Seattle WA – Ballard Locks (Hiram M. Chittenden)


What? :

Ballard Locks is one of Seattle's most popular tourist attractions, especially during the sunny months. The locks connecting the waters of Lake Washington, Lake Union, to Puget Sound. The locks feature a fish ladder, and you can visit the nearby Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden.



Where? :

Address: 3015 NW 54th St, Seattle, WA 98107

There is a parking lot on the north side of the locks near 54st

Ballard Locks South Parking Lot is located at 3300 W Commodore Way, Seattle, WA 98199

North parking lot: Google Map Link

South parking lot: Google Map Link



When? :

The park is open year-round.



Due note 1: They are known locally as the Ballard Locks, named after the neighborhood to their north.


Due note 2: Admission is free. Visiting hours for the locks and surrounding garden is 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. year-round.


Due note 3: I always visit here after visitor center working hours, so I did not visit it.




My thoughts:

Fun and interesting place to visit, see the locks in actions, the waterway and in the right season see from the viewing windows the salmons climbing up the fish ladder.

This can be used as a 1-hour break from your Seattle downtown visit.



The visit:

Construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks was completed in 1917 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The locks connecting the waters of Lake Washington, Lake Union, to Puget Sound. The canal and locks allow recreational and commercial vessels to travel to the docks and warehouses of Seattle's busy freshwater harbor.

The locks are Washington state busiest, passing up to 50,000 vessels each year, most are small recreational boats but also commercial. As Lake Washington’s only outlet, the Locks and spillway maintain the high, near-constant, water levels required for the internal lakes.


The complex includes two locks, a small and a large, spillway, a fish ladder is for migration of anadromous fish, notably salmon, a visitors' center, as well as large botanical Gardens.


In the lock, the water level difference as much as 26 feet between the lake and Puget Sound. In order to keep the lakes as fresh water during the lock operation salt water is exchanged with fresh water. The entire process of moving through the lock is taking about no more than fifteen minutes.


You can cross the locks from both sides using the walkways crossing swinging gates.


You can visit the fish ladder, with 21 steps, that allows spawning fish to climb to the freshwater side. If you are visiting in the right season, you may see salmon swimming up current through the viewing windows.

The best time to see large, spawning king salmon is in mid to late-August. For coho salmon, late September. For sockeye, the month of July. And for steelhead, late February through March.


From the lock you can see to the west the large rising Salmon Bay train Bridge and to the east the busy Fishermen's Terminal harbors and marinas.




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