Buffalo River Watershed

The Buffalo River Watershed is located in Western New York and drains an area of 447mi2.  The majority of the watershed lies in Erie County except for the uppermost reaches which are in Genesee and Wyoming Counties.  Three major tributaries feed into the Buffalo River; Cayuga Creek, Buffalo Creek, and Cazenovia Creek.

Cayuga Creek is the northernmost tributary in the watershed.  This 40 mile long creek begins in primarily farmland/wooded areas and passes through several residential communities including Cheektowaga, Lancaster, and Depew before its confluence with Buffalo Creek.

Buffalo Creek begins in Java Center (Wyoming County) and is adjacent to farmland/woods before passing through several communities (including Elma and West Seneca).  Buffalo Creek is 43 miles long from its source to its confluence with Cayuga Creek in West Seneca.

The East Branch of Cazenovia Creek begins in Sardina and the West Branch begins in Concord.  The land adjacent to these two branches is primarily agricultural and wooded areas with the exception of several small residential communities.  The two branches meet near East Aurora and Cazenovia Creek then flows through the towns of Aurora, Elma, and West Seneca and the City of Buffalo until its confluence with the Buffalo River.

The Buffalo River begins where Buffalo Creek and Cayuga Creek, approximately eight miles above Lake Erie.  The Buffalo River flows through primarily industrial and residential areas to its mouth at Lake Erie.  The Buffalo River is a federal navigation channel maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers at a depth of 22 feet below lake level datum.  This dredging, along with the Rivers’ very low hydraulic gradient, leads to the River’s estuarine-like character.  Much of the shoreline has been “hardened” by mooring pilings, stone riprap, steel bulkheads, and structures built to the River’s edge and little vegetation (aquatic and riparian) remain.  Under the New York State Stream Classification System, the Buffalo River currently has a “Class C” designation.  The best use of the Buffalo River has been identified as “fishing with waters suitable for fish propagation and survival” and “water quality shall be suitable for primary and secondary contact recreation, although other factors may limit the use for these purposes.”

In 1987, the International Joint Commission designated the Buffalo River as one of the 43 most toxic hotspots in the Great Lakes.  As required under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, all “Areas of Concern,” or AOC’s, were required to complete a Remedial Action Plan, or RAP.  The Buffalo River RAP was completed in 1989 by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in partnership with a local citizen’s advisory committee.  To visit the Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan webpage, click here.

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