Tifft Nature Preserve (formerly known as Tifft Farm) is a small nature preserve that is actually within Buffalo’s city limits. It is a 264-acre nature refuge that was created in 1972. The site was previously a large dairy farm, a transshipment center (mostly for coal and iron ore), and then a dumpsite for city refuse before becoming a nature preserve.
Now, 45 years after its designation, the place is a tranquil oasis just a couple of miles from downtown Buffalo. It is kind of strange really, how close it is to the bustling city. There is a small lake that is popular for fishing. Several short intersecting trails traverse the preserve. Between the lake, several ponds, and a large marsh the place is full of water. The nature preserve is most popular for fishing and bird watching.
Tifft is also a popular destination for children. There are several programs that teach kids about local wildlife and discovering things in nature. A lot of area schools bring kids there on fieldtrips. As far as I can remember, my first and only trip to Tifft Nature Preserve was on a field trip when I was a young boy in school. That was probably close to 30 years ago. I’ve been curious about the place for the last few years, but haven’t made it there. I had a vacation day scheduled last week to be home with my kids and decided that could be the perfect time to finally return to Tifft.
Our trip was the second stop on my morning of fun with my kids. First we went to Bounce Magic for an hour. My kids are four and two, so they had a pretty good time there. They were in good spirits, so I figured we might as well make the short drive to Tifft to give it a try. When we first arrived we left the parking lot and walked out to the small fishing pier. The kids liked looking out on the water and watching a few people cast their lines. Noah really wanted to walk partway around the lake to where another man was fishing, but it looked a little dangerous for a little kid so we skipped that idea (much to his chagrin).
I asked Noah and Charlotte if they wanted to go for a short hike and they said sure, so off we went to explore the trails. We passed a sign that had a map of the several trails showing how they all connected. I should have taken a closer look at the map, but figured we’d just head out on a short trail and then return the way we came. That was a mistake. The worst part was that Charlotte was tired and a little cranky. She refused to walk. So, I had to carry my two-year-old daughter while I walked beside Noah.
There were a couple of elevated boardwalks over swampy marshlands. Thankfully both kids enjoyed walking and running across those. That gave me a brief, but necessary break from holding Charlotte. Noah wanted to continue when we came to the end of the boardwalk, so we carried on, following a dirt path. We saw several birds, some interesting swampy areas, and several interpretive signs on our walk. Before long, all three of us were hot, hungry, and tired.
We were ready to return to the parking lot so we could go home for lunch. There was one problem; we couldn’t seem to find the parking lot. The woods were thick and there was a lot of tall grass lining some of the pathways. We could occasionally hear trucks on the road, but couldn’t see the road, visitor center, parking lot, or the city buildings in the distance. We had gone from one curving pathway to another several times. I thought it would be a piece of cake to find my way out, but it was a little more complicated than I expected. I guess I should have paid attention to that map at the trailhead.
Charlotte was practically asleep on my shoulder and Noah was growing pretty hot and frustrated. I was hot and sweaty (it certainly didn’t help that I was carrying my daughter) and I was also hungry. We continued on to a couple more trails, some were on damp grass while most were on dirt. Finally, I saw the visitor center in the distance. I was relieved. I wasn’t really worried before, but I was pretty annoyed that I had gotten us lost. I knew there were only a couple of miles of trail in the preserve, so it couldn’t take us too long to get out. We probably hiked a little more than a mile. Once out of the woods, we happily rested on a bench for a few minutes before heading home for a well-deserved lunch.
Despite being lost for a little while, we had a nice time there. Noah said he wants to return to hike more. I loved hearing that. Next time I’ll bring the stroller, just in case Charlotte is tired again or just feeling a little lazy. I wasn’t initially sure if the stroller would be ok on the trails, but I think it would handle it alright.