Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Houston

What is a cistern, you may be asking yourself?

A cistern water system is where rainwater is collected and stored and is most commonly found in areas where rainfall is erratic or scarce. Houston has long been in the business of treating water as a precious commodity—and never taking it for granted. Between long periods of interspersed droughts and floods, the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern has been on Sabine Street in Houston, collecting the rainwater and storing it until needed in the reservoir.

The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park is a special place of interest to visitors and local residents. Because of its regulatory safety rules, it can only be visited by folks over the age of nine years. The reason why the Park Cistern is such an outstanding Houston attraction is evident once you have descended into the reservoir space itself. It spans an area the size of one-and-a-half football fields and houses 221 concrete support columns. These 25-foot tall concrete stalks loom eerily out of the darkened waters, reflecting their shadows onto the dimly-lighted pools. The cavernous cistern itself extends so far that the echoes of raised voices can ricochet for up to seventeen seconds. It is called a cistern, but it’s really an underground reservoir. It was first called a cistern by an awed visitor who claimed it was more like the ancient watery collection caverns by that name found in Roman ruin excavations in Turkey.

No matter whether it is best described as a cistern or reservoir, the Buffalo Bayou Park water collection point has historical and architectural significance. It is home to an ongoing display of temporary art installations and is a hallmark of engineering magnificence and Houston history.

Although it was originally created to hold water for the fire department to use back in the 1920s, the sight of its columns and rails will continue to light fires of amazement in the hearts of every visitor.

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