There’s been a lot of hype recently over this little thing called the Cistern at Buffalo Bayou. Haven’t heard of it? Well, let me tell you it’s pretty darn cool and worth all the attention.
What is the Cistern?
The Cistern is an underground water reservoir that was built in 1926 to help improve the water supply in Houston. It was decommissioned in the late 2000s because of a leak, and everyone pretty much forgot about it. That was until Buffalo Bayou Park started going through its renovations and wanted to build a skate park on the site. It blows my mind that the Cistern operators just forgot to tell the park planners about this giant underground columned cavern. Minor detail right? Now the Cistern has been renovated with a walkway, lights, and tours that allow visitors to marvel upon the eeriness of the hundreds of columns reflecting off the water in the dark.
How do I get in?
You can buy tickets for a 30 minute tour here. It costs $2 for adults and is open Thursday through Sunday. If that’s going to wreck your budget Thursdays are free. Warning: the tour is popular AF and the tickets sell out fast. I bought my tickets for a tour about 10 days in advance.
What’s so cool about it?
A LOT. Let me list off some reasons that had me fangirling over this underground cave:
- When you walk in, all the lights are off and you feel like Dora the Explore / Indiana Jones entering some secret Egyptian tomb.
- If you lived in Houston before 2007, it’s likely that you drank water that came out of the Cistern.
- It’s larger than the size of 1.5 football fields and can hold something like 15 million gallons of water. My mind can’t even comprehend that number
- The Cistern has a 17-second echo. So if you yell really loud and then stop, it will echo audibly for 17 seconds after you stop. We did this on the tour. MIND BLOWN. Imagine hearing a concert in here!
- When we went, there was about 4-6inches of standing water at the bottom of the Cistern. If you shine a flashlight horizontal to the water, the columns reflect perfectly into the water and the space looks like it doubles in size. The optical illusions in the space are eerily magnificent.
Most days, you can see inside the Cistern with the “Periscope” located on the Water Works lawn. Temporary art installations rotate throughout the Cistern each year. I fell in love with the sites and sounds of Rain and currently obsessed with the Cistern in Color exhibit of 2018–where you don a lab coat and get immersed into the psychedelic display of lights and patterns! Learn more here!