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The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is an underground, former water reservoir in Buffalo Bayou Park now open for history and art tours.

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

The Cistern is closed for tours on December 24, December 25, and January 1.



“Time No Longer” in the Cistern

Extended through January 17, 2022!

A newly commissioned artwork for the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern by multimedia artist Anri Sala (b. 1974 Tirana, Albania), Time No Longer offers an immersive, other-worldly experience of film and sound within this vast, subterranean reservoir on the edge of downtown Houston.


Click here to view with English subtitles
Haga clic aquí para ver con subtítulos en español

Tickets must be purchased in advance. 


  • Sunday – Friday, on the hour from 10am to 5pm
  • Saturday, on the hour from 11am to 5pm


  • $12 / adult
  • $8 / seniors (65+), youth (9-17) and students (18+ with valid ID)
  • Free on Thursdays, but reservations are still required.
  • Tour capacity is 30 people.
  • Ages 9 and up only.

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

Purchase Tickets


Join us for a special live performance of the score for Time No Longer on December 4 and 5! Learn more here.

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:  
    • Daily – 11:30am, 2:30pm, 4:30pm
  • Cost:
    • $7 per person (ages 9 and up only)
    • $5 for college students, military and seniors (65+). Must present I.D. upon checking in.
    • Free on Thursdays
    • Gift cards available here
  • 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

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: $210
  • Times:
    • Daily – 11:30am, 2:30pm, 4:30pm
    • Private Tours are not available on Thursdays.
  • Ages 9 and up only.
  • Group size: Up to 30 people.

Book A Private Cistern Tour

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:
    • Every Saturday at 10am
    • Sundays on Nov. 21st, 28th and Dec. 5th, 12th
  • Cost: $15 per person
  • Ages: 9 and up only

Purchase Tickets

Rules & Regulations

  • No children under the age of 9.
  • Guests must wear a mask upon entering the Cistern.
  • 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.


  • 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

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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