Over the weekend, my wife and I, along with another couple, decided to take full advantage of the North Buffalo Rails to Trails that leads from the City of Buffalo to the City of Tonawanda. It had been a while since I had last biked along the trail, because most of the time I heard out towards the Outer Harbor trails, or the rails to trails in Canada. But with Canada essentially closed for business, we figured that we would venture out to Gateway Harbor.
It took us about half an hour to make our way from North Buffalo to Gateway Harbor. Along our trek, we passed by hundreds of cyclists and walkers. This multi-use trail is a sensational success story for the region. Today, the former railroad right of way is teaming with activity. I was surprised to see so many people using the easily accessible trail.
Along the trail, there are some naturally beautiful areas – some nicely wooded spots, and some maintained meadow areas (MMAs) – where it is a real pleasure to bike. Then there other areas that have been over-mowed and are completely lifeless. It’s amazing that there is not more constancy when it comes to the aesthetic and environmental nature of the trail, but maybe it’s still a work in progress? After all, this trail is still relatively new.
I remember, years ago, when I would bike the rails to trails in Canada – I was always jealous that we never had anything like that in Western NY. Well, now we have this wonderful asset, and people have embraced it thoroughly. And the best part?
At the end of the ride (heading from North Buffalo), the destination of the Twin Cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda, and Tonawanda Creek at the western terminus of the Erie Canal. For anyone looking to get out on the water (Ellicott Creek or Tonawanda Creek), there are plenty of personal craft rental opportunities.
After spending some time watching all of the aquatic activity along the creek, we decided to bike over to the Niagara River, where we grabbed a late lunch and a couple of drinks at Old Man River Doghouse & Seafood Shack at Niawanda Park. The parking lot had been transformed into a giant patio due to COVID, which meant that there was plenty of seating available.
After relaxing and refueling, we were ready to hit the rail to trail route to head back to North Buffalo. The ride home is never as much fun as the ride there, but it was still a breeze. Along the way (in both directions), we ran into some friends – the trail has become a social setting in this regard. It’s Buffalo after all… a small pond, a big couch… the City of of Good Neighbors.
Aside from the occasional chatty cyclist, or a pitstop to take a photo, we made good time due to the flat nature of the trail. Even the occasional street crossing was a breeze, because there were always a number of walkers and fellow cyclists crossing at the same time, which means that the safety signal buttons were already pushed by the time we rolled up.
Following are a couple of pros and cons of the trail:
- Everyone was friendly and there were relatively few “speed racers” trekking through
- Someone has put dog watering bowls along the route for thirsty pups
- There’s a lot wayfinding signage that tells you where you are, and where you are going
- There were benches along the way, to sit and take a load off
- It’s flat, flat, flat… and wide enough to accommodate plenty of joggers and cyclists
- There were no motorized vehicles to contend with
- It would be nice to see less mowing in places, more MMAs, and an effort to plant milkweed and other native species for the pollinators, and additional wooded and shady areas
- Getting from any other part of the city to the bike trail is difficult. There are no bike lanes on Hertel, Main Street, Delaware, or any other area, which is hard to believe (especially Main Street, which is pathetically designated as NYS Bicycle Route 517)
This effortless and invigorating ride was the perfect way to clear some cobwebs, during a time when it’s easy to way too easy to sit home and do nothing.
For anyone who wants to try out this trek, but will be arriving by car, the trailhead is located on Main Street at the LaSalle Station (see here). There’s a parking lot, and even a commuter bike locker. Once a person gets to this starting point, the rest is fun as heck!