How to Climb the Wall of a Grain Silo

Buffalo’s history as a shipping gateway to the Midwest and beyond has left its waterfront dotted with grain elevators that recall the city’s days as an industrial powerhouse.  Now that our role as a leading city in the grain industry is over, we’re often left to wonder what to do with the ghosts of grain elevators past.  Well, the folks at RiverWorks have given us an answer: climb them!

That’s right, for a few bucks and your signature on a liability waiver, you can strap into a safety harness and scale the side of one of the cement mountains overlooking the Buffalo River.

Riverworks’ rock climbing offers three different outdoor walls of varying heights and difficulties as well as indoor walls for rainy days.  With no ceiling to stop them, the outdoor walls stretch 35, 40 and 50 feet up the outer silos with beginner, intermediate and expert courses to try.

The best part about this new riverfront attraction is the ease with which you can participate.  There’s no reservation needed, so you can go from the check-in window to ringing the cowbell at the top of one of the walls in about 10 minutes.  And the auto belay systems they use means you don’t need a friend on the ground to entrust your life to.  Just strap in and climb.  Not to mention it’s cheap:  $7 gets you one attempt and $20 gets you an hour of fun.

The staff is super friendly – my guide Brett, who is awesome and gave me a sneak peek at the yet unused parts of the building, looks all the part of easy going outdoorsman with his full beard and curly red locks flowing out from under his trucker hat. And you’ll quickly find yourself rooting for complete strangers to successfully make their way up the wall.

Very soon you’ll also have the option to not only go up, but across the silos because Brett tells me that RiverWorks is putting the finishing touches on a zip line course. The course will let you sail among the tops of the silos and down to an old hollowed out administrative building.  And they just hired an Adventure Park professional, which means you can bet there’s more cool stuff coming.

If heights aren’t you’re thing, no worries.  The staff is happy to toss you a life vest and a paddle and push you out into the river in one of their rentable kayaks.  They even have “Kayak Valet” if you’re coming in off the water for a drink or a bite to eat at the restaurant.  It’s all about easy access at RiverWorks.

With a little ingenuity and a dash of creativity, RiverWorks has put together an industrial playground that has breathed life into once dormant relics of days long past, and given urban adventurers new ways to explore our concrete jungles.  So, get down there ASAP and climb, zip and paddle your way through Elevator Alley.

Follow Jay on Twitter and Instagram @TheBigElevator