White Oak Bayou is one of the primary tributaries of Buffalo Bayou, which it joins at historic Allen’s Landing in downtown Houston. Its watershed, encompassing some of Houston’s most populous and densely developed areas, stretches from central to northwest Harris County and includes the City of Jersey Village and extensive portions of the City of Houston. The bayou flows southeast from its headwaters northwest of FM 1960 to its confluence with Buffalo Bayou.
About half of White Oak Bayou, from just downstream of the confluence with Little White Oak Bayou (near Houston Avenue) upstream to Cole Creek (near West Tidwell Road and T.C. Jester Boulevard), was lined with concrete in the 1960s as a flood mitigation measure. Other segments have also been channelized and the banks armored. Channelization has not eliminated flooding from intense rainfall events, and continued development has exacerbated flooding in some areas. More recent flood mitigations have focused on construction of detention ponds to slow the entry of stormwater into White Oak Bayou and its tributaries.
The White Oak Bayou watershed features many parks, including significant linear parks flanking the main channel and some tributaries, providing great opportunities for birding and other outdoor recreational activities. Wildlife habitat exists on undeveloped tracts scattered throughout the watershed, while habitats have also been preserved and/or created in some large stormwater detention basins. Many of these parks are connected by hike-and-bike trails as part of the Bayou Greenways 2020 project: trails currently extend from downtown to Alabonson Road, with work under way by many public and private partners to complete the White Oak Greenway. Ultimately, a network of hike-and-bike trails will extend from downtown Houston all the way north to the Montgomery County line.