George Bush Park is located west of downtown Houston just on the eastern outskirts of Katy, Texas. The history of the park can be traced back to the 1800's when the area was home to settlers in what was Stephen F. Austin's Colony. The area eventually turned into ranch land for cattle. In 1880's, a narrow gauge railroad ran from Houston to surrounding areas, including what is now the park. Ranching and farming continued in the area until the 1940's when the federal government created the Barker Reservoir to help with flood control along Buffalo Bayou. Over time, pieces of the area began being developed leaving it at 7,800 acres, which is about half of it's original size. In 1997, the park's name changed from Cullen-Barker Park to George Bush Park in honor of the 41st President. The reservoir is managed by the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, however the park is operated by Harris County.
Activities and Opportunities
The park offers ample opportunities to spend time outdoors and in nature. Long, paved trails attract cyclists and day hikers to pedal or walk along over 10 miles of trails and even horse-back riders traverse the park without vehicle traffic. There are no specific wildlife watching areas, however "The Boardwalk" provides an excellent spot seeing a variety of songbirds and waterbirds in addition to reptiles like turtles and even alligators. The Boardwalk sits near the middle of the park where it crosses over a swampy area of the meandering Buffalo Bayou. Often times, even the most determined cyclists stop to view the wildlife around them from the boardwalk. The levees and dam along the east side of the park that help control Buffalo Bayou's flow provide an excellent elevated view of the area. They over excellent distant views of the park and even downtown Houston 15 miles away. the There are no facilities in the park other than those near sports fields on the southwest side of the park. The main trail connects to Terry Hershey Park, which provides more paved paths along Buffalo Bayou.
Alligator near The Boardwalk in George Bush Park
Why is it significant to Houston’s National Wildlife Refuges?
It is interesting to think about how the area is used. Originally known as Barker Reservoir, people might expect to see a wide open body of water like Sheldon Lake east of Houston. That is not the case of George Bush Park. Most of the time, the park is lush vegetation of woody trees, grassy prairies, and wetlands. During heavy rains though, the U.S. Army Core of Engineers can restrict the flow of Buffalo Bayou and use George Bush Park as a reservoir to hold water and flood the area. This helps prevent flooding of Buffalo Bayou all the way to downtown Houston and into the ship channel. Similar to the Willows Waterhole Greenspace along Brays Bayou in southwest Houston, wetlands are used for protection. Along the upper Texas coast, Anahuac, Brazoria, McFaddin, and San Bernard National Wildlife Refuges serve as similar protection from hurricanes by helping to moderate storm surge. During significant hurricanes, places like George Bush Park and the coastal refuges are instrumental in protecting life and property from flooding. They also provide excellent places to see native wildlife and experience local nature. Be sure to plan a trip to one of your Houston-area National Wildlife Refuges.
By: Matthew Jackson