Driving to a beautiful spot to see a Buffalo sunrise was always on my to-do list, but never accomplished. After returning to my hometown following eight years of living away, I realized it was time to change that.
Light was just beginning to filter into the night sky as I drove down Niagara Street on Thursday morning. My destination was the Bird Island Pier, one of the most unique and scenic walking paths in the city. The pier is tucked away; you have to drive to the end of West Ferry Street and over a lift bridge spanning the Black Rock Canal to reach the parking area along the Niagara River.
At this point, I had reached an area filled with history. Broderick Park (currently undergoing renovations), just north of the pier and next to the parking area, was the final stop on the Underground Railroad for many escaped slaves before arriving in Canada. In Buffalo’s early days, the pier, which divides the Black Rock Canal from the river, provided refuge from Lake Erie for Great Lakes ships; the city turned it into a walking path in more recent decades.
When I began the 1.5 mile or so walk down the pier, the Peace Bridge connecting the Queen City with Fort Erie, Ontario was still illuminated in night lights. Walking the pier allows you to stroll directly underneath the bridge, providing a rare vantage point of an international border crossing. But I didn’t have much time to admire: the sun was almost up!
As I crossed under the bridge, the river widened; here was where Lake Erie ended and Niagara began. Flocks of ducks and geese roamed the water in the pre-dawn hours. Just as the eastern sky began to turn shades of pink and orange, the downtown skyline emerged on the horizon.
The walking path ends at an outpost overlooking the skyline, LaSalle Park and Lake Erie. Behind me, I could hear water draining from the lake into the river. Ahead of me was the sight of an entire city illuminated in early morning light. It was quiet; there was no one else on the pier this particular morning. I had this idyllic scene to myself, and had a chance on the walk back to experience everything I saw on the way down in the light of day.
Setting the alarm clock an hour early provided me with a memory of my hometown that I will always treasure.