Best Body of Water: The Official 2014 Ballot

What is Houston’s best body of water? Here’s where you get to vote!

New to the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate this year, the Best Body of Water category aims to discover the repository of liquids in the greater Houston area that is most Swampies-worthy (whether or not it’s swamp-worthy). What qualifies a nominee to be considered for this honor? Only that it was selected from your suggestions. Now it’s time to pick the winner.

Cast your vote in the comments section below, by email, on Facebook, or through Twitter — you can even vote 4 times, once using each method! Please note that this year we’ll only be counting votes submitted via the first 2 methods from voters who’ve signed up for the Swamplot email list. (If you haven’t done so already, you can join it through this link or the box at the top left of this page.) A more complete explanation of the voting rules is available here.

When you vote, don’t forget to explain your choice — that’s what makes it fun! And just make sure you get all your votes in by the voting deadline: 5 pm on Saturday, December 27th.

Here are the official nominees:


Photo of Hermann Park Pedal Boats by Fred Rogers

Mecom Fountain, Main St. at Montrose Blvd., Museum District, Houston1. Hermann Park. “Let’s define ‘body’ as a grouping, so we can get all the waterworks in and around Hermann Park collected as a single candidate — including the Mecom Fountain at the intersection of Main St. and Montrose Blvd. (at left). There are lots of cool fountains and water features throughout the area, including the rat-a-tat Gulf Coast-themed waterfall in front of the Museum of Natural Science. Just driving down Fannin you can see 3 fountains from your car. But get out and have a stroll around the reflecting pool, over to the spray area in the children’s play area, and McGovern Lake. Just thinking about all the water attractions is enough to cool you off on a hot summer day.”


Gibbs Recreation Center Swimming Pool, Rice University

Pool, Gibbs Recreation Center, Rice University, Houston

2. Gibbs Recreation Center Swimming Pools, Rice University. “Over 8,000 8,000,000 800,000 gallons of Olympic-sized aquatic goodness, in use by swimmers ranging from little 6-year-old tadpoles to craggy old master swimmers in their eighties, with the Rice students and Rice women’s varsity team in between, from 6 am to 8 pm every day, outside, exposed to the elements, winter and summer. Competition or leisure. It’s hard to think of an outdoor venue that gets more people wet in Houston, every day.”


Water in Street, 200 Block of Cordell St., Brooke Smith, Houston

Water in Street, 200 Block of Cordell St., Brooke Smith, Houston

3. Standing Water on the 200 Block of Cordell St., Brooke Smith. “The city says it’s the property owners’ problem, and property owners point out that the block is not graded to any nearby storm drains. Rainwater collects along both curbs and stays for days. Vehicles drive down the center of the street to avoid the unknown depths. Tractor-trailers serving the meatpacking business on the street chew up the asphalt to make craters as deep as 10 inches. When the ‘lake’ is high, Gourmet Ranch (the meatpacking company) has to put out a traffic cone in the middle of the worst pothole to warn its drivers (and others) of the depth of the abyss. Eventually the water evaporates and the perilous pavement is dry . . . until the next rain. Every 3 or 4 years the city comes and slops some asphalt on the potholes — lather, rinse, repeat. One benefit created by this mess is the temporary wetlands: mosquitoes and tadpoles and frogs and night herons grace the grimy puddles with some biology. Let’s consider this nominee as a stand-in for poor street drainage throughout the city.”


Houston Ship Channel at East Loop 610, Houston

4. Houston Ship Channel. “It’s 100 years old this year, and its impact on the region’s economy cannot be overestimated. Buffalo Bayou, from which this industrial juggernaut was dredged, is the reason that Houston was sited where it is. (We’re at the furthest point upstream that waterway that boats could be hauled in 1836 — though until the channel was dug, getting here wasn’t such an easy ride.) The construction of the Ship Channel is why we’re still here. Without the Ship Channel, we’d all probably be somewhere else. Plus, the Galveston Bay portion of the 30-mile-inland journey offers the Houston area’s best surfing.”


Brays Bayou Near Texas Medical Center, Houston

Underwater Ford Taurus, Brays Bayou, Houston5. Brays Bayou. “Sure, our metropolis is nicknamed the Bayou City, but Houston’s bayous remain an underappreciated resource. With manmade ‘reefs’ growing below the surface from the agglomeration of more than 100 abandoned cars, for example, Brays Bayou should qualify as one of the nation’s largest urban fisheries; it is, in fact, the site of the state record for the largest Plecostomus ever caught with a fly rod. The waterway’s role as a multivalent underwater landfill is similarly little noted. Fortunately, the vibrant local habitat that flourishes below the surface of this waterway and of neighboring Sims Bayou doesn’t appear to be endangered by any HPD dredging activity.”


Potholes on Richmond Ave. Near S. Rice Blvd., Houston

6. Potholes on Richmond Ave. “Some are probably big enough to count toward stormwater detention. All cars that pass here: beware.”



7. Willow Waterhole Conservation Reserve, 5300 Gasmer Rd. “When not serving as a detention pond, it’s also a pleasant home for wildlife and native plants. It provides a destination for all the stormwater that would normally flood nearby streets and homes in the Westbury area.”


Parking Garage at the Calais, Midtown

Flooded Garage, Calais at Courtland Square Apartments, Midtown, Houston

Flooded Garage, Calais at Courtland Square Apartments, Midtown, Houston8. Underground Parking Garage, Calais at Courtland Square Apartments, 3210 Louisiana St., Midtown. “When it flooded on August 1 of this year, it provided yet another reminder of why we don’t do basements here.”



Flooding at Clinton Dr. and East Loop, Houston

9. Pop-Up Lakes on Freeway Feeder Roads. “If Houston’s streets serve as important parts of the city’s stormwater drainage system, we should also credit the city’s freeway feeder roads, ramps, and underpasses for their role in providing spontaneous flood-time recreation and entertainment, with the best experiences often featured on teevee news. So many of these are prone to flooding each time it rains — from hurricane-level storms to any good, quick soaking.”


40-Acre Lake, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

10. 40-Acre Lake, Brazos Bend State Park, Needville. “The best picnic spot in the Houston area is under the oak trees next to the lake. Egrets, herons, ducks, spoonbills, and so on call it home. The lake is slowly being choked by invasive water hyacinth, which serves as an important reminder of our stewardship obligations over our natural spaces. But even with the invader, this is still the place you take guests from out of town and do not get the silent parenthetical ‘for Houston’ appended when someone says, ‘Wow, this is really nice.'”

“You can reliably see alligators swimming around the fishing dock and get as close to them as you would ever need to. In the spring, you can easily see a dozen alligators while walking the path that goes around the lake. The view from the observation tower over Pliant Lake is amazing.


There you have ’em! And it’s time to pick a winner. Which one of these nominees deserves to be called the Houston area’s best body of water?

Photos: Hermann Park Conservancy/Fred Rogers (pedal boats); Flickr user Texas.713 (Mecom Fountain; license); ashinton1 and Al Thomas (Gibbs Center); Ms. Brooke Smith (Cordell St.); Russell Hancock (Houston Ship Channel at East Loop 610); Houston Walks (Brays Bayou); Click2Houston (submerged Taurus); CW39 NewsFix (Richmond Ave pothole); Luz (Willow Waterhole; license); KHOU and Click2Houston (Calais garage flooding); KPRC (flooding at Clinton Dr. and East Loop); Tom Haymes (40-Acre Lake; license)

The 2014 Swampies

39 Comment

  • #4. Let’s not forget Houston’s greatest tourist activity: experiencing an unforgettable waterborne voyage through one of the busiest ports in the world aboard the Port of Houston Authority’s free public that boat, the Sam Houston!

  • While the ship channel has an historical l allure, really what makes Houston, Houston are the freeway pop up lakes. #9 FTW!!!!!!!

  • #9- our freeways, doing the lord’s work, as God intended, when things get too rainy around here.

  • I like #2, and I am sure it is much more than 8000 gallons in that pool….maybe 80,000.

  • HAs to be the ship channel

  • #7 Willow Waterhole ftw! It is truly a beautiful space and worth checking out. It’s a great place for a jog or a dog walk, and there are several community events held here each year. It’s very scenic too, and just for a minute you’ll forget you’re in Houston.

  • erhed:

    Closer, but still no cigar: more like 800,000 gallons. All specially treated to make it clear, slippery, and fast!

  • Ship Channel. And yes, the Ship Channel tour is truly amazing.

  • Houston is a city of big ideas (let’s go to the moon! let’s build the world’s largest doomed stadium! Let’s elect a lesbian!), but we don’t always know what to do with those ideas once they come to fruition (see above examples). Accordingly, the best, most Houstonian body of water in Houston is not a literal body of water, but the idea of a body of water. I’m speaking, of course, of everyone’s favorite kickstarter campaign “Houston Needs a Swimming Hole.” At it’s current stage, the brainchild of Monte Large, Evan O’Neil and Jeff Kaplan is perfect, a calming piece of laid back nature in the inner loop. Let’s celebrate it now before the contentious town halls about it’s location (see: Greater East End vs. Botanical Garden), project delays (see: Greater East End vs. Metro rail) or discovery that the environmental reality of bayou water, air quality and stifling summer heat makes out-door summer activities anathema to the Houston way of life (see: Greater East End vs. everything) turn that shining, beautiful idea into brown, fetid reality.

  • #1 of course. Where else can you watch ducks, nutria and homeless?

  • 5. Brays Bayou – I ride my bike up and down it a lot. I see lots of interesting wildlife around and in it. I’ve seen kids riding inner tubes down it. The bridges provide shelter to drug addicts. I see a lot of folks fishing in it. And most importantly, it carries rain water away from my house.

  • #4, by a wide margin. Without the Houston Ship Channel there would neither be (and would never have been) the people or the money around to make all of the other amenities or road hazards possible, much less noticeable.

  • #4, Houston Ship Channel. Why?
    (a) A million jobs. One. Million. Jobs.
    (b) 178 Billion with a B dollars impact to the state.
    (c) It’s been important to the city and state for a century – the other entries on this list are Johnny-come-latelys.
    (d) There is no d.
    (e) Ships and boats are impressive.
    (f) Ships and boats keep me gainfully employed.
    (g) You can get a FREE tour of it.

  • Willow Waterhole. This should be the minimum standard for drainage detention ponds in Houston. The amount of money it takes to make a detention pond into a living ecosystem is minimal compared to the benefits to both the public and the environment. Plans to imitate Willow Waterhole at the Rutland detention pond by I-10 never got off the ground due to the complete inflexibility of TxDOT on the capacity of the pond and stupid rules on transferring property between governmental entities that would have required the City of Houston to pay what a developer would have to pay for raw land to buy a big pit. When it comes time to revise chap 42 and the design manual, the Willow Waterhole design should be mandatory for all detention projects.

  • Ship Channel

  • Damn you Swamplot and your nominations!

    I submitted #5, so that’s how I’m going to vote. But there are no losers here.

  • Gotta vote for Brays Bayou. I live just a block away and walk my dog down the new bayou path every morning and night. Beautiful.

  • Just because I like the outmoded idea that one little no-account thing can mean more to a single person than something else does to a hundred people, I submit a write-in vote for the McElligot’s Pool where that resourceful Katy boy fishes in the storm drain and makes the catfish jump.

  • Definitely needs to be the RICE pool.

  • Living a couple blocks off of Richmond, I’ll have to go with #6. Driving by The Hobbit and it’s assorted restaurants/bars/empty spaces after a major rain storm can be both exciting and scary. Will you just splash up a mountain of water or will you hit the submerged potholes that litter the block?

  • Have to go with Richmond Avenue. Sure these other bodies of water merit some mention, but nothing beats beautiful and pristine Richmond Avenue. Los Angeles River has nothing on Richmond.
    Can you drive in the Los Angeles River? Sure, but’s illegal unless you’re with a film crew. Nothing beats a bone-jarring, teeth gnashing cruise down Richmond. Think it’s fun during the day? Just wait.
    When the sun goes down it’s even more fun. Can’t see the pot holes? Don’t worry. You’ll find it when you bottom out in one of Richmond’s many craters. Add to that the added bonus of dodging wildlife and pedestrians darting out of into the darkened street.
    Don’t see the water on Richmond? Like the LA River, just wait until one of Houston’s turd floating, frog choking Noah worthy rain storms. You could lose a Smart Car in one of those pot holes then. Not to mention I’ve almost lost my truck in a couple of them.
    For what it’s worth my second would be Hermann Park.

  • As funny as I find #3, I have to go with the Ship Channel #4.

  • No. 2, the Rice Rec Center pool. Looks like it is the only nominee you would actually want to get in and enjoy.

  • #7 Willow Waterhole! An oasis hidden within the city!! Almost hate to post/cast vote as it’s yet to be fully discovered.

  • #4 Houston Ship Channel without a doubt.

  • I vote for #1… but regarding #8, our property on Holamn has underground parking (first bld in Houston to have underground parking from what I was told). Anyway. Turned into a straight up lake after that crazy rain a while back.

  • Cody, did anyone fail to move their car in time? How expensive are the pumps needed to keep those parking lots dry?

    I’ll toss in my vote for #8, because I moved out of the Faux French Quarter just a few months prior to Lake Calais breaching its levees!

  • #4: Houston Ship Channel

  • Ship Channel, it’s the most important port in the US, and besides without it this place would just be a couple cows stuck in a rice paddy, and we would all live out our lives somewhere else without the joy of needing air conditioning in December.

  • #1 please. Hermann park water features, including Mecom fountain, are the best in the city. I wish we had more large fountains throughout the city to be sure. Parque del Retiro or Cibeles in Madrid comes to my mind as what could be achieved in our city. However, I am quite proud of the beautiful and soothing water features provided by the Hermann-Mecom.

  • #4. It may not be pretty…But, it pays my bills.

  • #1 Hermann Park

  • The Feeder Road Pop up Lakes are famous

  • Is it too late to nominate and vote for Lake White Oak Bayou!?

  • #8 – Mulch be damned!

  • Willow Waterhole, I have yet to enjoy this space, but the area is hot with bagels and mid century architecture and this is just adding to the desirability. A good example of what our bayou scapes can be, ship channel is a close second for what it brings to the area, but it is not new, it is 100…