I know it’s the kind of thing that we as Buffalonians, rarely think about but take a moment right now to think about where we live.
Buffalo is located at the convergence of three great bodies of water. Lake Erie, the Buffalo River, and the Niagara River. Now I could go into a long story about Buffalo’s history and how these three affected the city and it’s growth, and normally I would. But today I’m going in a completely different direction.
You see, I have long believed that when human beings are near bodies of water, it helps to calm our souls. Whether it’s in a boat on a lake, sitting at the edge of a pond in an Adirondack chair reading a book, laying on a beach, or biking a river path, being near water just seems to make us feel better. It’s one of the ultimate stress relievers in my book. Lake Erie has traditionally been my go to place whenever things get tough. Being near the lake calms me and helps me to think things though.
And it’s not just me. It’s been widely studied and accepted for quite some time now that being out in nature reduces stress, which induces a whole host of health benefits, but only recently have these studies included ‘blue’ spaces. Most of the studies are taking place in the UK and they are showing that people who live near water are generally healthier than those who don’t. And it doesn’t have to be water in nature. The studies have progressed to man-made water features such as fountains and the like. All have produced good benefits.*
So living here in Buffalo is good for our health. That is, if we take advantage of our water resources.
Now you may argue that not all of us can afford lakeside living. While that is true, you don’t need to live on the lake to gain the benefits of all that water. Being that it is so plentiful here, you can get to it just about any time you want.
There are so many things we can enjoy for free (or close to it) on Buffalo’s waterfront. The most obvious are Canalside, Erie Basin Marina, the Outer Harbor. All free and located right in the heart of downtown. All you have to do is go there and walk, bike, or just sit and relax. Watch the sunset. Did you know that Buffalo is one of very few inland cities in the country that enjoys sunsets over water? So many people west of Buffalo would love to see a sunset over a lake whenever they feel like it! We are spoiled by our amazing sunsets!
How many of you reading this right now have never been to Erie Basin Marina for a sunset? If you haven’t, you need to put it on your list of things to do this summer! You’ll be glad you did.
There are of course, other less obvious places with great waterfront fun in and around the city as well.
North of the city there’s Isleview Park/Niawanda Park in Tonawanda. They’re connected, and are both awesome for picnics and fabulous views of the Niagara River and Grand Island (which by the way, is the largest island on a river in the world!). There is also a bike path that begins in Isleview that travels the Niagara River past the Peace Bridge and moves right into Canalside and beyond the city to the Outer Harbor! This trail is over 21 miles long, and has several parking spots along the way. Pick one and cover as much ground as you like. You don’t have to bike, you can walk it too. And just about the whole time, you’ll enjoy amazing river or lake views.
There are several parks to enjoy on the water as well. In the city are Front Park, Riverside Park, Broderick Park, LaSalle Park and Riverfest Park. All are free and all are great spots for picnics, walks, bike rides etc.
Traveling south of the city, there are a series of absolutely stunning beaches! Gallagher Beach, Woodlawn Beach, Hamburg Beach, Wendt Beach Park and Bennett Beach are all fantastic choices. Some of these charge a few dollars per car to get in, but the views alone (not to mention the stress reduction) are well worth the small price of admission.
In addition, there are other free places to go to get near water. How about Delaware Park’s Hoyt Lake? Or Mirror Lake in the Japanese Garden behind the Buffalo History Museum? Both are very easily accessible, and are equally picturesque.
If you work downtown and are looking for the calming influence of water on your lunch hour but maybe don’t have time to get to the waterfront, head over to Fountain Plaza on Main Street for a little relaxation. Or Niagara Square’s McKinley Monument and fountain, or to the fountain sculpture in front of One M & T Plaza. All three very easily accessible and remember that man-made water features work just as well to reduce stress and will give you the same health benefits that lakes or rivers will.
These are just a few ideas to get you out and taking full advantage of the area we live in, so rich in natural ‘blue’ spaces, and the summer sun. Let’s face it, we need to store up some of that Vitamin D for the long winter to come!
And no matter who you are, the Buffalo River, Lake Erie and the Niagara River are easily accessible to all of us. Get out and enjoy your city Buffalo!
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