As you look out on this canal, imagine you are back in 1885 when three lumbermen from Buffalo, New York, purchased 168,000 acres on the area where the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was established. They set up a timber industry and camp at Buffalo City, near Milltail Creek. This canal was used to transport lumber to Milltail Creek. The town's history lasted approximately 80 years from the 1870s to 1950s, but at one time Buffalo City’s population of 3,000 in the early 20th century made it the largest community in Dare County. A hotel, post office, schoolhouse, general store, 100 miles of railroad track, and rows of homes once stood on the now-abandoned area.
The town was built by African-American laborers Russian immigrants. Many of these workers stayed and worked at the new logging town and composed half of the town’s population. The area surrounding Milltail Creek was harvested for juniper, cypress, and pine trees and became the largest logging operation in Northeastern North Carolina.
At post office was opened in Buffalo City in 1989.By 1999 the forests had been logged out and the post office was closed in 1903. In 1907, the Dare Company purchased the forest and resumed logging operations. The post office was reopened in 1908. The town's logging industry prospered throughout the 1910s and early 1920s.
In 1920, Prohibition laws were passed in the United States and moonshine became a popular way for Buffalo City citizens to make extra money. When logging camps at Buffalo City began to close in the 1920s, moonshine became the primary revenue source for citizens. Almost every family in Buffalo City operated a still.
When prohibition ended in 1933, Buffalo City’s economy was severely affected. With the loss of moonshine revenue, citizens began focusing on the logging industry once again. Most good timber had already been felled, but the saw mill continued to operate for the next two decades. Outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, smallpox and the flu swept throughout the community in the 1940s. The combination of these diseases and lack of work resulted in Buffalo City’s population declining to 100 people. The sawmill closed in the early 1950s and the town was abandoned.