Flying Down Buffalo Bayou

The Mother Bayou from Beginning to End

June 24, 2016

Buffalo Bayou near its source in Katy, Texas, formerly known as Cane Island. Image from drone video by Connor Winn, April 2016.

Buffalo Bayou near its source in Katy, Texas, a town formerly known as Cane Island. Image from drone video by Connor Winn, April 2016.

“Visualizing Nature, The Art and The Science” was the title of a class at Rice University taught this spring by photographer Geoff Winningham, professor of photography in the Art Department and holder of the Lynette S. Autrey Chair in the Humanities, and by Adrian Lenardic, professor of geophysics and planetary science in the Department of Earth Science. One theme of the class was the visual and scientific aspects of Buffalo Bayou.

Connor Winn was a student in that class, and he made a lovely fourteen-minute video using a flying drone that follows our Mother Bayou from its quiet beginnings west of Houston. The film allows us to watch the bayou evolve from its source near Cane Island Branch, a creek, one of many feeding into the bayou, that runs through the town of Katy, which in the 1800s was known as Cane Island, named after the creek filled with cane. We see the bayou growing into the mighty ship channel and joining the San Jacinto River at Burnet Bay, part of Galveston Bay, near the San Jacinto Monument just upstream of Baytown.

Watch Connor Winn’s video of Buffalo Bayou.

Ted Oberg Investigates Project to Destroy Buffalo Bayou: Stubborn Old Cliffs Taking Too Long to Erode

June 25, 2014

Harris County Flood Control District Director Mike Talbott Says He Could “Sleep Just Fine” If Project Doesn’t Go Ahead.

A pretty good report from Channel 13 investigative reporter Ted Oberg that aired yesterday. HCFCD Director Mike Talbott is quoted as saying that those magnificent thousand-year-old cliffs on the bayou are a “scientific sign that the bayou is trying to change course.”

Since those cliffs haven’t changed much in over a century, apparently the bayou is taking way too long to change course and the county is going to speed things up by bulldozing the cliffs, digging new channels in the bayou, and ripping up all those trees that keep falling in the water and “clogging it up.”

Talbott is also quoted as saying the bayou is trying to change course by “eroding the land at the water’s edge” at the bottom of the cliffs while the tv shows what looks like a lot of sand deposited on the bank at the bottom of the cliff. That would be sand from upstream, where most of the sediment comes from (according to the HCFCD’s permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers).

But watch for yourself and decide. And thanks, Ted Oberg, for paying attention.

(Sorry, below is a screenshot of the stubborn bluff from the television report. You can’t punch the arrow to make it move.)

Thousands-year-old cliff taking way too long to erode away. County will bulldoze it instead.

Thousands-year-old cliff taking way too long to erode away. County will bulldoze it instead.


Dave Rosgen says our Buffalo Bayou is natural, functional, stable.

June 10, 2014

Listen to river guru Dave Rosgen describe the wild section of our Buffalo Bayou that Harris County wants to destroy as a “living, functional river system right here in the middle of Houston.”

The Harris County Flood Control District, Memorial Park Conservancy, and the Bayou Preservation Association all cite Rosgen in support of their bizarre, pointless plan to bulldoze the riparian forest on Buffalo Bayou in and around Memorial Park.

But here is what Rosgen himself had to say in 2009 about the health and stability of that very section of Buffalo Bayou. In this video Rosgen is standing on the bridge to the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens looking upstream towards the area targeted for destruction by Harris County.

Watch the interview with Dave Rosgen.

Photo by G.O. Jackson Jr.

Photo by G.O. Jackson Jr.

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.