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The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is an underground, former water reservoir in Buffalo Bayou Park open for touring.

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

Should you have any questions about the Cistern or Buffalo Bayou Park, please email bbpark@buffalobayou.org or call
713.752.0314 ext. 301

 

Please note that the Cistern will be closed from June 29 through July 6 due to Freedom Over Texas.

 

Cistern History Tours

Learn about the architecture of this unique space and the history of Houston’s water system during a guided 30-minute tour. 

  • Times:  
    • Wednesday on the hour from 10am to 4pm (12pm tour is self-guided)
    • Thursday through Sunday on the hour from 11am to 6pm (12pm tour is self-guided)
  • Cost:
    • $10 per person (ages 9 and up only)
    • $2 discount for military, college students and seniors (65+). Must present I.D. upon checking in.
    • Free on the first Thursday of the month
  • Tour capacity is 30 people.
  • Parking:  A number of parking options are available around Buffalo Bayou Park.

Guests that arrive five minutes past the tour start time will be rescheduled.

Purchase Tickets

Self-Guided Tours

Explore the Cistern at your own pace on a 30-minute self-guided tour.

  • Duration:
    • 30 minutes
  • Times:
    • Wednesday through Sunday at 12pm
  • Cost:
  • $8 per person
    • $2 discount for military, college students and seniors (65+). Must present I.D. upon checking in.
  • Ages: 9 and up only

Purchase Tickets

Private Cistern History Tours

Book a private, docent-led Cistern tour to learn about the architecture of this unique space and the history of Houston’s water system for a unique group outing!

  • Duration: 30-minutes
  • Cost: $300
  • Availability:
    • Wednesday through Friday on the hour from 10am to 4pm (except for 12pm)
    • Saturday and Sunday on the hour from 11am to 6pm (except for 12pm)
    • Private Tours are not available on the first Thursday of the month.
  • Ages 9 and up only.
  • Group size: Up to 30 people.

Book A Private Cistern Tour

Underground Sounds

Throughout 2022, Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) will be hosting Underground Sounds, a series of musical performances that highlight the remarkable natural acoustics of the Buffalo Bayou Park CisternUnderground Sounds is organized in collaboration with several Houston-based music organizations.

 

Upcoming events:

May 7: ROCO
Tickets are on sale now

September 8-11: Two Star Symphony
Tickets go on sale at 9am Friday, August 12

October 27-30: Loop 38
Tickets go on sale at 9am Friday, September 2

 

Past events:

February 10-13: Nameless Sound with special guest Joe McPhee

Learn More

Buffalo Bayou Partnership is funded in part by the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.

Sound Healing Meditation

Find your center and practice mediation in the spacious and tranquil Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Offered in collaboration with Union is Creation and Youniversoul, this meditation series will feature the use of singing bowls and wind chimes to encourage mindfulness and connectivity. Guests should bring their own cushion or mat.

  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Times:
    • Saturdays and Sundays at 10am
    • Wednesdays at 6pm
  • Cost: $15 per person
  • Ages: 9 and up only

Purchase Tickets

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.

Private Film or Photography Permit

Any professional photography or filming inside of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern requires a permit to be filled out and approved by our Visitor Services team. To apply for a photography or film permit, please fill out the form here and email it to permits@buffalobayou.org.

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.

Time No Longer 
March 12, 2021 – January 17, 2022
This immersive film and sound installation by Anri Sala transported visitors into an other-worldly environment within this vast, subterranean reservoir.

 

Buffalo Bayou Partnership is interested in your ideas for public art, including installations in the Cistern. Proposals will be reviewed on a quarterly basis by our Public Art Committee. Please submit ideas for public art along Buffalo Bayou to publicart@buffalobayou.org. You will receive a response within three months of your submission. Also, please join BBP’s email list to stay up to date on future plans.

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