The skyline of Buffalo, Ny. There is text on the photo that reads "Scuba Diving Buffalo, NY".

The Ultimate Guide To Scuba Diving In Buffalo

I know what you’re thinking. Buffalo…scuba diving? But yes! Scuba Jay’s hometown does have some nice Great Lakes diving, including the mighty Niagara River.

Despite the city’s snowy cold reputation – that is deserved in the winter months – Buffalo is a hidden gem of a city come summer time. Out on Lake Erie, there are numerous wrecks to be explored and interesting Great Lakes history to be learned.

Let’s shuffle off to Buffalo where the wings are hot and the diving is cool!

The city of Buffalo off of Lake Erie.
The rich history and architecture, excellent food and good diving make Buffalo a great summer city.

Buffalo Scuba Diving

There is a rich history between Buffalo and Lake Erie. This harbor town became one of the most populous cities back in early to mid 20th century due in part to shipping within the Great Lakes and the Eire Canal. And with all that shipping traffic, comes some nice shipwreck diving.

Lake Erie is a big part of our city and makes most of us – by default – water folk.

Scuba Jays dad back in the day with gear on the boat.
Scuba Jay’s Dad Gary getting ready to dive into Lake Erie back in the day.

Diving Shops And Operators

There are not many dive shops to be found in Buffalo. The dive shop that Scuba Jay calls home and instructs at is Dip N Dive. The shop offers gear, training and trips all over the world. Stop in and say hi, or better yet, join Scuba Jay on a dive trip!

Scuba Jay with his feet up on his desk smiling.
Instructor Scuba Jay getting ready for class…new divers welcome.

While Dive shops are rare, there are even less dive boat operators to be found in or near Buffalo. The main operator of note is Osprey Charters.

A Dive boat in the waters of lake erie.
The Southwind of Osprey Charters can carry up to 30 divers. (Photo Courtesy of Osprey Charters)

Osprey is located about a one hour drive along Lake Erie, but is worth the trip as they can get you to over 30 wrecks. As the main operator in the area make sure to book early as charters fill up.

Scuba Diving Sites In Buffalo

So first off, this clearly isn’t Caribbean diving with 100ft plus visibility and warm water temperatures. Visibility on a good day is about 20ft to 30ft. The warmest the water will be is about mid 70s. Going below 50ft or so you’ll most likely hit a thermocline…or two.

However, there are many shipwrecks to be explored as well as world class drift diving out in the open waters off of Buffalo.


The Great Lakes have thousands of shipwrecks ranging from wooden turn of the century schooners to steel hulled freighters.

At a maximum depth of 210ft, Lake Erie is the shallowest of all the Great Lakes and has the most wrecks. As many a poor sailor has learned, it’s this shallowness that allows a storm to quickly turn the calm waters into something extremely dangerous.

Scuba diving depths of the great lakes.
At a maximum depth of 210ft Lake Erie can quickly become dangerous for boaters.

The shipwrecks in Lake Erie are well preserved due to the fresh water. While there are wrecks to be dove by all level of divers, this can be cold dark diving. Make sure to have the proper training for the dive you are taking.

W. C. Richardson

Not far from the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor is the wreck of the Richardson. This 374ft long steel freighter sank in a storm in December 1909…just 7 years after she was built.

One of the shallower wrecks – in fact so shallow they had to dynamite her to keep clear a heavy trafficked boating lane – she lies in 40ft of water.

The Richardson’s remains are somewhat mangled, but there is a line running along the wreck for divers to follow so as not to get lost.

The remains of the Richardson underwater.
Follow the line across the remains of the Richardson.

While a little hard to make out, you can spot old portholes of the wreck. Fish like bass and walleye make this wreck home. There is also a large catfish that occasionally has been seen lurking about.

The Richardson is a great dive site for a first open water dive on the lake for any level diver.

Barge 43

Inside of the Western most break wall across from the entrance of Buffalo River Harbor lies Barge 43.

Barge 43 sunken underwater in lake erie.
Barge 43 can be a good beginner’s wreck, but watch that current.

In 1961 this barge was being used to burn the old wooden cribs during work on the harbor entrance. She sprang a leak and sank upright in 35ft of water.

This is another great introduction dive to the sunken ships of Lake Erie. The barge is relatively intact and is about 150ft long. On it, you can see bollards and cleats used for mooring and many a bass can be found here.

Barge 43 sunken underwater in lake erie.
Mooring cleat of Barge 43.

In the past, divers used to be able to penetrate the barge. However, time and silt have mostly filled it in.

Barge 43 sunken underwater in lake Erie.
Old hatch where you used to be able to penetrate the barge.

word of caution, this site can be subject to strong current. It is best to stay on the barge or you might be heading down the Niagara River.

O.W. Cheney

If you want to hear about some old Lake Erie drama, then lend me your ear and I’ll tell you about the wooden tug Cheney.

In June 1903 the Cheney speed out to meet the ship Chemung to offer its services helping them into the harbor. Well someone wasn’t paying attention because the Cheney crossed right in front of the Chemung and the larger vessel struck the little tug a devastating blow.

O.W. Cheney sunken underwater in lake erie.
The propeller of the Cheney eerily rises out of the bottom of the lakebed.

She sank quick taking two crewmembers with her. The Cheney’s location is about 6 miles out from the Buffalo River Harbor, right about where she was struck.

The wreck is broken up, lying in almost 50ft of water. She can be a little challenging to find, but you can still see her aft section with propeller and shaft. Also in the vicinity – about 100ft away – are her boiler and rudder.

This can be a very hit or miss wreck, but as just about any diver will tell you, the searching is half the fun!


The finch is a nice easy dive and a good dive site for beginners. This 105ft long wooden barge sank in August 1883 while being towed when it began to take on water due to rough seas.

The Finch lies in about 45ft of water and its deck rises a few feet above the bottom. On it you can still see the stove. Off of its starboard side is a chain, off of its stern is a large rudder and off of the port side is a piece of the barge decking with the capstan still attached.


This 202ft long wood steamer sank in a storm in 1870…just five years after the end of the Civil War!

She is still out there today, but broken up some. At a max depth of 47ft all level of divers can check out the Tonawanda. Of note is one of her large hogging arches lying inside the wreck and the propeller.

The Tonawanda sunken underwater.
Propeller of the Tonawanda as its been since 1870.
C.B Benson

This beautiful wreck is a little ways out from Buffalo, but worth the trip. The Benson is a 136ft long three-masted barque that sank in a violent storm on October 14, 1893.

The silt has raised up around this ship, but she is well preserved. Still visible are her rear davits that once held her lifeboat, deadeyes, broken mast and the ship’s wheel.

C.B. Benson shipwreck underwater in lake erie.
Broken mast of the beautiful Benson.

The Benson lies in close to 90ft of water and this can be a cold dive with limited sunlight. Definitely an advanced dive.

There are mooring blocks forward and aft on this wreck to protect her. Once divers descend to the mooring blocks, they can follow short lines from the block to the wreck.

This is an outstanding wreck! She is in Canadian waters and they do a nice job of preserving this Great Lakes relic.


Not too far from the Benson right off of the Canadian shore is the Raleigh. This 235ft long wooden steamer met her demise in a storm on November 30, 1911.

The Raleigh lies broken up in about 30ft of water. Of note is her large propeller, windlass and very large boilers. You can also follow the anchor chain from the bow to the anchor about 100ft away.

Scuba jay diving in front of the Raleigh underwater.
Scuba Jay hovering in front of the Raleigh’s massive boiler.

The Raleigh and Benson make for a great two tank dive and are excellent examples of Great Lakes shipwreck diving.

Dean Richmond

The Dean Richmond is a highlight of Lake Erie Shipwrecks. She foundered in the same storm that sank the Benson in October 1893, taken with her all 18 crewmembers…I told you Lake Erie is to not be taken lightly!

The Dean Richmond lies upside down in about 115ft of water between Barcelona NY and Erie PA. She is a wooden freighter that is approximately 238ft long. On her, you can still see one of her twin propellers.

The dean Richmond back in the day.
The Dean Richmond before her tragic end. (Photo courtesy of Regional Science Consortium)

other wrecks further out in Lake Erie include the two-masted schooner Washington Irving, barge Betty Hedger and – off of Dunkirk NY- the three-masted schooner Carlingford and the iron steamer Brunswick. These are all deeper wrecks for advanced divers to explore.

The Sinking of the Carlingford and Brunswick are linked as the two ships ran into each other on a cold November night in 1881. The ships are not too far apart and make for a great two tank dive.

The wood schooner Carlingford sank close to the collision site and the blow to her port side bow can still be seen.

The four-masted iron steamer Brunswick made a run for Dunkirk, but never made it back to shore…It was her first season on the Great lakes.

Brunswick underwater in lake erie.
Aft railing of the Brunswick.

The above is a sample of the wrecks in Lake Erie. There are plenty of more wrecks to be explored in the lake off of Ontario Canada, Cleveland Ohio and Erie Pennsylvania.

Niagara River Drift Dives

Want to cruise weightless at about 4mph feeling like Superman, then a drift dive in the Niagara River is for you! Plus you can tell folks you dove above Niagara Falls. (Although miles above the Falls, but nobody needs to know that)

Aerial view of Niagara falls in Buffalo.
The Falls are miles downstream and would take hours to get there underwater…but still don’t miss your exit point!

With any drift dive – whether from shore or boat – make sure to bring a float and flag as these are navigable waters with boaters and jet skiers about.

Scuba Jay and his daughter doing a river drift in the Niagara River.
Scuba Jay and daughter Sofia using a float and flag reel line while drifting down the river.

If you’re extremely lucky on your drift, you might see a sturgeon in the river. These dinosaur looking fish can grow bigger then an adult male are making a come back. However, they are still rare to come across. (Scuba Jay has seen only one of these impressive fish in all of his years in the river)

Lady holding up a sturgeon.
You definitely won’t mistake the elusive sturgeon for any other fish.

Other fish that can be found in the river include bass, sheepshead and steelhead trout.

Smallmouth bass underwater.
Bass are easily spotted in the Niagara river and Lake Erie.
Shore Drift dives

The Niagara River travels from the mouth of the river at the end of Lake Erie down towards Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario.

Far upstream from the Falls is Grand Island that splits the river into the West and East river. Both sides make for great river drifts that you can do from shore.

Aerial view of the Niagara river.
Aerial view of Grand Island splitting the Niagara River into the West river on the left and East river on the right.
West River

The West river has less boat traffic and less debris. There are a couple places you can put in and get a good 40 minute or so drift. There is a new bike path along this side of the island so parking, entry and exit points can be a little tricky.

In the West river you’ll hit a depth of about 20ft. The bottom is sandy covered with small shells, sea grass and some large rocks. (Fun fact – the Niagara River formed some 12,000 years ago with the retreating of the Wisconsin Glacier during the last ice age)

As you drift along, look for some pottery and porcelain that fell of ships long ago. Also, some interesting bottles have been found, including some still with whisky in them from rumrunners between Canada and Buffalo during prohibition. You’ll have to grab quick though as you won’t be able to swim back!

Pottery and bottles from the west river.
Some old pottery and porcelain pieces and cool bottles from the West river.

Drifters take note – stay closer to the shore on your right. If you drift over and exit to your left…you’ll be in Canada.

The East River

The East river is more easily accessible than the West. With many parking lots and boat launches, there are several areas to enter and exit the river.

The East river has more boat traffic, so be careful in the open water here. While the West river is more residential, the banks of the East river are lined with several eateries to satisfy any diver’s appetite.

Scuba Jay and his friend tom about to river drift.
Scuba Jay and dive buddy Tom getting ready to exit the drift dive and get some food along the East river bank.

You won’t have to look hard to find bottles in the East river, but you will have to look hard to find one worth grabbing. But there are still some treasures to be found among the debris scattered along the bottom.

Bottles from the east river.
You’ll have to look, but you can find gems like the ones above found by Scuba Jay’s OG dive buddy Mariah Kramer.

Also along the East river you’ll find some bass swimming around among the numerous tires, buckets and old car frame.

Old bucket tipped over underwater in the east river.
Bottles trapped against the side of an old bucket.

With any of the shore dives, best to find someone who has done them before to help guide you where to put in and exit. You don’t want to miss your exit point and do the scuba walk-of-shame back upstream.

Boat Drift Dives

By boat you can pretty much drop in a little upstream from Grand Island – or along the East and West side of the island – and not have to worry about your exit point.

On the West side of the River you can hit an old wooden barge if you time your drop just right. Keep your eyes peeled because with the current you will pass this by fast.

Old wooden barge underwater in the Niagara river.
Mooring bollards on wooden barge in West Niagara River.

On August 7, 1986 an unidentified tugboat (locally referred to as the Ruth B.) that was towing a barge (Barge 45) struck the Peace Bridge, which spans the Niagara River between Buffalo and Canada.

Buffalo peace bridge.
The Peace Bridge spanning the mighty Niagara River between Buffalo and Canada.

Barge 45 was left stuck on the bridge for several months. The report on the salvage operation on how they removed a 300 ton barge stuck on a bridge with about a 12mph current pushing on it is an interesting read.

But for us scuba divers, it’s the tug that’s of interest. After hitting the Peace Bridge, the tug capsized and sank a little further down the river right and before the river splits around Grand Island.

With the current, you have to drop in upstream and drop down fast, or you’ll miss the wreck. With visibility sometimes, you could be right next to the wreck and still not see it.

If you are lucky enough to come across the wreck, you’ll be moving along and all of a sudden the side of the tug and railing will come into view. Again, you have to move fast to take in the wreck because the water moves you along very quick.

Just a little further down the river and right before it splits into the East and West rivers around Grand Island sits Strawberry Island. In front of that in about 15ft of water is what’s known as “the war of 1812 wreck.”

Map of the Niagara river, and a red circle around the 1812 wreck.
Red circle marks the spot of the barge known as “the war of 1812 wreck.”

Little else is known about this barge, but the rumor is muskets and cannonballs were retrieved off of it giving rise to its name. It’s also known as the “Frenchman’s Creek Barge” as it lies across from – surprise, surprise – Frenchman’s Creek.

The drift diving in the Niagara River is definitely a highlight of Buffalo diving and people have traveled from all over to dive the mighty Niagara River. This is a must do for Buffalo diving!

Other Activities

There are plenty of things to do in Buffalo beyond scuba diving – and thank god for that because our dive season is short here. From fascinating architecture to beautiful art to delicious food there’s always something to do, see, or eat here.

Also, Niagara Falls is just a 20-minute drive away. It’s one of the 7 wonders of the world and it’s well worth the drive!

Buffalo Naval Park

If interested in WWII history, then make time to stop by the Buffalo Naval Park, which is largest inland naval port in the nation.

Buffalo naval park.
The Naval Park is a fun day for the family.

The main attractions of the park are the destroyer USS The Sulivans, the guided missile cruiser USS Little Rock and submarine USS Croaker.

Make sure to save some time for a drink and snack at the Liberty Hound and to check out Canalside for some fun activities including the Explore & More Children’s Museum for the little ones.

Explore & More Children's museum.
Explore & More Children’s Museum is a great place for the kids.

Arts And Architecture

With its city parks system built by Fredrick Olmstead, five Frank Lloyd Wright houses – second most in country – and over 50 private and public art galleries – including the newly renovated Albright-Knox Art Museum- Buffalo is a dream destination for those that enjoy art and architecture.

Students of architecture will not be disappointed in Buffalo. Besides structures like City Hall, The Electric Tower and Ellicott Square Building there are houses like The Martin House and Graycliff built by Frank Lloyd Wright that can be visited in and around the Buffalo area.

Outside the Martin House.
The Martin House is a must stop for any fan of architecture.

For art fans there is the Albright-Knox Art Museum, which underwent extensive renovations and is ready to show its new design and exhibits.

Buffalo Food

The food…oh the Buffalo food! So good that many of those that have lived or visited here will place orders for delivery from all over the country.

With Buffalo and food you have to start with the wings. Buffalo is the city where it all began. Every else they are called “Buffalo wings.” But in Buffalo they are just called “wings.”

Wings in a bowl on a table at Duffs.
You know you have to try the wings when in Buffalo. (Photo courtesy of Duff’s)

Now this could start a fight as there are plenty of great wing places in Buffalo, but if you have to pick one try Duff’s Famous Wings. Full disclosure, Scuba Jay does have a family connection here, but it’s without a doubt one the most popular wing places in town….tell them Scuba Jay sent you!

Ron Duff sitting at a table.
The man himself, Ron Duff, with his Traveling with Scuba Jay t-shirt!

Other popular wing joints include Anchor Bar – which started it all – Bar-Bill, Gabriel’s Gate and Elmo’s.

Buffalo is also known for its beef on weck sandwiches. While many of the wing places – like Duff’s – have great beef on weck, Charlie The Butcher is definitely also worth a stop.

beef on Weck.
Another food staple of Buffalo is beef on weck. (Photo courtesy of Duff’s)

The pizza in Buffalo is just as excellent as the wings and you cannot travel too far without hitting some pizzeria. One of the most famous in Buffalo is Bocce Club Pizza. Other famous locations include JJ Casa Di Pizza, Picasso’s, La Nova and Frankie Primo’s.

Night Life

Like pizzerias, you also cannot travel too far in Buffalo without hitting a bar or nightclub. And in Buffalo many of these places stay open to 4am, in case you want to party late…or early depending on how you see it.

Some of the cool spots to hit in and around downtown include Riverworks, Patrick’s Rooftop, Lucky Day Whisky Bar, Big Ditch and Pearl Street Grill & Brewery.

Aerial view of Riverworks.
Nightlife? you betcha! places like Riverworks are ideal for Buffalo nights.

Niagara Falls

Us Buffalonians may take them for granted as they are in our back yard, but they are always top of the list for anyone visiting.

I can’t say that the American side is better, but we do have some great attractions to offer.

If you want to get up close and personal with the Falls try the ever popular Maid of the Mist – where you’ll boat around the bottom of the Falls – or the Cave of the Winds – where you can walk along the steeps and decks on the side of the Falls. Word of caution…you will get wet!

Cave of the winds.
The Cave of the Winds is about as close to the Falls as you can get without going over them.

For the view and some excellent restaurants and tourist attractions, bring your passport and drive over the Rainbow Bridge and check out the Falls from Canada and Clifton Hill.

Clifton hill in Canada.
Clifton Hill is a popular and fun tourist attraction in Canada overlooking the Falls.

Buffalo Harbor Museum

Last, but not least is the Buffalo Harbor Museum located in downtown Buffalo. This is a fantastic place to learn more about Buffalo’s rich maritime history, as well as more about the shipwrecks listed above.

inside Buffalo Harbor museum.
The Museum has beautiful displays related to the Buffalo waterfront. (Photo courtesy of Buffalo Harbor Museum)

Wrapping Things Up

So in conclusion, other than being where Scuba Jay calls home, Buffalo is a gem of a city waiting to be explored. In addition to the diving, there is much beauty and entertainment to be found in the Nickel City to make for a great vacation.

The city really shines in summer and on the weekends it’s not uncommon to find me riding my motorcycle and diving as much as I can…and on a really good day I get to do both!

We are a city eager and happy to welcome guests and show off our hometown.

Oh, and Go Bills!!

“How boring would the world be if everywhere and everyone were the same. Safe travels and good adventures.” Scuba Jay

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