The following online sites can teach you more about the WNY paddling scene:
• bnriverkeeper.org: Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper gives beginner kayak lessons and offers free tours on the Buffalo River, Scajaquada Creek, Black Rock Canal and Cayuga Creek in Niagara Falls. Sign up online. The nonprofit has 30 kayaks available for those who don’t have one – courtesy of the M&T and Community foundations – but they tend to go fast. They do take donations.
• Smartstart: This Thursday evening beginner class at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island is for kayak owners who want to learn the basics. To register, call 282-5154.
• WeKaNu.com: Certified instructors Jeff and Laura Liebel teach other paddling instructors in the region but also offer classes to enthusiasts of all abilities. Their website also has a “Places to Paddle” section.
• ehow.com: Includes tips and videos on how to be safe on the water; search “paddling.”
• Businesses that rent kayaks and canoes in the region include Blue Water Marina (bluewatermarinagi.com) on Grand Island; BFLO Harbor Kayak (bfloharborkayak.com, cityoflightfitness.com, a related standup paddleboard company) at Canalside on the Buffalo waterfront; Buffalo River Canoe and Kayak Outfitters (paddlebuffalo.com) in West Seneca; Canoe and Kayak Rentals (ucanyak.com) in Wilson; Eastern Mountain Sports in the Town of Tonawanda; and Paths, Peaks and Paddles (pathspeakspaddles.com) along Ellicott Creek in the Town of Tonawanda.
• paddling.net/launches has a good list of launch sites in the region.
Go with others
• Buffalo Paddles: This Facebook page, captained by Bob Van Hise of the Adirondack Mountain Club Niagara Frontier Chapter, is loaded with information and photos from paddling excursions from throughout the region. The site includes a list of launch sites.
• kayakbuffalo.com: This website and its Facebook page keep people up to date on outings and has links to several paddle-related and outdoor websites across Western New York and Southern Ontario.
• Meetup.com: The popular social networking site buzzes with group trip prospects on regional waterways. See more at kayaking.meetup.com/cities/us/ny/buffalo.
• Clubs: The Scajaquada Canoe Club has a Facebook page and the Zoar Valley Paddling Club (zoarvalleypaddlingclub.org), a website that includes announcements on upcoming events.
These top regional paddlers have enjoyed their sport across the country – and all love the Adirondacks – but recommend heading onto the following waters in the region:
Bob Van Hise: Oak Orchard River, north of Medina. This is moving water, so it’s a one-way trip and you have to go with friends and “spot” a car at the endpoint, then drive back to the starting point. He also loves the Niagara River but recommends making your first voyages here with an experienced paddler.
Vanessa Wazny: Alabama Swamps, south of Medina. “If you put in on Sour Springs Road, the stream is Oak Orchard Creek, but it’s flat, and it’s part of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge,” Wazny says. “You can go as far as you want to, upstream or downstream, and turn around and come back. Just don’t go during hunting season.” She also likes the Marden E. Cobb Waterway Trail on the Cassadaga and Conewango creeks, which snakes through several communities in Chautauqua County.
Jeff and Laura Liebel: Black Creek in Churchville, western Monroe County. “It meanders,” says Laura, “and in the springtime, when the water’s higher, you can travel in among the trees, which is just a blast.” No need to spot your car here. “We also go out on the canal a lot,” she says. “We put in at Veterans Canal Park (off Tonawanda Creek Road in Amherst). We’ve seen mink and green heron, blue heron. It’s not very wide, there’s a little bit of current, but you can travel. We also put in at Widewaters in Lockport and you can get ice cream there.” You can also go through the locks.
Read more about our interview with these expert paddlers at blogs.buffalonews.com/refresh.