Kayaking in Downtown Buffalo

14 Sep

For my wife’s birthday, I took her kayaking. We are semi-experienced kayakers, but had never done the Erie Canal Harbor and associated waterways. So we rented two boats from Jason Schwinger at BFLO Harbor Kayak, and went exploring. Warm sunshine, hardly any wind, and my best friend. Perfect.

Ship Canal

First we paddled the length of the Ship Canal. If it weren’t for a berm in the way at the end of the canal, it would connect to Tifft Nature Preserve. That means as the canal narrows, the wildlife comes in. We saw Double-Crested Cormorants, Kingfishers, and a stately Great Blue Heron flapped out ahead of us. All along, I was struck by how clean the water and surrounds were. Yes, its a ship canal surrounded by rusting grain elevators. And yes, there is the odd mattress and tire still on the bank. But the water itself was free of the debris, particulates, and odor that characterize most Great lakes urban coasts. Whether this is a result of Riverkeeper’s efforts or a general environmental ethos taking root, I don’t know. But it made the trip far more pleasant than some I have been on in Milwaukee or other places in NY.

Down and back on the Ship Canal only took part of the afternoon, so we took a trip down the Buffalo River, past the DL&W Terminal, under the Michigan Ave lift bridge, and towards Ohio Street.

Buffalo River

I have driven past the grain elevators plenty of times, and seen lots of pictures of grain elevators from the water, but actually being there, in the kayak, under their crumbling weight, is different. They are more magnificent in person.

After our trip we stopped and chatted with Jason at the boat launch, while some obnoxious Birfers protested next door. Jason and I first met at Buffalo Homecoming meetings, and I was curious to see how business was. I told him he stole my idea to rent kayaks on the water. His response? “Lot’s of people say that.” If enough people think its a good idea, he must be on to something. He says business is good, Buffalo Place has been supportive, and he hopes to do more next year. Good news for a local entrepreneur with a good business in a good location. Jason is renting kayaks through October 11th – stop on by and rent one in this last gasp of summer.

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