Clark Pines Civic Associaton

White Oak Bayou compiled by Mary Abshier

An Historic, Still Evolving Urban Waterway

White Oak Bayou has played an important part in Houston’s and Clark Pines’ history. As a matter of fact, The city was founded by the Allen brothers at the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. In the early days of this subdivison, White Oak Bayou provided a swimming hole for the neighborhood children. Prior to a federal flood control project that straightenend and enlarged the lower 10.7 miles of White Oak between 1964 and 1976, the bayou actually curved into our neighborhood at what is now the end of West 14 ½ th Street. White Oak drains a watershed of 110 square miles and extends for a length of approximately 25 miles, from its headwaters at US 290 near Huffmeister Road, to it’s mouth at Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston.

Today, White Oak Bayou is a highly urbanized watershed that includes the cities of Houston, Jersey Village, as well as a portion of unincorporated Harris County. The watershed includes a mix of older historic neighborhoods, such as the Houston Heights and Norhill; middle aged neighborhoods, such as Timbergrove Manor, Clark Pines and Oak Forest; and newer developments such as Woodwind Lakes and Willowbridge. Significant landmarks in the watershed include the Sam Houston Race Park and Delmar Stadium.

The Allen brothers experienced their first major flood in 1843, after they had been here just seven years. The flood of record on White Oak Bayou, prior to the June 2001, was in December 1935, long before many houses were built along the bayou. Recently flooding has occurred in August 1981, May and June 1989, March 1992, September 1998 and June 2001. Record high flooding occurred all along White Oak Bayou as a result of Tropical Storm Allison. The highest recorded gage level was at White Oak and Ella just north of our neighborhood.

On November 6, 1984, Harris County Commissioners Court adopted the White Oak Bayou Regional Flood Control Plan, the first of its kind in Harris County. The plan consists of several large regional detention basins and a larger channel between Tidwell Road and Jersey Village. The purpose of the regional plan is to reduce existing flood levels and to allow new developments to continue without increasing existing flood levels. Since the adoption of the plan in 1984, the HCFCD has spent $48 million on regional plan improvements.

In 1998, the HCFCD began the feasibility study for the White Oak Federal Flood Control Project. This investigation involved an extensive study of the White Oak Bayou watershed including an analysis of over 12,000 structures in the 500-year flood plain of White Oak Bayou. Of these 12,000 structures, approximately 1,900 homes were identified in the 10-year flood plain and approximately 8,600 homes in the 100-year flood plain. Most of Clark Pines falls into the 100-year and 500-year flood plains.

Man has never been, and probably never will be, able to confine major flood waters within the channel banks. When the bayou needs to occupy its natural flood plain, it will do so. As it so unfortunately did early in the morning of June 9,2001 our homes just happened to be in the way.


1% Flood…also known as the 100-year Flood Event. Flood elevation at a particular site that has a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. This is used as the regulatory standard used to administer floodplain management programs, the national flood insurance program and set building requirements for new construction. Statistically, the 1% flood has a 26% chance of occurring during the 30-year period of most mortgages.

0.2% Flood…also known as the 500-year Flood Event. Flood elevation at a particular site that has a 0.2% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.

4% Flood…also known as the 25-year Flood Event. Flood elevation at a particular site that has a 4% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year

Information gathered from Harris County Flood Control District, White Oak Bayou Association meeting and long-time Clark Pines residents.

Posted by MLA on 01/09/2006
Last updated by dbachner on 09/24/2009
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