Ballard Locks

Ballard Locks


Officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, the Ballard Locks are a popular place for tourists to see an interesting feat of engineering. The Ballard Locks have regulated the levels of fresh water from Lake Washington and Lake Union against the levels of saltwater from Puget Sound since the creation of the Ship Canal in 1916. There are many fascinating things to see at the locks, aside from literally watching the tide go out.

Watching the locks operate is a great way to spend a sunny day in Ballard. One is essentially watching the water in the ocean go up or down until it matches the water in the lake. While this is happening, acting as the first attraction for tourists to watch, the second attraction is gathering: the array of pleasure and commercial boats, waiting their turn to make it through the locks when the two water levels meet. If watching nature is more appealing to a visitor than engineering, that visitor should get to the salmon ladder while at the locks. Designed to allow the spawning salmon to return to fresh water to lay their eggs, the salmon swim through a veritable obstacle course of twists, turns, jumps and tunnels.

In addition to the various operational procedures of the locks and the activity going on around them, the Ballard Locks has a park attached to it, called Commodore Park, as well as the Carl S. English Jr. Gardens and of course a gift shop. The visitors’ center has a few small exhibits and a short film that sheds light on why the locks are there and what they do. The best time of the year to see the botanical gardens is late spring, but the best time to see the salmon as they jump their way through the fish ladder is mid to late summer, during their spawning season.




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