This is – or was – the Erie Canal.
Much of the Erie Canal’s length, like in the nearby city of Lockport (birthplace of Joyce Carol Oates and F. Scott Fitzgerald) is still in use by pleasure and sightseeing boats.
But here, Buffalo has just recently excavated part of the stone lining of the terminus, and is in the process of building a tourist site around it.
This spot is maybe 7 or so miles north of there. Signage along the adjoining bikepath and at the edge of this clearing explain that here, the canal was built alongside the Niagara River – a couple hundred yards away over a small rise – to avoid the river’s opposing current as the barges were dragged by mules.
I have an ancestor on my father’s mother’s side, so we are told, who was born in Buffalo in 1820. So I like to think her family, my ancestors, had something to do with building, or finishing, or operating, the Erie Canal. Any adult living in Buffalo in the early 1820’s most likely did.