Welcome to Waterloo Park, downtown Austin’s largest greenspace!
Waterloo Greenway is a remarkable story that’s still unfolding — one filled with generations of diverse communities and unforgettable moments that shaped the landscape of Waller Creek. Today, the park binds this vital part of our city’s shared history together, while creating a brighter future for all.
Browse through our tour stops below as you explore the 11-acre Waterloo Park. You’ll learn some fun facts about the park’s history, landscape, architecture, and more!
Take a peek over the north edge of the Farmer Bridge guardrail to discover a revitalized Waller Creek.
This special area in front of you is designed to restore and preserve Waller Creek’s natural beauty. Healthy creekside systems do important work. When we built over the wetlands, meadows, and trees that meandered along Waller Creek, we took away parts of nature’s toolkit, leading to erosion and increased flooding.
Waterloo Greenway includes thoughtful creekside landscapes that “take a leaf” out of nature’s playbook. Natural landscapes and native plantings stabilize slopes, absorb heavy rainfall, and create a healthier habitat for wildlife. As they grow, these green spaces will bring nature back into the heart of the city for everyone to enjoy. The limestone walls and plant palette in this area of the park were inspired by Central Texas hill country streams.
The section of creek in front of you is part of a larger vision to restore and protect the entirety of flood-prone lower Waller Creek. It serves as a living model of how natural creekside systems work.
Creek restoration between 14th and 15th Streets was made possible through a collaborative effort between the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department (WPD), Parks and Recreation Department, and us, the Waterloo Greenway Conservancy. Please enjoy this landscape from trails and overlooks and keep kids and pets away from growing plants.
Waterloo Park History
Today it is Waterloo Greenway, but for generations, the ground beneath your feet was one of Austin’s oldest and most diverse residential neighborhoods. You can learn more about the history of Waterloo Park on the signage located along the Farmer Bridge guardrail.
Interpretive signs illustrating the role of Waller Creek in the founding of Austin, the diversity of previous residents, history of area businesses, live music scene in the Red River Cultural District, and significant flood events of the past were installed in Waterloo Park, with support from the Summerlee Foundation. Through historic photos and descriptions, the signs highlight the people who have lived and worked along Waller Creek – viewable at the Farmer Bridge at 14th Street and overlooking the Waller Creek Tunnel Inlet Facility.
For over 15,000 years, Indigenous Peoples had their own relationship with this landscape. Generations occupied the Waller Creek area long before it bore that name, including the Coahuiltecans, Lipan Apache, Tonkawa, and Comanche Tribes. Local waters represented a spiritual connection, home to many sacred traditions. Eventually, European settlement into Texas forced most Indigenous Peoples to go underground and identify as “Mexican” in order to stay in their ancestral lands.
Labeled “Austin’s Spring Creek” in an 1838 map, Waller Creek soon finds itself in the heart of American history. In 1839, the neighboring town of Waterloo becomes the capital of the new Republic of Texas. A new city rises quickly, changing its name to Austin. Before our community was named “Austin,” it was known as “Waterloo.”
In the 1840s, German and Swedish immigrants settle on Waller Creek. They establish some of the first businesses in the area. After enduring enslavement, recently freed African Americans created a community here along the banks of Waller Creek. Sometimes called the “Red River Community,” these families lived in and around the land that is today Waterloo Park. Mexican and Lebanese immigrants fleeing political unrest arrive a few decades later.
The experiences at Waterloo Park’s Moody Amphitheater will be as limitless as your imagination.
With year-round concerts, cultural events, community festivals, and so much more, Moody Amphitheater will be your new go-to destination for live entertainment in downtown Austin.
Designed and built into the natural fabric of Waterloo Park, the Moody Amphitheater features more than 38,000 square feet of grass on the Great Lawn, comfortably fitting up to 5,000 people at a time. Unlike other major entertainment venues, park-goers will be able to picnic, play, or perform on the stage when it is not being used for large-scale concerts produced by our partners at Live Nation Entertainment and C3 Presents.
Waterloo Park Area History
In the 1950s and 1960s, Red River Street took its place as the heart of Austin’s music scene. Early entertainment clubs reflected the diversity of the surrounding neighborhoods. Even as urban renewal transformed the area – now known as the Red River Cultural District – it continues to be a place of musical innovation and cultural expression.
In the 1970s, six blocks of homes were condemned and their families displaced to make way for Waterloo Park and other urban renewal projects.
Since 1978, Waterloo Park has been home to many authentically Austin experiences such as Spamarama, Pachanga, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Mess with Texas, and the Ice Cream Festival. In April 1978, Symphony Square opened as a southeastward extension of Waterloo Park on both sides of E. 11th Street, east of Red River Street. The new headquarters of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Square is formed by four historic buildings: the Jeremiah Hamilton House (the only building original to the site), New Orleans Club, William P. Hardeman House, and Michael Doyle House. Read more about Symphony Square’s history.
The launch of the Moody Amphitheater in August 2021 represented a homecoming of sorts, as Waterloo Greenway will build upon the legacy of live music, festivals, and public art once hosted at Waterloo Park.
- Venue capacity: 5,000
- The Moody Amphitheater canopy, designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners, is made up of 5 miles of steel, aluminum, and glass.
- The venue was designed to be integrated seamlessly into the Waterloo Park landscape and can be adapted flexibly for a variety of uses, from fully seated concerts, to open lawn performing arts events and festivals, to general use by the public when not actively programmed.
In addition to concerts produced by Live Nation and C3 Presents, Waterloo Greenway will offer a diverse array of locally focused cultural programs that will support and showcase Austin’s creative community. Moody Amphitheater will be a home for other community events including physical & mental wellness activities, multi-disciplinary live performances, film screenings, and more.
The Kitty King Powell Lawn at Waterloo Park is a space for engaging play and endless exploration.
Nestled between the Love, Tito’s Lawn and Luci and Ian’s Family Hill Country Garden, the Kitty King Powell Lawn is the backyard of your dreams. Kids can get active while letting their imaginations run wild exploring the playground’s nature-inspired play features. They can scale the Log Jam climbing structure, play hide-and-seek in the Mega Grass Maze, scramble up the rolling hills, and sail down the hillside stone slide.
Colossal shade trees surround the play area, creating spaces to relax and stay cool. The Kitty King Powell Lawn is home to one of the largest shade trees in Waterloo Park. The 150-ton Heritage Live Oak behind the guardrail near the water fountain was relocated from the Texas State Capitol Complex and replanted here in 2019.
This dynamic green space was funded by, and named in memory of, Kitty King Powell who spent much of her life in Austin with her husband and family. Although she later moved to Houston, she had fond memories of her hometown and wanted to ensure Austin kept its natural beauty — green, vibrant, and welcoming to all.
The Meredith Heritage Tree Deck is home to two of the largest, oldest trees in Waterloo Park.
Nestled between the Family Commons and Moody Amphitheater, the Meredith Heritage Tree Deck provides a space where people can gather, picnic, and enjoy generous shade beneath two towering escarpment live oak trees that are estimated to be over 200 years old.
Many arborists were involved in the preservation of these massive trees during the construction of the deck, ensuring both root systems were left unharmed. Watch this clip from one of our Waterloo Park Virtual Tours to learn more about the design and construction of the Meredith Heritage Tree Deck.
The Family Commons at Waterloo Park is a place where people can grab a bite to eat at one of our resident food trucks and freshen up after a long day of exploration.
Waterloo Park features space for two food trucks to provide local, affordable food for guests to enjoy during park hours or at special events. In 2017, we conducted a series of public meetings, community outreach, and surveys to determine what kind of food options people wanted to see at Waterloo Greenway. We found that people wanted diverse food options that are local, family-friendly, sustainable, and affordable—among other key findings.
Local architects at Michael Hsu Office of Architecture collaborated closely with New York-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. to design the Family Commons at Waterloo Park. You can find this building nestled into the landscape between the Kitty King Powell Lawn and the Meredith Heritage Tree Deck.
The Family Commons reflects the park’s architectural language with a concrete structure, designed to keep the park’s landscape at the forefront of the experience. The seemingly simple, open-air building is heavily rooted, with a roof that is designed so that it appears to float over the space. A free-standing, concrete vessel sink mirrors the building’s form and is designed to withstand the elements. A large skylight at the back of the sloped roof bathes the concrete interior in natural lighting. A planter located below the skylight, once mature, will cover the back wall with greenery.
Watch this Waterloo Park Virtual Tour to learn more about the design and construction of the Family Commons.
Enjoy scenic views of Waterloo Park as you glide through the Suzanne Deal Booth Skywalk.
Starting at the intersection of 12th and Trinity Streets, the Suzanne Deal Booth Skywalk provides a stunning view and entrance point to Waterloo Park’s endless trails, lush gardens, welcoming gathering spaces, and of course, the 5,000-capacity Moody Amphitheater.
The Suzanne Deal Booth Skywalk is an artful ADA-accessible path that winds into the heart of the park. Snaking its way over and around the Luci and Ian’s Family Hill Country Garden, Lebermann Plaza, and Kitty King Powell Lawn, the skywalk leads parkgoers toward the Moody Amphitheater where you can kick back and enjoy live music, theater, dance, and a variety of family-friendly programs on the Love, Tito’s Lawn.
Nestled within a curve of the Suzanne Deal Booth Skywalk, the Lebermann Plaza is an intimate gathering space where parkgoers can relax, rehydrate, and take in scenic views of Waterloo Park.
With built-in limestone seating for more than 100 people, the possibilities for activations in the Lebermann Plaza are endless! Just imagine laughing the night away at an outdoor Open Mic night, clapping along to an acoustic performance by your favorite local artist, or being inspired by a breathtaking AcroYoga dance performance — expect the unexpected in the Lebermann Plaza!
Get lost exploring thousands of native plants and blooming wildflowers in Luci and Ian’s Family Hill Country Garden at Waterloo Park.
More than 95% of the plantings are native to the area and were selected in a collaborative effort between local landscape architecture firm dwg., world-renowned architects at Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, Inc., and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
The diverse mix of delicate plants that were incorporated into Luci and Ian’s Family Hill Country Garden represent a wide range of species that are indigenous to Central Texas. “It’s a celebration of our native plants,” says dwg. Landscape Architect Cassie Bergstrom Gowan. “The plantings at Waterloo Park are a symphony of color that are geared toward attracting pollinators, hummingbirds, and other wildlife.”
Thanks to the support of our partnership with the Consulate General of Canada, Waterloo Greenway has been given the ability to make this project come to life. As a conservancy, we are committed to not only supporting park pollinators, but also the critical monarch butterfly migration across the North American fly path and creating opportunities for public education.
Stone paths meander through the landscape, inviting park visitors to explore the garden and connect with nature.
Throughout Waterloo Park, you’ll find:
- 91,904 plants
- 100 herbaceous perennials
- 32 shrubs
- 20 succulents (cacti, woody lilies such as agaves, sotols, dasylirions, yuccas)
- 524 trees (38 tree species)
FUN FACT: 8 of the trees in Waterloo Park were carefully transplanted from the University of Texas at Austin, the Texas State Capitol Complex, Symphony Square, and from within Waterloo Park. They range in size from small heritage oaks to a 42” heritage Live Oak!
You can learn more about the trees that have found their new homes at Waterloo Park below:
Discover the Winkler Family Wetland Terrace at Waterloo Park
Located in the southeast corner of Waterloo Park, the Winkler Family Wetland Terrace is a densely planted area that will serve as the trailhead to a restored Waterloo Greenway. It is a welcoming gathering space where people can take a pleasant stroll, unwind, and enjoy scenic views of Waller Creek.
At the intersection of 12th and Red River Streets, pavers and an outward-facing circular bench surround a 150-year-old heritage oak tree that was transplanted from its original location just down the block between the Austin Symphony Orchestra offices and Symphony Square. This new seating area was designed to protect the tree’s root ball while providing yet another unique space for people to catch some shade and connect with nature and one another in Waterloo Park.
East of the Winkler Family Wetland Terrace is the Waller Creek Tunnel Inlet Facility, where a 5,600 ft. long tunnel captures floodwaters and releases them into Lady Bird Lake.
The Waller Creek Tunnel Inlet Facility removes more than 28 acres of downtown from the floodplain, keeps people safe from flash flooding, and protects dozens of structures and roadways.
The Waller Creek Tunnel is approximately 5,600 feet long and moves floodwaters safely under our city, opening new possibilities for a healthier, revitalized creek corridor. Historically, devastating flooding along Waller Creek claimed lives and property—leading to neglect and economic depression. The Waller Creek Tunnel prevents flooding south of 12th Street and supports the creek’s health, striking an innovative balance between our city and the natural world. Completed by the City of Austin in 2017, the tunnel’s construction sparked the revitalization of Waterloo Park and the creation of Waterloo Greenway.
Operated by the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department, this facility removes more than 28 acres of downtown from the floodplain, keeps people safe from flash flooding, and protects dozens of structures and roadways. It also helps ease bank erosion during wet times and gently pumps water from Lady Bird Lake back into the creek during drier periods.
Waller Creek History
The streets that border Waller Creek were home to working class families since the 1800s. Historic flood events repeatedly destroyed homes, damaged property, swept away bridges, and claimed lives, making life on the creek dangerous. Waller Creek was prone to violent flash floods. In 1915, a devastating flood carried away houses and claimed the lives of as many as 50 people who lived along its banks.
Talk of diverting Waller Creek began in the 1970s. Despite decades of beautification and infrastructure projects, Waller Creek remained a flood-prone and economically depressed area. In 1999, the City of Austin responded by working with local partners to plan and build a tunnel from Waterloo Park to Lady Bird Lake. Today, the Waller Creek Tunnel moves floodwaters safely under the eastern portion of downtown, allowing the Waterloo Greenway area to flourish.
Wall Painting For Austin
Waterloo Park features stunning new artwork by internationally-renowned Venezuelan artist Arturo Herrera in a larger than life mural that was inspired by its natural habitat along Waller Creek.
Named Wall Painting for Austin, the mural was commissioned by Waterloo Greenway Conservancy in partnership with the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection and Parks & Recreation Departments. A team of talented local artists installed the 6,587 sq. ft. artwork, including Jason Archer and Josh Row of Show Goat Mural Works, along with brother and sister duo Joe Swec and Jana Swec – whose work can be found at local favorites including Hillside Farmacy, Easy Tiger and Loro.
- The tunnel lies 70 feet below the surface of downtown.
- It ranges in size from 22 to 26 feet in diameter.
- The tunnel is approximately 5,600 feet long.
- The Waller Creek Tunnel Inlet Facility features a 6,587 sq. ft. mural designed by internationally-renowned Venezuelan artist Arturo Herrera.
Become a member and spark a bright future for Waterloo Greenway.
Did you know Waterloo Greenway Conservancy is a nonprofit that’s responsible for creating, maintaining, and enlivening Waterloo Greenway? By becoming a Waterloo Greenway member, you help us ensure that the park becomes – and remains – an extraordinary green space that connects, surprises, and inspires all of Austin.
Choose the membership that’s right for you, and enjoy special benefits throughout the year that bring you closer to your park and to your city.