Birchbark Expeditions
WNY Waterway Routes

Scouts on Oak Orchard Creek


Trek Planning

Crews are encouraged to design their own canoe route, with some considerations:

  • Routes can be on either flat water or moving water less than Class II. 
  • We recommend that routes generally will be no more than 4 hours in duration. 
  • Ideally routes would put-in in one location and take out at a different location
  • Both put-in and take-out locations must plan to use public property or have the permission of the property owner
  • Custom routes must be reviewed by Birchbark Expeditions staff in advance.


Suggested Treks

To aid in the route selection process, find below a number of recommended and verified routes:

Trek #





Easy Treks




Buffalo River – Harlem Rd to Smith Street or Ohio Street
This very popular route starts at the put-in at the DEC site at Harlem Road (between Clinton St and Mineral Springs Road), travel downstream on the Buffalo River through recently replanted shorelines and industrial sites.   You will pass by the confluence of Cazenovia Creek, the new Tesla Solar plant and many railroad bridges. Take out at Red Jacket River Front Park on the end of Smith Street.  For a longer trek, take out at the Ohio Street DEC launch.

4.3 miles or 6.5 miles (2-3 hours)



Buffalo River – Ohio Street to Lake Erie
This popular out-and-back route starts at the DEC launch on Ohio Street, paddles out past Riverworks to Canalside, past the SS Little Rock, to the lighthouse at the mouth of the river.   Depending on the weather and boat traffic, you may venture out onto Lake Erie before turning back to Ohio Street.

3 miles (1.5 hours)



Ellicott Creek Park Paddle
Put-in at the Ellicott Creek Park Launch near Niagara Falls Blvd.  Paddle west for 3 miles to the confluence of Ellicott and Tonawanda Creeks, return to take out at the Eastern Park Canoe and Kayak Launch.   An easy introductory paddle alongside Ellicott Creek Park, under pedestrian bridges and past a number of marinas and private boat docks. Pass by Paths Peaks and Paddles Outfitters. Sheltered, this route is well suited for windy days and beginner paddlers. 

3 miles (1.5 hours)



Erie Canal - Easy Out and Back
Put-in at N Tonawanda Botanical Garden on Sweeney Ave (just north of Robinson Rd).  Go west on the canal 3 miles to the Gateway Park at the confluence of Ellicott Creek.  Gateway park offers an opportunity to go ashore and stretch your legs and eat lunch before the return to launch site.    GPS Track

6.8 miles Easy


More Difficult Treks




Oak Orchard Creek
Put-in off N Gravel road in Medina, NY, paddling downstream with the current for 8.4 miles to Knowlesville Road.  With year-round water and a nice flow, this very popular route is moderate in difficulty.  The creek twists and turns, passing through farmland and forest.   You will pass under a few bridges along the way and find a few gravel bars that make a great lunch break.   Watch for downed trees and "strainers" from downed trees. GPS Track

8.4 miles (3+ hours)

More Difficult


Grand Island - Buckhorn Island State Park
Put-in at Woods Creek launch on East-West Park Road, follow the creek west, then north to the Niagara River.  Follow the river west to the tip of GI. Go south on the west branch of the river south to the Eagle Overlook launch.  You can extend the adventure to the Whitehaven Overlook launch, for a total length of 6 miles.  Waves and boat traffic make this a More Difficult trek.

3.2 or 6 miles

(1.5 -3 hours)

More Difficult


Grand Island – Beaver Island State Park
Put-in at Start at the East River Launch at the foot of Ferry Road.  Explore Motor Island (heron rookery) and Strawberry Island if the wind and boat traffic allow.  Go west around the southern tip of G.I. to the Little Beaver Park launch.  Circle around Beaver Island and go back to the east River Marsh launch.  Waves and boat traffic make this a More Difficult trek.

5-8 miles

(3-4 hours)

More Difficult


Tonawanda Island Loop
Put in at the Eastern Park off Fillmore Ave in the City of Tonawanda, paddle NW out to the confluence of the canal, then out to Tonawanda Island.  Go W (upstream) to the end of Tonawanda Island, turning right (downstream) in the river.  Pass Tonawanda Island and turn SE (now upstream), passing the E shore of the island.  Paddle against strong currents under both the Taylor Road and old RR bridge.   Return to the canal and Ellicott Creek to the Eastern Park launch. The boat traffic and strong currents make this a More Difficult trek. GPS Track

4.2 miles (2 hours)

More Difficult

D5 Erie Canal and Niagara - More Difficult Out and Back
Put-in at N Tonawanda Botanical Garden on Sweeney Ave (just north of Robinson Rd).  Go west on the canal 3 miles to the Niagara River, then paddle west on the river (upstream) to the first boat launch in Niawanda Park by Old Man River.  This makes it an 8 mile round trip back to the start point.  When proceeding along the Niagara River, stay close to the south shore and be prepared to point out from the shore to handle the waves from passing boats.  Wind and current along the Niagara River may be challenging for beginner or younger crews.  
8 miles More Difficult

More route suggestions are coming - check back soon!