The Great Outdoors
Boating the Bayou: History, nature and 250,000 bats (with video)
Shaded by some of the tallest office towers in Texas, Buffalo Bayou makes its languid retreat to the Gulf beneath a bridge-strewn tangle of concrete downtown.
“Up until 1912, this was the Port of Houston,” Louis Aulbach says from a pontoon boat docked at Allen’s Landing, the site of the city’s founding almost hidden from the noisy commerce above along the bayou’s steep banks.
Boat tours guided by Aulbach and others give curious Houstonians an engaging opportunity to see the history and ecology of a city with an unfortunate reputation for preserving neither. At first glance, everything around Allen’s Landing looks new, but listen to Aulbach and you’ll start to see the routes sailed by intrepid explorers. Directly above the site, a dilapidated building the Buffalo Bayou Partnership hopes to restore turns out to have housed a psychedelic rock club bearing graffiti from Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top. Look closer at the bayou itself, and you’ll see an ecosystem teeming with fish, birds and a massive bat colony.
In the last decade, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the city, the Port of Houston and others have worked hard to turn the neglected waterway into a first-rate recreational resource. With boat tours starting up again this spring, a jaunt across the water is fantastic opportunity to get acquainted with a part of Houston that’s central to both its history and wildlife.
Second Saturday Boat Rides: These quick, 30-minute tours give up to 20 passengers a glimpse of the bayou and the city built around it. The next tours take place March 20, with rides after that scheduled for the second Saturday of each month into December. The pontoon boat leaves every half hour from the end of a stairway off Sabine Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ($7 for adults, $5 for kids 4 to 12, cash only).
Waugh Bridge Bat Colony Tours: Watch a quarter of a million bats up close as they take to the night from their home beneath the bridge. The first tour this year takes place 45 minutes before dusk on March 12, with tours scheduled for the second and fourth Fridays of each month into October. For reservations call (713) 752-0314, extension 4, or e-mail email@example.com, ($35 for adults, $25 for kids).
History Tours: These two hour tours, narrated by local historian Louis Aulbach, take place monthly. Visit the partnership’s Web site for the schedule, or call (713) 752-0314, extension 4, for reservations, ($40 per person)
Bufffalo Bayou Regatta: In its 38th year, this epic float that's said to be the largest canoe and kayak race in Texas is coming up March 13.
See a video with more information on the bayou below: