The Waterfront Loop: Buffalo Bike Tours’ self guided tour rings in summer
Spring has morphed into warmer temperatures and many of our favorite summer activities are back, including summer bike rides. Whether you’re looking for some new route options or brand new to town, if you have a phone and a bike, there’s a new option for you to see Buffalo by bike: The Waterfront Loop.
The Waterfront Loop highlights Buffalo’s industrial heritage on a 10-mile tour leaving from and returning to Canalside. Buffalo Bike Tours has teamed up Niagara River Greenway to bring their shared missions to life through Bike There, Buffalo!, a series of self guided bike tours promoting outdoor recreation while safely social distancing. All you have to do is fill out a short form and you’ll be e-mailed the route using the Ride With GPS app. Best yet, it’s free.
To preview the route, we’re bringing you 6 of our favorite stops you’ll visit on the Waterfront Loop. Full disclosure: I am owner of Buffalo Bike Tours, which leads food tours and history tours of Buffalo by bike – check out our full lineup here. To see the full 5 tours in this series, check out our handy informational file here, or see our other articles here!
Tour of The Waterfront Loop:
Stop 1: Erie Basin Marina Observation Deck
Buffalo’s Erie Basin Marina Observation Deck, the brutalist concrete structure at the tip of the waterfront, may not be the prettiest of Buffalo’s architecture but its views of the waterfront are unparalleled. Take the short ride from Canalside, park your bike, and climb the 100+ steps to a panoramic view, just don’t forget your camera. From here, you can get a sense of how glaciers created many of our waterways and how they sustained Native peoples for generations. Don’t get too comfortable – after a few photos, and reading stories in the app, it’s’ time to hop on your bike to our next stop.
Stop 2: Great Northern Elevator
After crossing over the Michigan Street Bridge, cruise past General Mills and the Spencer Kellog Elevators, the first of several grain elevators on this ride. Buffalo has 12 silos – remarkable for our small city – thanks to the ingenuity of businessman Joseph Dart, inventor of the steam powered grain elevator.
Ride a bit further and check out the Wheeler Elevator at Buffalo Riverworks and the Great Northern Elevator, the granddaddy of Buffalo’s grain elevators. At the time of its completion in 1897, this elevator was the world’s largest and the first to run on electricity.
Stop 3: Union Ship Canal
Over Ohio Street, you’re now on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor – once a no-man’s land. The area has a fascinating, little-known history of squatters, a community known as “the beachers”. But over the decades, Outer Harbor became synonymous with heavy industry, and was home to Ford, Freezer Queen, and Bethlehem Steel.
Stop by Union Canal, a waterway that once provided lake access for freighters headed to the Susquehanna Iron Company and the Hanna Furnace Company. Take in historical signage, see a giant iron ladle leftover from the furnace company, and learn about how the area supports an increasing diversity of flora and fauna.
Stop 4: Tifft Nature Preserve
One of my favorite places to bike to is Tifft Nature Preserve. The 264-acre nature refuge, just outside the city, was once part of a large dairy farm owned by George Washington Tifft. In 1972, the City of Buffalo considered turning it into a toxic landfill but activists instead convinced the city to make a preserve. It is now under the management of the Buffalo Science Museum and is an important breeding ground for more than 240 varieties of birds.
Stop 5: Old First Ward
Past more grain silos and Silo City (temporarily closed), our tour continues to the Old First Ward, Buffalo’s Irish enclave where many of those who worked in Buffalo’s grain elevators lived and toiled. Learn about neighborhood characters like Fingy Conners and Jimmy Slattery, then have an optional beer and wings break at Gene McCarthy’s (the Sheffield Wings are a must). Fuel up before heading back through Conway Park and the Buffalo River Trail.
Stop 6: Canalside
An hour or two later and you’ll be back where you started, at Buffalo Bike Tours’ Canalside kiosk. While today the park is full of recreational activities, you can check out historical signage and stories in the app providing a snapshot of the old days. Things have changed just a wee bit since then – and Buffalo Bike Tours provides fun and creative ways to appreciate just how far our city has come.
Follow along with our GPS for more info:
Sounds fun – how does it work?
To access the Waterfront Loop, all you need to do is sign up your email to download the program. While the program is free, tips are appreciated. In addition, you can now download an awesome booklet with all 5 of Buffalo Bike Tours’ self guided rides.
Don’t have a bike? No problem! Buffalo Bike Tours has lightweight road bikes for rent: 1 hour/ $15, 3 hours/ $30, or all day/ $50 starting this Saturday. Their kiosk, located on the Commercial Slip at Commercial and Marine Drive, is open Saturdays and Sundays 10am-7pm and by appointment during the week.