Growing up in Houston, you are all too familiar with our largest most powerful bayou, the Buffalo Bayou, that meanders through the city. As a kid, I often longed for it be more like the Riverwalk not really understanding the value that it presents to our city as is. Well, I recently had a unique opportunity to see Buffalo Bayou up close. Actually on the water. In a boat. Oh and with wine! Yes folks, on a random Thursday I took a Bat Tour on Buffalo Bayou and here is why you should too!
Waugh Boat Tour
My fellow Houstonains are probably thinking HOW RANDOM?! But I promise it is not! You see, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership has been working to develop and conserve the bayou and the surrounding area for years. On this particular day, the Partnership along with the gals at It’s Not Hou, It’s Me, coordinated a fun tour for several bloggers. We set out on one of their signature tours (yes y’all there are several),the Waugh Bat Colony Tour on a platoon boat. Best of all, the team packed wine and snacks for us as we floated down the bayou for an hour and a half.
We started our tour near the now abandoned Spaghetti Warehouse, ironically the first reminder of Harvey for the evening. As you can imagine, there were other reminders during the tour. Our guides were carful to acknowledge these, like pointing out the uprooted tree trunks still lodged in the bases of bridges. While there are still markers of Harvey, the ride also shows the growth in the year since. Unique birds are visible on the banks and people were actually fishing in that water as well.
For this tour, the main attraction is the Waugh bridge, home to just under half a million bats. At dusk, these nocturnal animals emerge to feast on mosquitos and other bugs. A Houston storm stopped us from seeing the full emergence, but we did see the bats as they continued to fly near the bridge. The tour also includes a guide affectionally called Bat Girl who knows literally everything there is to know about bats! After that we headed back to where we started and enjoyed some of the best views of downtown I have ever seen. It was a unique experience indeed.
When/What are the other Boat Tours?
If bats aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other tours through the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
- There are year round History tours that focus on the Houston’s founding and and how the bayou helped Houston become the city we know and love today! For example, during our tour I learned that the original port of Houston was right there at the bayou near present day University of Houston-Downtown. These tours are just $40.
- Waugh Bat Colony Tour (the tour I went on!, usually offered the second and fourth Saturday from April through September)
- Private Tours! For you fancy folks, you can rent the boat out for $500 and pitch in an additional $175 for a historian to join the the party. The boat can accommodate up to 21 people, so it makes for a pretty decent party.
- The most family friendly option in my opinion, the Second Saturday Rides which are just $7 and last about 30 minutes i.e. the attention span of a small child. These tours are hosted March -May and September-November.
- Twilight tours are also $7 and 30 minutes, but hosted during the summer months June-August.
- The Port to Port tour is $45 and floats from the old Port of Houston the new one highlighting the industrial growth of the city along the way.
- Google also says that at some point they hosted Foodie Floats! Maybe they will bring those back!
Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Besides learning more about the bayou itself, I also found that the organization behind it all to be pretty remarkable! The non-profit manages the bayou from Shepherd Drive down to the Port of Houston Turning Basin. Their goal is to “revitalize and transform” this portion of Buffalo Bayou. To do so, they have created bike and hiking trails, managed clean-up programs and ongoing maintenance.
In addition to the bayou tours, there are other important Houston attractions in the Partnership’s portfolio including the Buffalo Bayou Cistern and Buffalo Bayou Park! Since they aim at maintaining and taking Houston to the next level, I see them as worthy group to support!