Louis Aulbach knows a lot of that history. He leads tours of the waterway for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership. They begin next Saturday. Once a month there are two tours a day, one west of downtown and one east of downtown.
“As you move west, you get more of a history of the people and the growth of the city, and to the east we follow the traditional channel, ah, ship channel and so we have more of the industrial history of the city.”
The tours begin at Allen’s Landing where in 18-36 John and Agustus Allen found the perfect spot to found a city for business and commerce. Ocean going vessels at that time needed a minimum of ten feet of water and that’s the depth at Allen’s Landing.
“The other point to be made on that is that at Allen’s Landing the bayou has tidal flow as opposed to downstream flow and so the tidal flow maintains that 10-foot level.”
Another benefit of the location was the confluence with White Oak Bayou.
“The ocean going vessels were 50-60 feet long and as you came up the bayou, which began to narrow, you had to have a place to turnaround and the junction of the two bayous formed a natural turning basin.”
Just after entering White Oak, on the east bank, is Houston’s first waste water treatment plant. It was state of the art when it was built. Until then, untreated waste water was simply dumped into the bayou. Aulbach says that all changed very early in the 20th century.
“The man who designed this pump station, when it opened they had a ceremony and he went down to the drain pipe that was the inflow into the bayou and took a cup and drank the water that was purified.”
“And he lived a long life after that?”
“He did live a long life thereafter…”
High above the opposite bank sits the University of Houston Downtown. You can see a video of Louis Aulbach telling its history below.
Just west of Allen’s Landing under the Franklin Street Bridge there is what looks like an old brick wall. It is not. It is the crypt of the Donnellan family. Built in 18-47, Timothy Donnellan, his wife and son were buried there until there remains were moved in 1902.
Louis Aulbach hopes that people come away from the tours with a better understanding that the story of the bayou is the story of Houston. But he’d also like to see more people making use of Buffalo Bayou. He says you can park in the lot behind the Spaghetti Warehouse and easily launch a canoe or kayak under the Main Street Bridge.
“Normally it’s like a lake in this area and so you can paddle the bayou and it’s not something you have to do as an organized event, you can come as a private individual and enjoy the bayou right here at Allen’s Landing.”
For information about the Buffalo Bayou tours, visit the website.