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Visiting the Nowak Pier at New York's Squaw Island, Buffalo: historic spot in the middle of the Niagara River

Updated on March 29, 2014
State Flag of New York
State Flag of New York | Source
The Nowak Pier in the Niagara River, by the Peace Bridge
The Nowak Pier in the Niagara River, by the Peace Bridge | Source
The Nowak Pier in the Niagara River, by the Peace Bridge
The Nowak Pier in the Niagara River, by the Peace Bridge | Source
The Peace Bridge, from the Nowak Pier in the Niagara River
The Peace Bridge, from the Nowak Pier in the Niagara River | Source
1977 US postage stamp honoring the 50th anniversary of the Peace Bridge
1977 US postage stamp honoring the 50th anniversary of the Peace Bridge | Source
Map location of Buffalo, New York
Map location of Buffalo, New York | Source

Linking the foot of the Peace Bridge with Squaw Island

This is a quite spectacular location in the Niagara River. Picture cards and posters are sold depicting the view from the Nowak Pier of the Peace Bridge; given the rather excellent views which may be obtained from this location, such products can command sizeable figures.

A view very similar to the one which may been seen from the Nowak Pier was distributed across the United States in 1977. This was on the occasion of a 13 cent US postage stamp issue which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the building of the Peace Bridge, linking the United States and Canada.

East-west and north-south links

To be further precise, from east to west, the Bridge links Buffalo in the State of New York with Fort Erie in the Province of Ontario.

From north to south, the Pier links the rest of Squaw Island with the Peace Bridge (although there is no access to the roadway from the Pier's walkway.) The Pier marks the northward flowing waters adjacent to it which flow from Lake Erie into the Niagara River.

In short, the Nowak Pier and the Peace Bridge are close to where the United States and Canada, New York and Ontario, Lake Erie and the Niagara River all come together. (I might add that the Pier itself is wholly in the United States.)

Naming of the Pier

The pier is named for prominent, local person and former Congressman Henry J Nowak, who served in the House of Representatives from 1975 until 1993. A plaque at the Pier pays tribute to the distinguished service of Mr. Novak.

Naming of the Bridge

Lake Erie is visible from the Nowak Pier, beyond the Peace Bridge, high above the Niagara River, a bridge which is aptly named in description of the close, stable and friendly relations which have long characterized links between the United States and Canada; indeed, the border which it crosses is sometimes described as the most peaceful border in the world (1).

Peace is certainly an apt term for the metaphorical context of human relations in the immediate vicinity, but in fluvial terms the Nowak Pier, much close to the river, below, may be described as being at quite a point of tension. Given that the location of Squaw Island in the Niagara River is in fluvial terms at an important junction of the water flow, the currents at the Nowak Pier are quite strong.

...and geese

Interestingly, I came across a goose on the path near me, at the approach to the Nowak Pier from Broderick Park. My reflection was that if a Canada goose were to fly a few metres to the west of the Pier, it would take on the status of a protected species, once within Canada. I recall learning of some naturalists who had cause to take geese to the United States from Canada, and discovered at the border that they could not officially do so unless the geese, of their own volition, were to exercise their own propulsion across this international border. Whereupon the naturalists, observed by bemused border officials, proceeded to attempt to persuade the geese to do exactly this. (This was several years ago, and I am unfamiliar with what the current regulations — or the level of bemused humour of the border officials — may be. Seriously, crossing an international border is an important business and care must be taken to follow the expected procedures and regulations, including for geese!)

I though better than to disturb this fine bird at the approach to the Nowak Pier, however, and went on my way quietly.

Broderick Park adjoining the Nowak Pier

Adjoining the Nowak Pier on Squaw Island is Broderick Park, where peaceful, well manicured gardens belie strong, past associations with the anguished history of the Underground Railroad, prior to the American Civil War.

A parking lot lies between the Nowak Pier and green area of the Park.

Worth a détour

The Peace Bridge is a very busy crossing for American and Canadian travellers, most of whom will probably not spare much of a thought for the interesting and scenic Squaw Island with its Nowak Pier, and Broderick Park, and, once over the Bridge, will soon proceed with their journey. But for travellers with a little time to spare, a détour to visit this island in the Niagara River, with its scenic views, and to stroll along this Pier, is well worth the trouble.


(1) Wholeheartedly concurring with this designation to describe relations across the US-Canadian border, I would also suggest that the border between France and the Principality of Monaco could also be described in not dissimilar terms.

Also worth seeing

The Buffalo, NY, area has cultural, historic and recreational opportunities too numerous to mention adequately here, but below are a few places of interest:

The Macedonia Baptist Church , Buffalo, NY (formerly Michigan Street Baptist Church; distance: approx. 6.5 kilometres) was significant in the history of the Underground Railroad; fugitives were hidden by day in the basement, and conveyed over the Niagara River to Canada at night. Minister J. Edward Nash notably served continuously from 1892 until 1953.

Downtown Buffalo has many buildings of great architectural merit, including: the 1931 Art Deco City Hall by Dietel, Wade & Jones (distance: approx. 4.5 kilometres), the 1896 Ellicott Square Building by Charles Atwood (distance: 6.2 kilometres) and James A. Johnson's 1912 Electric Tower Beaux-Arts Classical Revival skyscraper (distance: approx. 4.9 kilometres). The historic Delaware Road area contains many structures of note, including the Ansley Wilcox Mansion (distance: approx. 3.5 kilometres), designated the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.

Beaver Island State Park , Grand Island, New York (distance: approx. 18.3 kilometres); as well as superb recreational facilities, River Lea house, built by William Cleveland Allen (a cousin of President Grover Cleveland) and museum, home of the Grand Island Historical Society.

Bergholz , Wheatfield, NY, (distance: approx. 31.9 kilometres) is the site of an historic German Lutheran Settlement. 'Das Haus' German Heritage Museum at Bergholz is sponsored by the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York.

Niagara Falls , New York (distance: approx. 28.8 kilometres). The American Falls may be viewed to really good effect from the Niagara Falls State Park.

Old Fort Erie , Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada (distance: approx. 6.4 kilometres); this stone fort has many memories of the War of 1812.

Fort Erie Railroad Museum , Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada (distance: approx. 5.7 kilometres); a former 1948 CNR locomotive is on display, together with other interesting exhibits. A T-33 airplane is also on display in the adjacent Sugarbowl Park.


How to get there: Broderick Park, adjacent to Nowak Pier, is situated at 1170 Niagara St., Buffalo, NY 14213. Access to Nowak Pier, through Broderick Park on Squaw Island, is via the road bridge on Robert Rich Way, situated off Niagara Street. Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Buffalo Niagara International Airport (distance from Nowak Pier: approx. 17.8 kilometres). Buffalo, NY is linked with Albany, NY via the I-290 and I-90. From Canada, accessible via the Peace Bridge, the QEW links Fort Erie, ON with Hamilton and Toronto. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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