The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is located at 105 Sabine Street, Houston, TX 77007.

Reservations required. View the tour schedule and purchase tickets here!

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

Cistern History Tours

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

  • Times:  
    • Thursdays and Fridays every half hour from 1-5:30pm
    • Saturdays and Sundays every half hour from 11am-5:30pm.
  • 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.
  • Tour capacity is 30 people.
  • Parking:  A number of parking options are available around Buffalo Bayou Park.

Purchase Tickets

Photography Sessions

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

  • Duration:  1 hour
  • Times: 10-11am on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Cost: $10
  • Special Perks: Tripods and flash permitted.*

Book online!

*Three feet of the walkway must remain clear at all times.

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  Justin Bogert at jbogert@buffalobayou.org.

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.
  • Please allow approximately 30 minutes for parking/check-in.
  • 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.

About the Cistern

The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern 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.

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 tapered concrete walls range from 8 inches at the top to 18 inches at the bottom
  • 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
https://buffalobayou.org/visit/destination/the-cistern/

Art in the Cistern

Fulfilling the organization’s goal of presenting bold, immersive art installations and experiences in this unique space, Buffalo Bayou Partnership launched its Cistern art program in 2016.

Past Installations:

Rain:  Magdalena Fernández at the Houston Cistern
December 10, 2016-June 25, 2017
co-presented by Buffalo Bayou Partnership and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Featuring influential Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernández’s abstract video projection 2iPM009 from the MFAH’s permanent collection.

Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern:  Spatial Chromointerference
May 12, 2018-April 7, 2019
Famed Franco-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez created this site-specific environment with a complex projection of continuously moving chromatic modules.

 

Buffalo Bayou Partnership is working with a committee of Houston-area arts professionals and community leaders to develop and guide programming for the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern.  At this time, BBP is not accepting unsolicited ideas/proposals for programming of the Cistern.  Please join BBP’s email list to stay up to date on future plans.

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