The Lovely Hidden Pool in the Secret Memorial Park Closed to the Public


Why Is the City Shutting Off Access to Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park?

November 2, 2014

The secret pool hidden behind a closed fence in Memorial Park. This lovely pool in the woods is filled with clear water from a spring-fed tributary of Buffalo Bayou. Photo by Susan Chadwick, Nov. 1. 2014.

The secret pool hidden behind a closed fence in Memorial Park. This lovely pool in the woods is filled with clear water from a spring-fed tributary of Buffalo Bayou. Photo by Susan Chadwick, Nov. 1, 2014.

We were exploring in the woods yesterday (Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014) behind the “prison-grade” apparently permanent fence now surrounding the mysteriously closed $1.3 million not-a-canoe launch, “erosion control” project and drainage outfall in Memorial Park just south of Woodway. This is the park area just west of Loop 610 that used to be called the Archery Range because it was in fact used as an archery range from the 1950s until about 1988.

The bayou here was the site of an old sandstone ford near the current Woodway Bridge that was known in the nineteenth century as Dutchman’s Crossing, and the woods contain the remnants of a large brick kiln (and bricks), charcoal manufacturing, and antebellum market garden, orchard, and plant nursery dating from about 1838 to the 1930s, according to landscape architect and historian Janet Wagner.

We were looking for the much newer paved pathway that until recently led to the bayou from Woodway and that only a few years ago was used by the sporting public to haul and unload their canoes and kayaks on the banks of the bayou underneath the 610 bridge.

For some reason the entire wooded area has been fenced off and the public pathway we were looking for has been eradicated. Only a few pieces of concrete remain, lost under the overgrowth.

But hidden in the middle of the woods we did find an enchanting secret pool of clear water, apparently a tributary fed by natural springs and partly covered over with concrete.

Why has this part of Memorial Park been closed to the public? Why was the paved path to the bayou eliminated?

What are they planning to do with this fenced-off part of our Memorial Park, land that belongs to all of us? Could it have something to do with the shops, restaurants, high-rise offices and residences in Uptown Park, which now includes Memorial Park in its TIRZ 16?

And why is the newly landscaped official Texas Parks and Wildlife Paddling Trail canoe launch at Woodway still closed to the public after the Uptown TIRZ 16’s $1.3 million “erosion control” project?

Well, because it’s no longer a canoe launch, says Rick Dewees, assistant director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and administrator in charge of Memorial Park. “We were hoping that we could use this facility for something like that in the future.”

We’ll have more answers soon.

But it sure looks like the city doesn’t want the public to have access to the bayou to see the beautiful, historic natural area that the Harris County Flood Control District plans to destroy with $4 million in taxpayer funds.



15 thoughts on “The Lovely Hidden Pool in the Secret Memorial Park Closed to the Public”

  1. Lynn Killam says:

    This gets worse and worse by the day. Where is the Houston Chronicle and the environmental groups? This is an outrage that is just getting more hideous as the weeks go by.

  2. David Bolon says:

    Where is a good launch point for a kayak near this area? I would like to see the area from the bayou before it’s “remodeled” for this project.

    1. You can still put in under the Woodway Bridge. To park, cross the bridge going west, stay in the right hand lane and park in the small parking lot immediately on the right, west of the bridge on the north side of Woodway that seems to be a utility area paved with permeable bricks. Normally we unload canoes and kayaks beforehand on the north side of the bridge just east of the bayou in the grass next to the green Buffalo Bayou sign. Looks daunting, but it’s done. Be bold. Drive on the grass. Or ask Bayou City Adventures for shuttling help. The entrance is just a little sliver of a hidden passageway between the vegetation and the bridge itself. You have to slip and slide yourself and your equipment down the slope under the bridge and put in there. Note the mud bulldozed up under the bridge and dumped there from the new “erosion control” project, previously a canoe launch.

      Park your pickup and takeout vehicle near the Shepherd Bridge. See below.

      Be sure to check the water level and flow before you go. Base flow of about 150 cubic feet per second results in a very low flow with about two feet depth or less in places. The bayou always looks different; it’s a living thing and always changing. But it especially looks different at high or low water. Do try to note the difference between deposition of sediment and subsequent slumping or erosion of deposition, and erosion of the high banks from the top (runoff). The magnificent and steep high cliffs that you see are tens of thousands of years old—not the product of recent erosion, as so many mistakenly think. We have these great cliffs, called Meander Belt Ridges, on all our west-east flowing streams in the Houston area.

      Have a good time. The most beautiful part begins after the railroad trestle, but all that you see on your left after Woodway is public parkland. The proposed Harris County Flood Control destruction project begins about a 45-minute paddle (depending on the current) downstream from Woodway at a sharp left-hand bend with a kind of picket or snow fence and a young sycamore tree on the right or south side where the golf course begins. (Note the golf course on a steep bank above. You may see a handrail and golf carts going by. On your immediate left will be a nice, sloping sand bank belonging to Memorial Park.) Please be aware that this south bank area was healing before the club killed the vegetation on the upper high bank in the process of spraying all the grass on the golf course in preparation for redesigning the course.

      The limits of the destruction project area are the golf course on the south or right-hand side. So as soon as you no longer have the golf course on your right, you are out of the project area.

      Stop and spend some time in what we call the middle meander—a lovely sandy marsh on your left and a sandy point on the right at a sharp bend with cliffs directly ahead of you. Note a sycamore tree with a cut trunk on your left. This is the eastern (downstream) limit of Memorial Park. The bayou here will be plugged and filled in, the thousands years old cliffs defaced and graded, and the bayou rerouted much further south into club property. An abomination. We should be respecting the cliffs—our ancient geologic heritage.

      Usually we take out after the Shepherd Bridge. You can park your pickup vehicles on the small side road just north of Memorial Drive, west of Shepherd below De Pelchin home. To pick up the boats from there we drive east on Memorial right over the curb right over the grass into the park on the north side of the bayou just east of the Shepherd Bridge.

      Or you can paddle all the way to Sabine Street Bridge if you want to see the contrast of what they’ve done east of Shepherd. Park you pickup vehicles in the parking lot of the Fonde Recreation Center. There is a boat launch-take out there on the north side of the bayou.

      Do it and have a great time! It’s amazing.

  3. You can also put in at the railroad trestle inside the park—if they don’t decide to block that off too. There are some small rapids at the railroad trestle and the most beautiful part begins here. Drive around to the south of the new running center and Memorial Park Conservancy headquarters (note the non-native plants in the new landscaping—and we thought they were so concerned about the park woods being so filled with non-native species!). At the end of the service road towards the bayou it gets steep and very rutted. But it’s a lovely if challenging spot. The wildflowers and grasses are delightful

  4. New takeout point discovered immediately downstream of the Bayou Bend Collection footbridge, which recently has been closed for repair. Look for a narrow, sandy, sometimes muddy beach on your left just a few yards east of the footbridge. There’s a short, not-too-steep trail leading up to the left to the parking lot. Do note that the fenced parking lot is open only from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  5. Christopher Keeble says:

    Whatever happened to this?

    1. Still there, last we looked.

  6. Jesse says:

    So… what do y’all think of the water quality in there? Lol. Probably unsafe eh?

    1. No, probably not. This is water that drains through the forest in the western section of Memorial Park, an old tributary, which would make it very clean. And you can see by looking at it how clean it is. However, the stream passes through the Arboretum, where they were planning to do some work on it, which likely will make the water muddy. Let’s hope they respect the important cleansing process of the natural banks and vegetation.
      Here is a link to a 1995 topographical map showing the stream, which starts west of the railroad tracks and flows under Memorial Drive and Woodway into and through the Arboretum, under the 610 West Loop and into the Old Archery Range, finally flowing south in Buffalo Bayou. On this website are topographical maps going back to the early 20th century — all showing the same stream. Look under Plans and Maps.

      1. Jesse says:

        I went and checked it out the other day. What an amazing little slice of heaven, right in our great city. Had to blaze right by the “Do Not Enter” signs lol. Well worth it.

        It’s a great thing it’s a secret.

        Thanks for the information on it. Might have to jump in one day! 😀

  7. Lucian says:

    Is the pool still there? I went there but could not find it.

    1. Well, last we looked it seemed much changed. But it was still there. It’s actually a small pool below an outfall on the eastern side of the Old Archery Range. The Memorial Park Conservancy has done a lot of work there. We’ll check.

      1. Lucian says:

        This is the gate right next to the put in, correct?

        1. Yes, if you continue down that road it is on the left between the road and 610. Actually you should be able to see the top of it if you wander down to that area from the parking lot. Send us a report!

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