015

One thought on “Aerial Photos of Buffalo Bayou”

  1. GlenW says:

    Slide #15 makes the problem most apparent. There are expensive homes on one side, and expensive golf course on the other. All risk should be on these property owners, but they are using HCFCD to put the burden on us.

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