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WNY From The Water
25 Ways to Enjoy Buffalo's lakefront and riparian beauty
Paddle a canyon of grain elevators
Float through a silent, towering canyon of grain elevators as you navigate the still waters of the Buffalo River. Thanks to the opening of the new Buffalo River Fest Park on Ohio Street in the Old First Ward, paddlers now have a convenient launch point to tour the monolithic ghosts of Buffalo’s industrial past. Alternately, rent just down the river at BFLO Harbor Kayak (bfloharborkayak.com) in the Inner Harbor. Finally, top off your nautical trip through history with a pint at the Swannie House. —zachary burns’
Learn to sail
Oblivious to the origins of the expression “cut of your jib?” Don’t be. Expand your nautical vocabulary and learn to sail at Buffalo’s only nationally accredited sailing institute, Sail Buffalo (sail-buffalo.com), located in the Inner Harbor. Take in the lake the way it’s meant to be seen, with the wind at your back and a freshwater spray in your face. —zb
Learn to fly-fish
Western New York may not be home to the “big waters” of Norman Maclean’s youth, but it is criss-crossed with fast-moving streams that offer fine fishing. You can lower worms or balled-up pieces of bread in the eddies; you can use a spinning reel to toss lures into the middle of the stream. Or you can learn the metronomic rhythms of flyfishing. The classes and outings offered by the Orvis shop in Williamsville (orvis.com/buffalo) are highly regarded. But if you’d prefer that your new venture not begin with a visit to the Eastern Hills Mall, you can check in with Jim Guida at WNY Fly Fishing (wnyflyfishing.blogspot.com); Guida offers affordable classes in casting and fly-tieing, as well as guided outings. —geoff kelly
Rent a boat on Hoyt Lake
On Thursday, June 14, at 11am, Delaware North Companies and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy will officially launch the 2012 boat rental season on Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park. The old-fashioned boat launch will include actors from the Theodore Roosevelt Site dressed in vintage attire, old-time concessions, a boat-launching ceremony, and a Flag Day inspired concert performed by PS #64 Frederick Law Olmsted School’s third grade chorus. Row boats are available for rental on Hoyt Lake, weekends at $10 per half-hour. Expanded hours will be made available in July and August. Members of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy boat for free. Visit bfloparks.org for more information. —cory perla
Paddle up, drink down
While Tonawanda Creek in and of itself doesn’t offer much in the form of scenery, there are other benefits on this slow and straight line waterway. Launch your canoe or kayak at the small, unnamed park off Tonawanda Creek Road between Hopkins and Campbell Roads and paddle upstream roughly a mile and a half to the creek’s divergence from the Erie Canal. Once there, tie up at the dock of Pendleton’s Ship N’ Shore Restaurant and stop in for a pint and a fish fry. As always, be sure to boat responsibly. —zb
Go Overboard with Queen City Cartel
Put on your dancing shoes, some sunscreen, and a take a few motion sickness tablets, because the Queen City Cartel is having a party on a boat. Six local DJs will hit the decks to spin music all evening long on Monday, July 16. Three pairs of DJs will go head to head for three rounds on the high seas. The Miss Buffalo II will leave from the Erie Basin Marina at 5:30 sharp. Tickets are available at Headspace at 67 Elmwood Avenue or online.
Overboard is a special event, but the Miss Buffalo II also sets out every Friday evening for a T.G.I.F. Happy Hour Cruise. For more event information, check out buffaloharborcruises.com. —cp
Paddle past a secluded castle
Unknown to many, a medieval castle and compound, complete with a moat and tower, rests hidden within the suburban confines of the Village of Williamsville. Built in 1917 by a German immigrant, Oechsner Castle is located on private property off Oakgrove Drive and is inaccessible to the public. However, much can be seen from the upper part of Ellicott Creek and there is a launch point just downstream at Williamsville’s Island Park. —zb
BuffaBlog Beach Party
Five local bands, tons of sun and drinks on the beach are what you’ll find at the Buffablog Beach Party on Saturday, June 16, at Sunset Bay. Artvoice B.O.O.M. winners the Tins will perform alongside Aircraft, Autopunch, Canary Girls, and Nelson-Type. All you’ll need is five bucks and a towel. —cp
Creekwalk (naked) in Zoar Valley
While not an “official” nude beach, there’s an area in Zoar Valley that’s been de facto clothing-optional since the 1800s. The heyday of skinny-dipping there may have been the 1960s, when hippies used to hang out in more ways than one. If you’re looking for a place to get that “all over” tan, stay in the Multiple Use Area, since some of the property in Zoar—including all the way to the middle of the creek—is private property. In recent years, landowners have been cracking down on trespassing due to litter and other damage left behind by inconsiderate trespassers. So we can’t guarantee you won’t get in trouble—but hey—you’ve read this far about a nudist adventure, so you’re not going to let a little risk get in the way of a good time, are you? And besides, ladies, don’t forget that it’s perfectly legal to take your top off anywhere in New York State—thanks to the Rochester Topfree Seven. Exercise this right your foremothers so bravely fought for us to enjoy. —buck quigley
Take a ride on Buffalo’s water taxi
The Queen City Water Ferry runs a regular route between the Commercial Slip, Erie Basin Marina, Buffalo River Fest Park, and the Small Boat Harbor all summer long. And it’s cheap: $4 one way, $8 round trip, $12 all day long, and $1 extra for your bike. —gk
Bike (or drive) a long way for a cocktail by the water
May I recommend the Black North Inn in Kent (blacknorthinn.wordpress.com), on the shore of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Oak Orchard River. The place features live music every Thursday night, and is a popular destination for motorcyclists on summer Sunday rides. It’s about 70 miles from downtown Buffalo, if you bike through Akron and the Iroquois National Wildlife refuge, then due north through Medina toward the Seaway Trail. (That’s a long way, both ways, but you can camp or get a motel along the way or at the end.) The food is fine, the beer is cold, and the atmosphere is just right: Boats come and go from the launch, people compare notes on their rides and discuss where to go next—next week, next year, next drink. —gk
And if that’s too far for you…
…then take a ride down to Hoak’s Resaurant, a mere 10 miles along Lake Erie—the first half of it on the new(ish) trails along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. Which means, of course, that you can curtail the ride at Dug’s Dive, at the Smaal Boat Harbor, should you tucker out early. —gk
Try a Jet Ski, like you’ve secretly always wanted to do
“Own the water, not the Jet Ski” is the motto of Waikiki Watercraft Rentals in River Oaks Marina on Grand Island. Most people in Western New York are more likely to own snow skis than jet skis, so if you’re looking for some high-speed fun on the Niagara River, Waikiki has your vehicle. For $79 an hour ($75 if you pay in cash; half hour rentals are available as well for $45) you can rent a powerful jet ski like the Yamaha VX Sport 100 Deluxe. Although the Yamaha can technically seat three people, you’ll have a more comfortable and stable ride with two people. —cp
Learn to SCUBA
Opportunities abound for excellent freshwater diving in our own backyard. Learn from the pros at Buffalo’s Dip N’ Dive shop (dipndive.com), which offers several sessions of dive certification over the summer in as little as three weeks. No, Lake Erie ain’t the Great Barrier Reef, but the world truly does look different underwater. Explore it. —zb
Dive the “Coin Pile”
While the gold doubloons and pirate treasures have long since been picked over at this popular local SCUBA site, the intrepid diver might still be able to salvage a few interesting artifacts from the remains of several shipwrecks buried in the silt outside Buffalo Harbor. You’ll need a boat to reach the site, but due to its being situated in only 20 feet of water, you’ll have plenty of time to fan for pieces of china, antique nails, scrap metal, and—as legend has it—the occasional coin. —zb
Catch the Spirit of Buffalo
It’s summer, and Lake Erie is finally unfrozen—why not get out on the water to beat the heat? Summer is not complete without one sail across the lake, and the Spirit of Buffalo (spiritofbuffalo.com) is your best bet. This 73-foot schooner is the only of its kind in Buffalo; owned and operated by the Buffalo Sailing Company, it sits right on the Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf at the Commercial Slip. Sailors can take a trip on this magnificent boat—day or night—and experience an ocean-like adventure without having to leave the Queen City. Guests can kick up their feet and even enjoy microbrew selections from Pearl Street Grill & Brewery or a glass of wine (or two). —rebecca bratek
Swim at least once at every beach between Erie and Rochester
In the Adirondacks, aspiring 46ers try to climb every one of the range’s High Peaks (roughly, those 4,000 feet above sea level and higher)—some in a lifetime, some in a year. It would be impossible to ennumerate the number of spits of sand or grass or hospitable rock outcroppings from which one might swim Lakes Erie and Ontario and their connecting waters; they are not all named, they are not all easily accessible. Still, it seems like a laudable goal for those of us who live so close to the water. Here are just 14 of the easier, sanctioned beaches you might tick off your life list—leaving out the usual suspects such as bennett Beach. That’s one per week between now and Labor Day:
Beaver Island State Park (Grand Island)
Buckhorn Island State Park (Grand Island)
Gallagher Beach State Park (Buffalo)—and yes, we know you’re not supposed to swim there. Try it anyway.
Presque Isle State Park (Erie, PA)
Woodlawn Beach State Park (Blasdell)
Point Gratiot Park (Dunkirk)
Town of Hanover Beach (Silver Creek)
Wright Park (Dunkirk)
Buffalo Municipal Bathing Beach (Angola on the Lake)
Virginia’s Beach Lakefront Cabins & Camping (North Springfield, PA)
Wide Beach (Irving)
Evans Beach (Angola-on-the Lake)
Durand Eastman Beach (Rochester)
Ontario Beach Park (Rochester)
Hamlin Beach State Park (Hamlin)
Go for the birds
Western New York and Buffalo afford many opportunities to view birds and other wildlife. Located in the heart of the city, Forest Lawn Cemetery and Delaware Park are excellent spots to observe migrating songbirds such as wood warblers and thrushes. Terns, gulls, and waterfowl can be enjoyed at waterfront location such as Squaw Island and La Salle Park. South Buffalo has Times Beach, Red Jacket Park and Tifft Nature Preserve.
Other locations within an hour’s drive of Buffalo include Beaver Island and Buckhorn Island State Parks (both on Grand island), Chestnut Ridge County Park (Orchard Park), Hunter’s Creek Park (Wales), Beaver Meadow Audubon Center (North Java), and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (Basom). These locations are home to mammals such as American beaver and white-tailed deer, as well as numerous migrant and resident bird species.
Don’t forget to charge your cell phone, pack a lunch and some drinks, and bring sunscreen and bug repellent! —joe fell
Find a good place to go fishing
Experienced anglers will tell you that summer is not the prime time to reel in the whoppers. As the water temperature heats up, fish act pretty much like we do. They slow down and take it easy. Hardcore fishermen may slow down too, but they will never stop dropping a line.
The key is heading for the deeper, colder lakes. The shoreline of lake Erie is an okay bet, but we’re told you can have better luck up in Olcott and Wilson harbor on lake Ontario. The tributaries that run into the lake are also recommended. Oak Orchard Creek in Orleans County is stocked with brown trout, salmon, and steelhead. The lower part is fishable by boat, and the upper part with waders.
Eighteen Mile Creek in Niagara County is not 18 miles long. Rather, it’s located 18 miles east of the Niagara River. It’s good to get familiar with this creek now, so you’ll know your way around this fall when it will become crowded with lots of Coho and Chinook salmon, as well as brown trout.
Further to the east, Oatka Creek flows 58 miles from southern Wyoming County up to the Genesee River near Scottsville. You can take the NYS Thruway (if you really must) to exit 47 near LeRoy and make your way to the water. The oldest fish hatchery in the western hemisphere is near its mouth.
If you’re heading south, try Sturgeon Point in Derby—or head down to Chatauqua Lake. If the fish are just not biting, you’ll at least be near some good places to grab lunch, have a cold one, and tell all sorts of lies about the one that got away. —buck quigley
Paddle an urban oasis
Just past Glen Falls on the lower part of Ellicott Creek lies a pleasant and meandering section of stream that passes through serene suburban environs. You can launch from the shore just behind the old nunnery at Amherst State Park on Mill Street and float through the manicured grounds of Park Country Club. Expect to see deer, great blue herons, and many snapping and box turtles. Keep an eye on the daily stream discharge levels (waterdata.usgs.gov/ny/nwis/rt). Ellicott Creek can be inches—and near impassable—deep during the heat of summer but flush with rapids just after a storm. —zb
Hike Devil’s Hole State Park
The mighty Niagara River is more than just a national boundary and a couple huge waterfalls. If you want to experience some of this tributary’s power up close and personal, get yourself some comfortable hiking shoes and head down the path that plunges down the gorge to the water’s edge just north of the whirlpool on the upper Niagara. It’s open from dawn to dusk year-round, but tackling the descent in snow and ice is not a cakewalk. The highly oxygenated water in these rapids make it a world-class freshwater fishing site, with salmon as big as your leg. It’s also a breathtakingly beautiful spot to go on a picnic. The river is hypnotic here, but don’t submit to its siren song. Swimming is prohibited here. Hike down, look, and you’ll see why. —bq
Take on the triathalon
If masochism is your thing, triathlon sounds likes the sport for you. You’re probably going to need to train pretty hard to even have a chance at finishing this grueling elite-level competition. Luckily you’ll have all summer to prepare. Held over two days on September 15 and 16, the Nickel City Triathlon (eclipsemultisport.com/nickel-city-homepage) features a 1,500-meter open water swim at Gallagher Beach, 40-kilometer bike, and 10-kilometer road race. All are welcome to register and there are several easier difficulty and distance levels based on age and experience. Or, you know, you could just watch. —zb
Grand Lady Cruises
Welcome aboard the Grand Lady, an 80-foot-long steel yacht with plenty of good food, good drink, and a view of the sunset. The Grand Lady usually leaves from the Holiday Inn on Grand Island, but this year they’ve added charters from the Inner Harbor Central Wharf, Erie Basin Marina, and Placid Harbor Marina in North Tonawanda. Private charters are available as well as public cruises through August. To reserve a spot on a lunch or dinner cruise go to the website: grandlady.com. —cp
City of Buffalo Swimming Pools
If you want to cool off in the hot summer sun, why not head off to some of these publicly run pools? No rocky shores to wade through, no mud, and no power boats anchored in your way:
Allison Pool, 50 Rees Street. 11am-7pm. Closed Sunday.
Cazenovia Pool, 626 Abbott Road. 9am-8pm. Weekends 11am-6:30pm. Closed Monday.
Centennial Pool, 5 Porter Avenue. 11am-7pm. Closed Saturday.
Crowley Wading Pool, Tonawanda Street/Crowley Avenue. 11am-7pm. Closed Saturday.
Houghton Pool, 36 Spann Street. 11am-7pm. Closed Sunday.
JFK Pool, 114 Hickory Street. 11am-7pm. Closed Saturday.
Kensington Pool, 665 Kensington Avenue. 11am-7pm. Closed Sunday.
Lovejoy Pool, 1171 East Lovejoy Street. 9am-8pm. Weekends 11am-6:30pm. Closed Tuesday
Masten Pool, 224 Best Street. 11am-7pm. Closed Saturday.
MLK Pool, 175 North Parade Avenue. 11am-7pm. Closed Sunday.
Riverside Pool, 2505 Niagara Street. 11am-7pm. Closed Sunday.
Shoshone Pool, 467 Beard Avenue. 11am-7pm. Closed Saturday.
Intro: Pond Swimming • Events: Summer Musts, Festivals, Garden Walks, and Tours
Enjoy the Waterfront: WNY From the Water • Wheels on the Water
Music: Summer Spotify Mixtape • Free Summer Concert Guide
Summer Eats: Cool Food for Warm Weather • Three Wines for Your Summer Oases
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