The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is located at 105 Sabine Street, Houston, TX 77007 and tours are offered Thursday through Sunday. Access is limited to guided tours. Reservations required.

Should you have any questions about the Cistern or Buffalo Bayou Park, please call:
713.752.0314 ext. 301 or ext. 401

Purchase Tickets

Cistern History Tours

Learn about the architecture of this unique space and the history of Houston’s water system.

  • Duration:  30 minutes
  • Times:  3:00 – 7:00 pm Thursdays and Fridays; 11:00 am – 5:00 pm Saturdays and Sundays
  • Cost:  $5 per person (no children under the age of 9 permitted) for a 30-minute, guided tour.
  • Free on Thursdays, but reservations are still required.
  • Tickets can be reserved up to 60 days in advance.
  • Capacity:  30 people
  • Parking:  A number of parking options are available around Buffalo Bayou Park.

Purchase Tickets

Photography Tours

These photo-centric tours are geared toward non-professional photographers, student groups, and photography clubs all centered on personal use photography.

  • Duration:  1 hour
  • Times: 10:00 – 11:00 am on alternating Saturdays and Sundays
  • Cost: $15
  • Capacity: 20 people
  • Special Perks: Tripods are permitted.

Book online!

Unless otherwise decided by the group, the photo tours will include an even split of time on each Cistern wall.

For commercial-use photography, please contact Stephanie Kiouses.

Drawing Sessions

These creative sessions are designed for artists of all experience levels who share the desire to render the Cistern’s unique architecture through their medium of choice.

  • Duration:  1 hour
  • Times: 10:00 – 11:00 am on alternating Saturdays and Sundays
  • Cost: $10
  • Capacity: 20 people
  • Special Perks: Easels and artistic mediums that do not require a drop cloth are permitted.

Book online!

 

Rules & Regulations

  • No children under the age of 9.
  • Photography is allowed, however no tripods or stands (except on Photography Tours).
  • Animals are not permitted.
  • No eating, drinking, or gum-chewing in the Cistern.
  • No smoking allowed.
  • Strollers, roller skates, inline skates, and bicycles are not permitted.
  • Littering is prohibited. Please use trash receptacles upon entry.
  • All bags must be secured while in the Cistern.
  • No sitting, standing, or climbing on the railing, stairways, or ladders.
  • No running or excessive noise.
  • All visitors must comply with instructions or requests from the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern attendants and staff and must be respectful of others.
  • Destroying public property is prohibited by Title 19, Chapter 191 of the Government Code of Texas.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • All payments are final and not refundable.
  • The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is a dim space with no windows. The environment may be challenging for some. If you experience any difficulties, please proceed directly to the nearest exit.
  • Full participation in the tour requires walking a distance of one quarter mile in 25 minutes. If you prefer a stationary or seated tour, please notify the Cistern Attendant upon arrival.

Recent History

The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park is a former drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston. As one of the city’s early underground reservoirs, it supported the municipal water system’s goals of fire suppression (water pressure) and drinking water storage. After operating for decades, an irreparable leak was discovered and after a few years, the reservoir was decommissioned in 2007.

In 2010, the City of Houston was sourcing vendors to demolish the Cistern. At the same time, Buffalo Bayou Partnership was developing the $58 million Buffalo Bayou Park project and “discovered” the site. Recognizing the historical and architectural significance of the highly unusual space, Buffalo Bayou Partnership with the City of Houston worked to take over development and maintenance of the space.

BBP restored and repurposed the Cistern into a magnificent public space to house an ambitious program of changing art installations. Houston-based architecture and engineering firm Page was charged with designing a ground-level entry structure to help transition visitors from the outside into the Cistern and making improvements to the shelf on the perimeter of the space to create a six-foot-wide, ADA compliant walkway with guardrails. In May 2016, Buffalo Bayou Partnership opened the Cistern to the public.

http://buffalobayou.org/visit/destination/the-cistern/

Fun Facts

  • 87,500 square feet or the size of 1.5 football fields
  • 221– 25-foot tall, slender concrete columns span the space
  • Holds 15 million gallons of water when functioning at capacity
  • 8-inch thick concrete roof and 8– 18-inch thick concrete side walls
  • 17-second echo
  • SWA Landscape Architect Kevin Shanley first called the reservoir “the Cistern” because it reminded him of the ancient Roman cisterns under Istanbul

Down Periscope

New York artist Donald Lipski’s much-anticipated installation Down Periscope sits atop the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern on The Brown Foundation Lawn. Through Down Periscope, park visitors are able to peer into the 87,500-square-foot expanse of the Cistern below.

Commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) in partnership with the City of Houston, the seven-foot Down Periscope is housed in a jasmine covered stainless steel arbor, creating a shady, welcoming space for experiencing the work of art.

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