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Friday, October 12, 2012

Buffalo Bayou Park

Buffalo Bayou Park is one of Houston's better known parks and it is well worth a visit. The 124 acres of green belt straddles both sides of the bayou providing a venue for many activities and major events throughout the year. And yet on this sunny weekday morning it is surprisingly peaceful.

We parked in the small parking lot opposite Park Vista Drive at Eleanor Tinsley Park, well known as the venue for the city’s Fourth of July Fireworks celebration. The park is bordered on the north by Memorial Drive and on the south by Allen Parkway, famously closed so frequently for festivals and events, most recently for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®. We can still see traces of pink debris from Saturday’s walk.

The park extends from Bagby Street in the east to Shepherd Drive on the west side. Today we set out to the west and walk almost all the way round the park cutting the walk only slightly short by returning over Sabine Bridge making a distance of about 4.8 miles. For much of the walk the paths are in good shape varying from well trodden grassy trails to smooth concrete surfaces. However, there are extensive renovations taking place at present and we took many detours to avoid mud and rubble at various points along the way. Two more new pedestrian bridges are well on their way to completion and work on the path around Waugh Bridge is progressing. Where possible we opted for one of the lower paths closer to the bayou and only occasionally, especially on the north side, were we forced up to a noisier path running alongside the road.

At Montrose Bridge we stopped to enjoy the seven metal alphabet mesh kneeling figures by the Catalan sculptor Jaume Plensa (whose work we also enjoy on the Rice University campus). Shortly after the bridge is the “Dog Park”. This is a great place to visit on a Sunday when you will find a huge variety of well kept breeds. I have even seen one lady taking her pet pig for a stroll here.

Today the park is empty and we head on past the Dandelion Fountain up to Waugh Bridge, now famous for its maternal colony of Mexican Free tailed bats. Some 250,000+ bats live and breed here and a viewing platform and information plaques have been erected to enable better enjoyment of this growing tourist attraction. Come here any warm evening at dusk and you will witness streams of bats emerging to search for food. Glance up as you walk underneath the bridge and you may catch a glimpse of one of these amazing creatures. Experience the unique odor as you pass briskly by!

Further up on the right we pass Beth Yeshurun Cemetery where we recognize so many of Houston’s famous family names in this serene resting place. At Shepherd Drive we have to endure a fairly close encounter with Houston traffic as we cross to the north side of the Bayou. This will happily soon be unnecessary as the new pedestrian bridge is all there ready to be installed.
The path back along the north side seems to be more popular with cyclists as it is a smoother surface. We enjoy the many undulations (I can’t really call them hills!) on this route – an unusual occurrence in this flat city of ours. Walking back eastwards we catch some lovely views of the Houston skyline and of the bayou itself. On the left just before Sabine Bridge the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark is busy as usual. Once over the bridge it is a short walk back past the children’s playground and the boat launch to the car. I drive away remembering our last kayaking trip down the bayou and marveling at how much this city has to offer.

Enjoy Houston

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