R is for the Niagara River

View from Beaver Island State Park. Acrylic panting by… me!

I am fortunate enough to live near one of the greatest wonders of the world, Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls is actually the name of three separate waterfalls that are all at one location. These falls are called the Horseshoe Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and the American Falls. They are amazing to look at because they are so incredibly large and powerful. This past winter, they were full of ice and snow, and they were spectacular.

Niagara Falls in winter, as seen from Goat Island State Park, in Niagara Falls, New York

The island that I live on (Grand Island) is actually surrounded by the Niagara River. We have two state parks. One is called Buckhorn Island State Park, and it is located in the northernmost portion of Grand Island. Buckhorn Island State Park is the wilder of the two parks. It is a wildlife sanctuary and an “important bird area.” In fact, it is a globally significant important bird area. Many migratory species of birds come to to the northern tip of Grand Island to mate and reproduce and to raise their baby birds in the waters of the Niagara River. I’ve seen all varieties of gulls there. There are numerous gull species that come to the Niagara River, including Bonaparte gulls. Also, I’ve seen geese and ducks. Ospreys have been known to nest in Buckhorn Island State Park. I’ve also seen a great blue heron (or two).

One interesting thing about Buckhorn Island State Park is that when you are on the walking trail in the park, on a clear day, you can see the foam rising from Niagara Falls.

If you walk on the west side of Grand Island, you can wave to Canada, although, most likely, no one will see you well enough to wave back. The shoreline over on the west side has experienced some erosion, but the Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper is going to do a demonstration shoreline restoration project along the rivershore.

The other state park in Grand Island is called Beaver Island State Park. It is located at the southern tip of the island. In the nineteenth century, much of the land that is now Beaver Island was owned by Lewis F. Allen. He is the Allen for whom Allentown in the City of Buffalo is named. His nephew, originally called “Big Steve,” became president of the United States. When he became president of the United States (or, most likely, before that event), he became known as “Grover Cleveland.” I guess that “Big Steve” didn’t sound presidential enough. He was the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms. He was elected in 1884 for his first term. When he ran for re-election, in 1888, he was defeated by Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry Harrison, who was known as the president who served the shortest term in office… one month before he succumbed to pneumonia). Because of that, Grover Cleveland is considered to be two presidents. Cleveland came into the White House as a bachelor. He married a youthful Frances Folsom while he was president, and his daughter Ruth was born in the White House. The Babe Ruth candy bar was named for her (Baby Ruth). It was not named for the baseball player, Babe Ruth.

When Lewis F. Allen owned a chunk of the southern end of Grand Island, he established orchards and an experimental cattle farm. He had a cattle farm in Buffalo and Allen Street apparently was a cow trail years ago. It is said that Lewis F. Allen introduced the northern spy apple to Grand Island. Grand Island is loaded with apple trees. On an autumnal walk, I don’t go hungry! I eat apples and wild grapes and wild garlic. Sometimes, I find pears. Sometimes, I bring the garlic home and cook them with my eggs. Wild garlic tends to be fairly mild, however.

Back to Beaver Island State Park. The only thing that remains of Lewis F. Allen and his family (including “Big Steve”) is a house called River Lea. The house is right near the river. At night, you can see the lights of the interstate from the house. You see them better when the trees don’t have leaves. Some people say that Lewis F. Allen built the house as a wedding gift for his son, W. Cleveland Allen, who was Grand Island’s first postmaster. Other people say that Lewis F. Allen did not build the house. The son built the house, based on his father’s design. Lewis F. Allen wrote a book about rural architecture, and the design for River Lea is in the book. The house is now the headquarters for the Grand Island Historical Society.

Bald eagles have been spotted in the area around Beaver Island State Park. If you are lucky, you might see them. I have not seen them yet. Mostly, I just spot raspberries. What can I say? I am food oriented. 

Oh well. Birds, presidents, berries, and apples… you get them all when you’re walking along the river…

3 thoughts on “R is for the Niagara River”

  1. Niagara Falls is on my bucket list and to think you live right in that area! Your photography is breaktaking and descriptions are wonderful! You are a storyteller!
    Thanks so much for visiting my blog!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top