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Hirem M. Chittenden Locks

Seattle Attractions--the Ballard Locks

3015 NW 54th Street (Ballard)


Ballard Locks

The Salt Water Side of the Locks


The Howard M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks) are part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal system that allows boats to move the salt water of Puget Sound to the fresh water of Lake Union and Lake Washington.  The Locks were built in   1917  and about 100,000 boats of all sizes go through the Locks annually.  Simply described, there are two boat locks, one for large boats and one for smaller vessels.  The Locks can accommodate vessels up to 80 feet wide and 825 feet long. The boats enter the Locks, the Locks close, the water level is raised to the lake level with fresh water, and the Locks open .  The Locks keep the salt water from entering the fresh water lakes and they keep the lakes 20 to 22 feet above the level of Puget Sound.  The Locks are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The Locks are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ballard Locks Overhead ViewOverhead View of the Locks with Puget Sound at the Top


 Ballard Locks

It is fun to watch the boats go through, especially on a busy day when they get stacked up.  The colorful boats make really nice photography targets.

 Ballard Locks

The Small Lock Filling Up



As part of the Locks system, a sophisticated salmon ladder helps 500,000 salmon migrate from Puget Sound to the fresh water of the lakes.  Visitors can watch the fish migrate up the 21-level ladder from underwater viewing stations.


Check out the concert schedule on the Corps of Engineers website .  On a recent visit to the Locks, a swing band was presenting a concert to a crowd seated under the gracious trees of the Gardens. The Gardens make a great place to have a picnic.


Visitors can check out the Visitor Center to learn more about the Locks. The Visitor Center has exhibits about the Locks and a gift shop. The Visitor Center is open daily 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer and it closes at 4:00 p.m. from October 1 through April 30.  The Center is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesday during the winter season.


There is a large pay parking lot adjacent to the Locks and the Gardens. 

 Ballard Locks

The Historic Corps of Engineers Administration Building for the Locks



Salmon Waves

King County has a large installation of public art on the east side of the locks.  Please click here to view our feature article about this art work.



The Locks operate 24 hours a day every day of the year.  The grounds for the Locks and the Gardens are open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

 Ballard Locks

The Spillway for the Locks



There is no charge to visit the Locks and the Gardens. 


Please click here to go to the Corps of Engineers' official web site for the Locks.


The Carl S. English Gardens on the grounds for the Locks are one of the better kept secrets in Seattle.  The seven acres of the Gardens are quite scenic in the summer season and offer photographers a great place to practice their craft.  Please click here to go to our separate web page covering the Gardens. 


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