Welcome to my favorite spot on Buffalo's Outer Harbor - Times Beach Nature Preserve! This little spot is often overlooked due to the growing popularity of Wilkeson Pointe and Gallagher Beach, or the familiarity with Tifft Nature Preserve, but Times Beach has a lot to offer. Times Beach is located literally in downtown Buffalo New York on the shoreline at the convergence of Lake Erie and the Niagara River. This Nature Preserve is arguably one of the most valuable bird and pollinator conservation sites in the Great Lakes. It is considered to be the western gateway to the Niagara River "globally significant" Important Bird Area. Birds migrating throughout the Niagara River corridor and many breeding species depend on Times Beach each year. To date over 240 species of birds have been identified here, making Times Beach one of the most diverse in bird population throughout the entire Great Lakes region. Times also has five on-site identified ecological zones. The preserve and adjacent habitats support a diversity of flora and fauna and supports important wildlife such as breeding and migrating birds, many species of aquatic species including breeding game fish, and pollinators including native bees and butterflies.
What's interesting about Times Beach is its history, including how this area got its name. In the aerial image in the below link, Times Beach is the square area north of Wilkeson Pointe and south of the Buffalo Lighthouse (Courtesy ofwww.friendsoftimesbeachnp.org):
In 1867 breakwalls had been built to protect buffalo’s harbor. As the region developed after the civil War, the city of Buffalo sprawled into its "golden age." The outer harbor area evolved into a series of connecting ship canals, grain elevators, and mooring areas. Industry moved in and onto the ecosystems. During the next decades a bustling and incredibly impoverished Irish community that facilitated the grain elevators and waterborne commerce was built along the breakwall and the sandy beach that was found here. This shantytown, known as "Seawall Beach", was notorious for its crime and harsh living conditions.
By 1910, Over 1,250 people were known to live here. It has been reported that thousands of individuals perished in this area often due to winter storm surges and other things like poverty and class warfare with the more landed gentry uptown. Many south Buffalo families have stories about their not so long ago ancestors that lived here. That helps to put a human face on the abominable circumstances of the breakwater shantytown. -By the 1920’s the shantytown was removed and a railroad line was installed. In 1931 the almost half mile long beach was proposed as a free municipal bathing beach by a local publication of the era, the Buffalo Times. This is how Times Beach got its name. It is possible that only during the summer of 1935 was swimming actually promoted here.