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The New Way to Hang this Summer: RiverWorks’ High Ropes Course

Memorial Day weekend marked the opening of an exciting addition to Middle Harbor’s RiverWorks complex: two new high ropes courses.

Director of Recreation, Matt Prime, took me and my friend, Kathleen, through the course on Thursday and gave us some information about the new adventures at the facility.

The two ropes courses are located above the rink area of RiverWorks. The lower course is a great introductory experience while the higher course is more challenging. As a first timer in doing a ropes course, I opted to try the lower course first. Before jumping in on the action, Matt gave us a thorough safety demonstration on how to properly use the equipment. During this time, we were able to practice clipping our “life line” around the wires of the course in a separate practice area.

Going into this course, I was the perfect storm for failure: 1. nervous about heights; 2. bad at listening to instructions; and 3. barely able to keep balanced on the stable earth.

However, Matt made it impossible for me to fail this course and not have a great time.

The hands-on practice using the clips and the explanation on how the equipment works before beginning the course reassured me that I was not going to plummet to the bottom of the curling rink if I lost my footing. I was able to navigate through the lower course safely, and without any problems. Did I look like I was going to fall often? Yes. But did I? No. My “life line” kept me connected to the wires throughout the entire run of the course.

My friend had done the ropes course in Ellicottville before, which evidently, is made by the same people who designed the RiverWorks one. In comparison to the SkyHigh course in Ellicottville, the RiverWorks courses offer similarly challenging obstacles, but at a shorter distance. This gives guests a way to “learn the ropes” but get through the courses quicker.

The higher more challenging course was a big step up from the lower course. The height was nerve-wracking at first, but by focusing my attention on staying balanced on the wobblier obstacles the height becomes unnoticeable (until I looked down). Although I knew that every obstacle is do-able, finding the best way to go across a shaky narrow wooden bridge while being 50 feet from the ground makes it an interesting and unique test.

In addition to the ropes courses, RiverWorks also added a zipline course in December. The four lines run through three abandoned silos. The highest zipline reaches 110 feet high and the fastest one goes about 40 mph. Aside from how exhilarating it was to fly through the air, the views of downtown Buffalo are amazing. The first line is the longest, highest, and slowest – during the trip I could see all of Canalside, KeyBank Center, and City Hall. In the final zipline, people can race one another. A little competition is always an added benefit.

Photo courtesy RiverWorks

Throughout the entire zipline experience, the staff is adamant about keeping adventurists connected to the course. The safety measures taken, throughout all the activities I completed at RiverWorks, were extensive and made me, as a prolific worrier, feel very secure.

The ropes course and ziplines were some of the most exciting activities I’ve ever had the chance to do. Both activities would be great team building exercises or group activities. Matt explained that the ropes course works well for large groups—encouraging teammates develops program chemistry and improves communication skills within teams. For athletes, the ropes course is a perfect opportunity to improve balance and stability, while taking into account injury prevention. The course is great for all ages. To book this exciting experience for groups, be sure to call in advance.

Get connected: RiverWorks | Matt Prime | Director of Recreation | | (716) 342-2292 ext. 505

Written by Claire Wanzer

Claire Wanzer

Claire Wanzer is from Amherst, NY and currently attends Niagara University where she’s pursuing a degree in English and Communication Studies. Claire is also a member of the women’s basketball team at NU and is extremely passionate about sports. She loves animals, hiking, rollerblading, yoga, hanging out with her friends, and especially writing for her personal blog,

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