Since the early 1900s, the Buffalo River has been an active navigation channel to move goods between Lake Erie and industries located on the river’s edge. Come see Buffalo River history in action as large lake freighters enter into the Port of Buffalo and sail up the Buffalo River to deliver wheat and other commodities.
The Buffalo Blueway is the only spot in Buffalo, NY, where you can safely and easily view these massive vessels up close. Before entering the Port of Buffalo, Buffalo River and City Ship Canal, the freighters are met by tugboats out in Lake Erie guide them through the narrow channel and help them safely dock at their intended location.
The American Marnier is 730 feet long (that’s nearly the length of TWO football fields) and can deliver up to 37,000 tons of grain to General Mills at a time—it visits Buffalo approximately eight times a year. The Federal Seto also has a carrying capacity of approximately 37,000 and generally brings bulk sugar to a processing plant in Lackawanna. NACC Argonaut and the Manitoulin move the farthest up the Buffalo River (approximately 2 miles) to deliver their respective cargo of cement and grain to LaFarge and ADM.
There are ample opportunities for the public to view these massive ships safely from land as they come into the Buffalo Blueway.
Here’s how to view these vessels from the Buffalo Blueway:
- The best way to view all of the ships coming into the Buffalo River from the lake is from Erie Basin Marina or by parking along Fuhrman Boulevard on the Outer Harbor. Please be respectful of private property while attempting to view these boats.
- The American Mariner docks in the City Ship Canal and can viewed from Fuhrmann Boulevard while it’s unloading.
- The Federal Seto can be best seen from the Outer Harbor and Gallagher Beach areas as it makes its way to the Lackawanna Canal.
- The NACC Argonaut provides the best viewing opportunities of all of the freighters. Upon entering the Buffalo River, the vessel slowly travels nearly 2 miles up the river before docking at LaFarge to unload cement. During its journey on the river, this ship can be best viewed from Buffalo Blueway public access locations at Buffalo Riverworks and the NYSDEC Ohio Street boat launch.
- The Manitoulin is also an excellent opportunity to see an impressive lake freighter from numerous Buffalo Blueway sites, including Buffalo Riverworks, the NYSDEC Ohio Street boat launch and Mutual Riverfest Park, where it can be seen unloading her cargo at ADM.
It’s extremely important to be aware of large freighters while you’re paddling the Buffalo Blueway during the warmer months. It’s extremely dangerous to be near the vessels while they’re under tow, as the tugs and thrusters create hazardous water conditions that will easily capsize a smaller watercraft. If you do encounter a moving ship, safely pull over toward the right shoreline and allow the vessel to pass before proceeding. Check out our safety page for more “rules of the road.”
In addition to large lake freighters, the Buffalo Blueway is also a great place to watch other boats on the river. Numerous tugboats, security and police vessels, and recreational cruisers can be seen from all of the Buffalo Blueway sites.
Motorized pleasure boating on the Buffalo River has increased significantly over the past decade. The Buffalo Blueway site at Riverworks is an opportunity to dock your boat and enjoy great food and entertainment onshore.